Located on the Niagara River Gorge in Lewiston, New York, Artpark—a summer venue for arts and entertainment—traces its origins to 1974 when it was established as a park and art venue that served as home to a visual arts program until 1991. The program annually invited a selection of artists to create experimental, site-specific art within the picturesque landscape north of the Niagara Falls. Providing an experimental alternative to traditional art museums and markets, Artpark has been promoted as a nontraditional institution for the participating artists. However, to what extent was Artpark an alternative institution? This thesis investigates the extent to which Artpark distinguished itself from established museums, galleries, and markets in its artist selection during the first four years of its operation. Specifically, this thesis asks if Artpark was open to a diverse range of national and international talent or if selected artists came to Artpark through already existing art networks. To answer this question, I developed a relational database that charts the networks of connections between artists and the institutions associated with their careers before their residencies at Artpark. Information to populate the database was gathered from a number of sources, most importantly the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Artpark Archival Collection. By discerning the complex network of relationships between chosen artists, staff, and outside institutions over the period under study (1974-1978), I determine the extent to which Artpark fulfilled its role as an experimental alternative to established museums and markets in the 1970s. The extent to which Artpark functioned as an alternative opportunity may provide a model of study for successive institutions that intended to operate outside of existing art hierarchies and markets.

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Museum Studies (BS)


Rebecca DeRoo

Advisor/Committee Member

Jennifer Cook

Advisor/Committee Member

Juilee Decker


RIT – Main Campus