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Gretchen and Tom Toles to Receive Charles E. Burchfield Award, Lead Discussions

Gretchen and Tom Toles to Receive Charles E. Burchfield Award, Lead Discussions

Posted: October 20, 2016

The Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State has announced that Tom and Gretchen Toles are the recipients of the 2016 Charles E. Burchfield Award and will be honored at a celebratory dinner Saturday, October 22, 5:30 p.m. at the center. The award, a distinction of international merit, recognizes great achievements in the arts and honors commitment to environmental sustainability and the transformative power of the arts.

Tom and Gretchen Toles, both independently and as a couple, are renowned for their commitment to the environment, social consciousness, and political activism: Gretchen, as a national leader in the conservancy movement for urban parks; and Tom, as a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, formerly of the Courier-Express and the Buffalo News and now internationally syndicated by the Washington Post syndicated by the Universal Press Syndicate to more than 350 outlets worldwide.

"The commitment to the natural world and the improved quality of our environment speaks in many languages,” said Anthony Bannon, executive director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center. “The Charles E. Burchfield Award recognizes artists who each in their own unique way lead us towards ever-finer sustaining values. Gretchen and Tom Toles add their voice to the contributions of architect Charles Gwathmey and poet laureate Charles Wright.”

For tickets to the awards dinner, please contact Jennifer Merlette, director of development, at (716) 878-3739.

On Friday, October 21, from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. in the Burchfield Penney Art Center's Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium, Tom Toles will participate in a panel discussion with fellow artists Alberto Rey, Joan Linder, and Thomas Aquinas Daly on the intersections of the environment, sustainable values, current events, and art. 

Panelists will address how art can act as an important forum for discussing the environment. The event will be an open conversation during which students, faculty, and staff can share their own ideas.

The event is free and open to the campus community.

On Sunday, October 23, at 1:30 p.m. in the Burchfield Penney Auditorium, Gretchen Toles will lead a discussion with activists in the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy movement. Participants will include Toles; Joan Bozer, former county legislator and founding member of the Buffalo Friends of Olmsted Parks; Francis Kowsky, author and historian on Buffalo’s historic parks and architecture; and others. 

This program is free with musuem admission.

About Tom Toles
Thomas Gregory "Tom" Toles is the winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. His cartoons typically present progressive viewpoints. Toles also tends to include a small doodle, usually a small caricature of himself at his desk, in the margin of his strip.

Toles wrote for the Courier-Express, Buffalo News, and Washington Post. He left the Buffalo News in 2002, accepting an offer from the Washington Post. Part of his acceptance of his new job required him to give up his United Feature-distributed daily and Sunday cartoon panel "Randolph Itch 2 AM," a cartoon based on Toles's thoughts while battling insomnia. In addition to "Randolph Itch 2 AM," Toles also created a daily and Sunday comic strip about small children called "Curious Avenue." It ran 1992–1994 through his future editorial cartooning syndicate, Universal Press Syndicate. A collection of the strip was published in 1993 through the publisher Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Toles's cartoons appear in more than 200 newspapers throughout the country. He received the National Cartoonist Society Editorial Cartoon Award for 2003 and the Herblock Prize for 2011. He graduated magna cum laude from the University at Buffalo. He married Gretchen Saarnijoki in 1973.

About Gretchen Toles
Gretchen Toles’s public leadership in caring for and sustaining our urban spaces began with her serving the civic legacy created by Frederick Law Olmsted and his nineteenth-century solution to Buffalo’s early sprawl. Having just completed New York City’s Central Park, Buffalo’s leadership appointed Olmsted to design Buffalo’s public park system to assure the pleasures and patterns of city life. Olmsted was missioned to hold the city together—an early bulwark against unfocused growth. If not for Toles and her like-minded colleagues, Olmsted’s aesthetic detail and larger purpose would be lost. The hunger of shortsighted projects—and worse, the long-term finality of neglect—had their toll on Buffalo’s green spaces that were inundated by out-of-focus enterprise, the culture of the car, and the apathy of doing nothing.

Toles is not one for doing nothing. In 1978, she helped organize the Buffalo Friends of Olmsted Parks, serving as a president, strategist, and founder. She and the Friends worked to save the grace and beauty of the city through preserving the parks and taking on the needs of other public spaces. She did so by getting her hands dirty. Toles and her colleagues worked both in the soil and on the floors of legislative chambers, declaring to the city leaders that indolence was no longer acceptable. The Friends were about action and they became known for their wisdom. In 2004, the Friends evolved into the still active Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

In 2002, Gretchen and her husband, Tom, moved to Washington, DC, where her commitments have not escaped her voice. Her work in Western New York left her mark on the region, which the Burchfield Penney Art Center honors with its Charles E. Burchfield Award.

Media Contact:
Kathleen McMorrow Heyworth, Burchfield Penney Art Center Head of Marketing and Public Relations | (716) 878-4529 |
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