Arts Services Initiative of Western New York has named Sugar City the winner of the 2019 Spark Award for Arts Organization of the Year. The arts collaborative was honored at the sixth annual Spark Awards on Wednesday, May 22 at Hotel Henry.

“Winning the award was a big surprise for us,” said Curtis A. Guy, a Sugar Citizen who, along with Daniel Carosa, accepted the award on behalf of the organization on Wednesday night.

Sugar City is Buffalo’s only legal, DIY, volunteer-run, and all-ages performance venue. The collective was established more than a decade ago when a group of artists saw the need for an alternative community space for Western New York residents to organize, create, and share art and community projects based on participatory culture and a do-it-together attitude.

“Volunteer-run spaces often have to wonder if they’re making a difference in the communities they’re trying to serve,” Curtis said. “Sugar City has always been an experiment, and that will continue to be the case, but it means a great deal to know that no matter what the future might hold, Buffalo supports us.”

Sugar City focuses on the exhibition, performance, and creation of art for those who cannot obtain space from traditional sources. A crucial part of the organization’s mission is to ensure that the venue is accessible to everyone, and Sugar Citizens serve that mission by keeping the space drug- and alcohol-free, and by ensuring that all events—community meetings, workshops, music shows, film screenings, poetry readings, access to a zine library and art gallery, and more—are scheduled to end before 11pm.

In 2017, Sugar City stepped up when Dreamland, Buffalo’s LGBTQ+ home base, was forced to close. In the time since, Sugar City has made it a priority to expand its mission of accessibility and inclusivity to host the many programs and events that previously found a home in Dreamland.

All of this happened while the arts collective maintained its typical packed schedule of arts and community programming. Last year, in addition to Dreamland events, Sugar City hosted more than 20 visual arts exhibitions by students, professional artists, and guest curators, and served as a venue for dozens of touring bands and performing artists from across the country. Sugar Citizens also expanded its efforts to collaborate with other local nonprofits, and hosted fundraisers for Nickel City Housing Cooperative, Western New York Food Pantry, Project Mona’s House, and a medical debt fundraiser for a Western New York resident.

The annual Spark Award for Arts Organization of the Year honors an organization that improves the Western New York community through arts and culture programming. The Spark Awards are a program of Arts Services Initiative of Western New York, a nonprofit organization that provides artists, arts organizations, and art enthusiasts with the tools and resources needed to be successful and sustainable.

For more information, visit Sugar City’s website at