Venezia Appleby has lived in Buffalo all her life. She received a public school education at Olmsted, City Honors, Hutch Tech, and is a graduate of Buffalo State College. She currently works with People Inc., where, as Assistant Director of Respite Quality, she writes and analyzes policies, develops tools and training resources for management teams, and serves other quality support functions. Recently, Venezia was accepted onto the Board of Directors of Just Buffalo Literary Center, serving a 2016-2019 term. She is fascinated by individual and group dynamics, especially those related to psychological, organizational, environmental, and cultural constructs.
A 2015 graduate of the Emerging Leaders program, Appleby recently sat down with Open Buffalo to discuss the evolution of her hometown.
Open Buffalo: What drives you to do community work?
Venezia Appleby: Simply put, I have a lot of love to give and I feel it is my duty to express that love in ways that benefit more than just myself or the people closest to me. Humans are social creatures, and therefore I believe it is an expression of my humanity to invest in the construction of a healthy society. We can’t have healthy societies without thriving communities.
Both of my parents and my younger sister are well-loved Buffalo musicians and have made a livelihood through works with communities of artists and educators. I’ve veered a bit from that path and feel motivated to continually discover my own approach to service.
OB: Where did you grow up? How did it shape the leader that you would one day become?
VA: I grew up here in Buffalo, NY. I’ve actually never lived in another city before, so Buffalo has been the reality of my entire life. I was raised here, educated here and employed here. It has been the backdrop for each of my life decisions. I am a true Buffalonian, through and through, for better and worse, so any perspective I can offer in the work I do is coming from a person that isn’t just aware of Buffalo, but is an embodiment of it.
OB: What is one thing that Buffalo does well?
VA: I think that Buffalo does a good job of creating a climate for artists to organically grow their crafts and lifestyles. I’ve always known Buffalo to be a place rich with intellectual, spiritual and artistic resources and, at least up until recently, Buffalo has been a relatively inexpensive place to live. It seems to me that Buffalo is a good place to find a niche, dream a dream, and make it a reality.
Not to mention our landscape! Not to get all tree-hugger, but from an archetypal or elemental perspective, we are really “high Earth” here. The Olmsted Park system is a treasure, our downtown is right on the water, and we are surrounded by woods, parks, and mineral mining sites all around.
OB: What is something about Buffalo that you want to fix?
VA: I would like to see more spaces opened up for people that might not fit into the subcultures that already exist. Especially with this “Buffalo renaissance,” I see us leading the way in so many areas (e.g., food and hospitality, medical research, LBGTQ rights, ethnic awareness, business development, artistic development), and even though we have a long way to come in some of those areas, I can’t help but acknowledge how many other voids still exist. I think it would be really supportive to community work in general to engage people that might not yet see spaces that they can be excited to fill.
OB: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
VA: Well, I don’t know about ever, but a friend of mine once told me that the hardest lesson to learn is that you can care so strongly about a thing and that the person seated right next to you might not care about it one bit. I think it shines a light on our need to acknowledge the vastness represented in our human perspectives.
We can’t force people to care about our causes. The best we can do is to realize our harmonies and discords, and become better dancers!
OB: What is the most memorable lesson that you took away from the Open Buffalo Emerging Leaders program?
VA: Overall, I was just impressed by how much of this work is already being done here, and how many people are making it their responsibility to empower our communities. There are some truly progressive organizations here full of bright, passionate, visionary people. I’m really grateful to Open Buffalo for those connections and happy to call Buffalo my home. Imperfections and all.