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Call me Tony: The Artist as Professor

Tony Conrad was a University at Buffalo professor for almost 40 years

Conrad speaking to an audience at the Carnegie Museum, 1974

Image by Robert Haller


In addition to being a prolific artist and musician, Tony Conrad was a University at Buffalo (UB) professor in the Department of Media Study for nearly forty years. Not surprisingly, former students describe him as unorthodox, with a “mesmerizing” lecture style that sometimes crossed over into performance. Tony (as he insisted on being called) encouraged risk-taking, asking tough and insightful questions to motivate students. Conrad also pushed them out of the classroom and into the real world, challenging them to actively engage in the community. Many of his former students settled in Western New York, due to Conrad’s influence.


D. Olivier Delrieu-Schulze is one artist who came to Buffalo for school and stayed. Like many of Conrad’s pupils, he quickly became a friend of the artist. “I think everyone was a student of Tony, including Tony,” he says, “He saw teaching as learning.” When Conrad had something to say—which was frequently—he could pontificate. Delrieu-Schulze says he was a great lecturer, “but he needed around three hours for the full arc to connect. When he did, it would be insightful, if not profound.”


Brian Milbrand is a multidisciplinary artist. He attended UB to study genetics and took a basic film class. That led to advanced courses with Conrad, and Milbrand’s life was changed. “Tony taught me how to be an artist, how to have a work ethic, and how to experiment with media,” he says, noting that Conrad’s classes could be a “head trip,” he says, noting that, “I saw videos in that class that shaped my view of what video could do.” There are things Milbrand saw, that he will never forget, “in the best and worst ways,” he says provocatively. “I certainly wouldn’t be the artist I am today without Tony in my life.”


For info on Introducing Tony Conrad: A Retrospective, on view at the University at Buffalo Art Gallery and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, click here.


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