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Predicting Buffalo's cultural future

Today, while browsing through The News' archives for a story about Shea's Performing Arts Center, I ran across an end-of-the-year reflection from early 1999 by former News critic Richard Huntington about how Buffalo's cultural and architectural scene might look a decade or so later. Huntington's rumination is, if not exactly prophetic, at least prescient:

By 2010, with Buffalo happily basking in economic and artistic riches thanks to a gloriously renewed city, we might look back on 1998 as the year that Buffalo, at long last, recognized the true worth of its architectural treasures.

Giddy tourists, lost in the sterling beauty of Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin D. Martin House, will think back to 1998 when the Martin House Restoration Corp. wisely made John C. Courtin its executive director, a step that launched the final push that would complete restoration of this great prairie-style house and ensure that Buffalo would be a global architectural draw into the next century.

The many city dwellers of 2010 will walk Main Street admiring the Byzantine splendor of the restored gold dome on the former Buffalo Savings Bank, and remember that in 1998 M&T Bank had the remarkable foresight to spend $500,000 to regild this E.B. Green gem.

Farther afield, visitors to the Wright-designed summer house named Graycliff will be mindful that in 1998 the beautifully sited property in Derby was designated a state landmark and -- thanks to the Baird Foundation's guarantee on a $450,000 mortgage loan -- the non-profit Graycliff Conservancy was able to purchase it.

In 2010 the hordes of tourists milling about Buffalo will also be able to enjoy major international exhibitions in a reinvigorated Albright-Knox Art Gallery, whose status as a world-class player in the art world was solidified because of the ambitious renovation program of 1998 that brought the gallery's buildings and systems up to competitive trim. Inventive and far-reaching exhibitions mounted by new gallery curators Douglas Dreishpoon and Claire Schneider, both appointed in 1998, would make the Albright-Knox one of the best places in the world to see advanced art.

Meanwhile, across the street at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, the percipient purchase in 1998 of "Fireflies and Lightning," one of Charles Burchfield's great works from the Buffalo watercolorist's last years, has turned the museum into an international exhibition and study center for an artist, who by 2010 is likely to be considered one of the supreme masters of the 20th century.

--Richard Huntington

--Colin Dabkowski

tagged

Architecture | Art
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