Buffalo is getting some major love from Toronto this week, as a storefront performance space and cinema in the city's Kensington Market neighborhood hosts a series of events designed to highlight the artistic output of Toronto's "oft-maligned sister city."
The organization's "Beautiful Buffalo Week" kicked off Monday with a reading of two plays by the gifted Buffalo-based playwright Neil Wechsler. He read from his new play "The Brown Bull of Cuailnge" and from his acclaimed drama "Grenadine," last seen here in a Road Less Traveled Theatre production in 2009.
Up next is an event called "Buffalo Hates You Too" -- after the cheeky slogan invented by Western New York Book Arts Center founder Richard Kegler -- on Thursday night at 8. The screening, curated by artist and designer Julian Montague and Squeaky Wheel Director Jax Deluca, will feature work by various Buffalo-based video and new media artists.
The celebration culminates on Friday with a conversation between Montague and Joshua Babcock and Cristina Naccarato of Toronto's art collective Broken City Lab at 7:30 p.m. Here's the description for that event, which sounds well worth the trip across the border: "Videofag
is excited to be hosting these three artists in discussion on the ways
in which artists cities with an abundance of space - specifically in
so-called 'North American Rustbelt' - are innovating new functions for
disused buildings/public spaces, and in the process reinventing the
possibilities of neighbourhoods, community, and the artist's role within
a city. Specific examples will be drawn from BCL's own repurposing of
Windsor storefronts and empty ad space on city transit."
Look for my take on the program in Sunday's paper.
Tod A. Kniazuk, executive director of the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York, in his office in December, 2011. Photo by Robert Kirkham / Buffalo News.
In 2012, the the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York, under the direction of Tod A. Kniazuk, has been working on a number of projects aimed at improving the health of the region's cultural vitality. It's tough work, but according to the organization's 2012 annual report, released this week, ASI (still in desperate need of a better name) has been making progress. Check the report out here.
Earlier this month, I wrote a column about the forthcoming merger between CEPA Gallery and the smaller Big Orbit Gallery, both run by the tireless director and curator Sean Donaher. In the column, I stressed that other organizations could draw lessons and inspiration from the move, which struck me as a particularly wise marriage of resources and programming.
In the column, I singled out Buffalo Arts Studio, the excellent studio and gallery space founded by Joanna Angie in the early '90s. After Angie retired to pursue her art career in 2011, curator Cori Wolff stepped up to the artistic director position and Jeff Langridge took the reins as executive director. Shortly thereafter, though, Langridge departed, and Wolff found herself in the unenviable position of directing the entire organization.
At the same time, as BAS searches for a new economic model to sustain itself, Wolff has maintained the high quality of the organization's international exhibitions. This week, BAS opens a show featuring work by Andrzej Maciejewski and Lynn Richardson and it has mounted several compelling exhibitions since Angie's departure.
Even so, I thought it pertinent to use BAS as an example of an organization that finds itself searching out new footing in a new funding landscape. It wasn't my intention to paint a negative picture of BAS. Quite the contrary, I wanted to stress that its recent management shakeups provided the opportunity for the organization to seek out and forge new collaborative projects (if not outright mergers) with other groups.
In a recent conversation with Wolff, who was understandably concerned about her organization being painted as anything other than completely stable, I learned that the organization is doing just that. (Too early for details, though.)
She reassured me the organization is in good shape and is excited to puruse new ways of staying very much in the game. This is good news for one of Buffalo's most important visual arts organizations, and I look forward to writing about what comes next.
Newly appointed Albright-Knox Art Gallery Director Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén with gallery board president Leslie Zemsky on Monday. Photo by Derek Gee / The Buffalo News.
After yesterday's annoucement that Helsinki Art Museum Director Janne Sirén will become the next director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, art blogs and publications lit up with coverage. Here's a look at what some have been writing:
Finnish musuem director Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén stands with Albright-Knox Art Gallery board president Leslie Zemsky in front of Jackson Pollock's "Convergence" in the Albright-Knox Monday morning. Sirén will become the 11th director of the musuem in the spring. Photo by Derek Gee / The Buffalo News.
Check out my story for more on Sirén's appointment. And below, please listen to an excerpt of my interview with the American-educated director that gives lots of background about his past experience in Helsinki, his thoughts about the City of Buffalo, and hints about the direction in which he'll take Buffalo's flagship cultural institution:
Ai Weiwei became a household name in 2011, when the Chinese government arrested the outspoken artist and activeist on trumped-up charges of economic crime that were largely seen as an attempt to silence one of their loudest and harshest critics. He became an internet sensation last year with his cover of "Gangnam Style." And he'll be the focus of a lecture and film screening tonight in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
As part of its First Fridays event, the gallery will present a short lecture, "Art and Politics: A Look at Ai Weiwei," from assistant education curator Jessica DiPalma, at 7:30 p.m. That will be followed at 8 p.m. by a screening of "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry," a documentary by Alison Klayman. The program is part of a new series called "AK Contemporary," which will feature a series of lectures by DiPalma and documentary film screenings about prominent contemporary artists.
In June, the Albright-Knox acquired three of Weiwei's "Moon Chests" from 2008. They have not gone on display yet -- word is that will happen sometime this year -- but here's an installation view of the works from a 2009 installation in Tokyo's Mori Art Museum:
The 2011 Buffalo Small Press Book Fair. File photo by Charles Lewis / The Buffalo News.
The Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, launched in 2007, will expand its schedule frome one to two days this year, according to fair co-founder Chris Fritton.
"The growth of the fair continues, and its
incredible pace made it necessary to extend the event," Fritton wrote in a Facebook post. "It's my sincere
hope that this will give more artists and more visitors a chance to
experience the fair."
Seth Wochensky from the Springville Center for the Arts in Springville on Thursday, March 15, 2012. (Photo by Harry Scull Jr. / Buffalo News).
On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office announced the second round of grants from its Regional Economic Development initiative. As far as Western New York was concerned, the most surprising items on the list had to be two major grants for the Springville Center for the Arts to fund a pair of projects to repair and improve two historic buildings in the heart of the village. They totaled more than $800,000, a gargantuan sum for an arts organization of the SCA's size.
Back in April, I wrote a story on the center's attempts to revitalize an economically downtrodden community, which you can read in PDF form here. (Our archives are not yet back online.) The SCA, which has one of the better strategic plans I've ever read, was already an extraordinary example of how the arts can benefit a small community. This investment has the potential to turn it into a national model for reviving main streets around the country.
I talked with SCA director Seth Wochensky today about the grants, how the small organization managed to procure them and what they mean for the future of Springville's community and economy. My story on the grants will run tomorrow, but in the meantime, here's our chat:
My Sunday column this past week focused on a provocative comment from departing Albright-Knox Art Gallery Director Louis Grachos. In my exit interview with him in November, Grachos complained about a political culture that allows Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson to draw massive subsidies from taxpayers while local arts groups become the subject of a yearly political debate over whether they're worth the modest public investment they receive.
This, understandably, prompted some strong reactions from readers. Most of the comments on the articles agreed at least in part with Grachos' suggestion that the Bills seemed to be making off with more than their share of taxpayer money. But I'd like to share one reaction, an email I received from Cleveland student Anthony Scott, that makes a different argument:
News Arts Critic Colin Dabkowski asks for a debate in how public monies are used to fund arts institutions versus sports teams.
Referring to sports economists is mildly disingenuous of him, as he is also vulnerable to one of their key arguments –- leisure spending is interchangeable. The 2006 UB Regional Institute report on the arts asserts that nearly all of the public sector benefits of art support come from sales tax revenue, so they are easily replaced by entertainment dollars spent elsewhere if funding cuts take a toll on local art institutions.
On Monday afternoon, I caught up with Buffalo painter A.J. Fries to talk about his latest solo show, "Light in Shadow," on view through Jan. 21 in Big Orbit Gallery. Look for a review on Friday, but in the meantime, here's Fries on some of his new work: