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Noah Falck introduces Just Buffalo Literary Center's new Writing Center

Today marked the opening of Just Buffalo Literary Center's new Writing Center, an airy, open room above the Western New York Book Arts Center that will host workshops and serve as a drop-in center for local students looking to develop their writing skills. JBLC Education Director Noah Falck kicked off the festivities, which included a series of poetry readings from students and professionals, and lots of smiles all around.

Look for more coverage of the space my column on Sunday, and check out the series of workshops it offers here.

And just for fun, here's an original poem read by Janna Willoughby-Lohr -- who was standing on an actual Just Buffalo Literary Center-sanctioned soapbox at the time -- during this afternon's event:


--Colin Dabkowski

Give for Greatness becomes part of ASI

Give for Greatness, the arts fundraising organization launched by Artvoice publisher Jamie Moses in the wake of Erie County's 2011 cultural funding crisis, will become part of the Arts Services Initiative.

The merger of the two organizations, funded by a consortium of local foundations known as the Fund for the Arts, will create a new development director position at ASI. It will primarily benefit small cultural organizations and expand G4G's mission to include a larger swath of Western New York.

As the funding crisis of 2011 recedes into memory, ASI board president and MusicalFare Theatre founder Randall Kramer said, "the need for G4G remains as prevalent as ever for small and new organizations, as well as groups in Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties where public sector [support] for the arts is not as strongas it is in Erie."

It's tough to overestimate the importance of a group dedicated to funding new and emerging cultural groups Western New York and Erie County, as the vast majority of public and private funding goes to long-established organizations. Gaining a toe-hold as a new group is remarkably difficult -- a problem this reimagined version of G4G aims to solve.

Since its founding, according to the G4G website, the organization has raised $150,000 for local arts organizations. It was headed for a time by former Studio Arena Theatre director Kathleen Gaffney, who left the organization several months ago.

--Colin Dabkowski

Mickey Harmon's 'Life and Times of Grovey Cleves' is online

The Buffalo art world has been buzzing about Mickey Harmon and Scott Mancuso's collaboration "The Life and Times of Grovey Cleves" since its opening last Friday in the Western New York Book Arts Center. Now, Harmon has posted a digital version of the illustrated semi-fictional biography of two-time president and proud Buffalonian Grover Cleveland. Here's a look:

--Colin Dabkowski

Arts Services Initiative launches cultural awards

The Arts Services Initiative of Western New York, a cross-cultural advocacy organization headed by Tod A. Kniazuk, announced today that it is lanching an annual series of cultural awards.

The new awards program is similar to the yearly honors the Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County handed out until its demise in 2010. ASI is accepting nominations on its website for lifetime achievement, organization of the year, artist of the year, rising star, cultural supporter of the year, cultural advocate of the year, volunteer of the year and DEC program of the year. The ceremony will be on June 25 in the Hotel @ Lafayette.

Read ASI's release on the new awards program here.

--Colin Dabkowski

Infringement Fest issues call for work

The 2014 Buffalo Infringment Festival, scheduled for July 24 to Aug. 3, is now accepting applications from local artists, musicians, filmmakers, poets and performers of all stripes. Some info from the release:

Infringement welcomes all musicians, visual artists, dancers, poets, actors, filmmakers, performance artists and street performers to be involved. There are no fees to enter and every application is accepted. Once you have started an application, you can go back to it at any time and add or change information. Registering early keeps you in touch with the monthly events and fundraisers and links you with an organizer in your genre of art. It also helps organizers plan ahead with volume, as the festival grows larger every year. To celebrate our 10th year we encourage everyone applying to step outside with their creative ideas and transform the streets of Buffalo into the ultimate free venue!

To submit your proposal, click here.

--Colin Dabkowski

Babeville to host forum on art, culture and 'placemaking' tonight

Jason Schupback, director of design for the National Endowment for the Arts, will lead a forum on the role of art and culture in the development of urban spaces tonight at 7 in Babeville's Asbury Hall

As projects such as Larkinville and Canalside spring up in American cities recovering from decades of economic stagnation, developers, architects and politicians are thinking much more about the role of culture in creating new urban landscapes and economies. The term for that trend is "placemaking," a highly lampoonable piece of jargon The Atlantic Cities included on its list of "Urbanist Buzzwords to Rethink in 2014."

Whatever you may think of the word itself, the trend is well worth exploring. Tonight's forum is sure to touch on many important issues central to the development of Buffalo in the next few years. Anyone interested in the rapid development of the city should check it out.

The forum is sponsored by Partners for a Livable Western New York, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and presented by Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center. As seating is limited, those interested in attending should RSVP by calling Hallwalls at 854-1694.

--Colin Dabkowski

No pain, no 'Grain': new theater fest launches first ad

"Quixotic" doesn't even begin to describe Neil Wechsler's attempt to launch "Against the Grain," an enormously ambitious outdoor theater project set to debut Wechsler's adaptation of "Faust" next summer at Silo City. "Faustian," though, might be a little more accurate. In any case, Wechsler's big dreams for the incipient project -- for which he intends to recruit actors and creative types from across the Northeast -- are captured pretty well in the festival's first foray into viral marketing. Here's a look at the video, which stars Wechsler as himself and Silo City impresario Rick Smith as the devil:


--Colin Dabkowski

Erie County adopts a culture-friendly 2014 budget

On Tuesday, the Erie County Legislature passed County Executive Mark Poloncarz's 2014 budget along party lines, as Harold McNeil reported. Just as a refresher, here's a look at what the budget contains for Erie County arts organizations:

  • A 1.5 percent increase in operating funding support for 63 arts organizations, bringing total 2014 cultural funding (not including libraries) to $5.64 million
  • Funding for previously unfunded groups including Arts Services Initiative, Buffalo Niagara Choirs Inc., Central Terminal Restoration Corp., Lower Lakes Marine Historical Society, Preservation Buffalo Niagara and the Orchard Park Symphony Orchestra.

Take a look at the full list below or download a PDF copy here.

--Colin Dabkowski

Chris Kelly's 'Touralouralay' video makes waves

Yes, that mellifluous voice you hear speaking French at the start of this video belongs to Vincent O'Neill, co-founder of the Irish Classical Theatre. Yes, that is local actor Jimmy Janowski and female impersonator Bebe Bvulgari lipsynching in a gritty Buffalo alleyway to the strains of Billy Hough and The X- Loves' song "Touralouralay." And yes, that is the author Michael Cunningham ("The Hours," "A Home at the End of the World") engaging in some risqué behavior with The Albright's keyboardist and vocalist Joseph Donahue.

It continues: Yes, that is Alan Trinca, who played Alex in Torn Space Theater's production of "A Clockwork Orange" earlier this year, drinking wine in the bathtub for no apparent reason. And those backing vocals are indeed coming from Gordon Cano of the Violent Femmes. And assorted other strangenesses.

What is all this about? It's a long-simmering video project released this morning by local director Chris Kelly, who shot the entire thing on a pair of iPhones in Provincetown, R.I. and Buffalo. Its meaning is, well, elusive, but its cult appeal is pretty much immediately evident.

It's already been picked up by the LGBT blog Towleroad, which called it "a musical tale of gay love, marriage, booze, drugs and betrayal," and by Take a look.

--Colin Dabkowski




Award-winning digital writer Alan Bigelow to spin his 'Webyarns' tonight at Medaille

Over thirty years ago, at the dawn of what then called the age of "personal computing," it became clear that digital technology's influence on the creative writing process was certain to become both sweeping and transformative.  With the advent of Apple's graphical user interface in 1984, it became possible to conceive of "textuality" in multi-dimensional space, making new approaches to both reading and writing possible.  

By the end of the 1980's, an avant-garde of literary talent was already experimenting with digital narrative forms that yielded a plasticity heretofore only conceptually suggested by works like Julio Cortazar's "Hopscotch" or Jorge Luis Borges's "The Library of Babel."  The prominent American fiction writer and novelist Robert Coover was an early advocate and adopter, and by 1987 Buffalo native and Canisius College alumnus Michael Joyce's "afternoon, a story" became the first widely-circulated example of what came to be known as "hypertext fiction" published by the digital arts software company Eastgate Systems.

Before long critics and literary journalists--including yours truly--were touting digital literature as the Next Big Thing, and some cases, even suggesting that within a decade or two, hypertext fiction would render the traditional linear means of storytelling obsolete, consigning the novel and even the Chekovian short story to the ash-heap of history in the name of technological narrative progress.

Continue reading "Award-winning digital writer Alan Bigelow to spin his 'Webyarns' tonight at Medaille" »

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