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.
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:
On Sunday, my column about Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz's proposed 2013 budget appeared in The News. The budget includes increased funding for arts organizations but also a 3.4 percent property tax hike. On Monday, the county executive's communications and policy director Mark Cornell responded. And today, Halllwalls Contemporary Arts Center director and outspoken arts advocate Edmund Cardoni responded to Cornell's suggestion that the cultural community needs to continue to make an argument for why it deserves county funding.
Here's an excerpt of Cardoni's comment:
"...Speaking for myself and my fellow arts advocates (and, if I may, library supporters), we don't take anything for granted and understand full well that we need to go to bat for your budget with 100% effort, not only in the interest of our sector, but for the good of all the citizens of Erie County, because those of us who work in the arts and the individual artists for whom we advocate (most of whom are homeowners and taxpayers ourselves), our audiences and individual supporters, the children served by our arts education programs, and the owners of all the small businesses we patronize ourselves and help generate business for are ALL citizens of Erie County. It's a balanced budget, a compassionate budget, a responsible budget, and a budget that will keep Erie County's regional economic development moving forward. We support it all."
On this, the penultimate day of the 2012 Buffalo Infringement Festival, in the neighborhood of 100 separate performances are slated for venues across the city. It's perhaps the busiest day of Infringement so far. If you need some help deciding what to do, here are my suggestions for the day:
• At Old Wondermoth, the Buffalo Contact Improvisation Jam Performance Group perfroms their show "Random Contact" from 12 to 1 p.m. Contact improv (of which you can see an example in this video at around the 3:58 mark) is a form of dance in which the participants' bodies are always touching in some way during the performance. Done well, it can be beautiful to watch.
• Also at noon at the Occupy Buffalo house, a whole host of bands will play for the Occupy Buffalo-sponsored "Anti Warped Tour," which also features art from the Occupy movement and other events/activities.
• I have it on good authority (that of "Incident at Deer Lick" author and performer Franklin LaVoie, if you must know), that Erin Bouvy's performance of "Knot… My Best Moments" is an absolute must-see. The piece is a clown show "for mature audiences," featuring burlesque, physical comedy and character intensive acting." The show runs at 5 p.m. today and 6 p.m. Sunday in El Museo.
• At 7 p.m. in Wasteland Studios, the Francis Bacon Experiment presents "420 the Musical," a project in development about which the word-of-mouth is quite good.
• The Buffalo Burlesque Collective, along with Jayme Coxx and The Bad Grils, presents "A Midsummer Night's Drag" at 7:45 in the Alt Theatre at the Warehouse. A trio of naughtily named hosts will "lead the audience through a mystical, hysterical and off-color version of the classic Shakespearean comedy."
This afternoon, I caught Franklin LaVoie's performance of his story "Incident at Deer Lick" at the year-old West Side Stories used book store on Grant Street. He was kind enough to let me record it in full:
It's the eighth day of the 2012 Buffalo Infringement Festival, and things are heating up in Allentown. Check out my suggestions below, or wade through the official schedule. Either way, today's a good day to get out there and Infringe:
• Franklin LaVoie, the gifted artist and storyteller behind "Incident at Deer Lick" has also been giving a performance of three Celtic stories. You can check that out today at noon in Westside Stories. LaVoie will also present "Incident at Deer Lick" in the same venue at 5 p.m.
• Sticking with the storytelling theme, the five-minute short story open mic "Buffalore" is slated for 5 p.m. at Sp@ce 224.
• At 6 p.m., Montreal-based singer-songwriter Elgin Skye performs at Night House. Here's the description of her work from the Infringement website: "Elgin-Skye McLaren lives in Montreal where she writes poems, songs and lonely love letters. Armed with an electric guitar and a looping pedal, she plays lo-fi indie-pop with a style reminiscent of artists such as Regina Spektor, Bjork, and Braids. Elgin-Skye’s politeness and humble disposition betray her booming, buoyant voice. Her songs are thoughtful reflections on love, loss, and woodland creatures. Her sets may include, but are not limited to: clapping, whistling, cooing, singing, stomping."
• From 7 to 8 p.m., the Montrealers from Optative Theatre Laboratories presents "Car Stories," the Infringement show that started it all, near The Melting Point on Allen Street. If you haven't experienced this unorthodox style of theater -- in which the back set of the car is the theater and the front seat is the stage -- you can catch the show today, Friday or Saturday.
Tonight there's plenty of action happening in the Infringement Festival's non-Allentown outposts (not to say Allentown itself isn't hopping like mad with Infringement activities), including Main (St)udios, The Vault, Wasteland Studios and Filigree's. After checking out the very cool, extremely funny "Reader's Theater" at Burning Books, I took a short tour of the first three of those venues. Here a little of what I saw:
Above, artist Tara Sasiadek paints the face of Nicole Kujawski outside Main (St)udios, where a small crowd was gathered as the evening's art opening wound down. This space is also the site of a recently completed mural that's been turning heads in the up-and-coming neighborhood on Main Street.
After that I headed to Wasteland Studios, where I encountered this magnificent piece of homemade couture...
Later this week, look for my Gusto story on the upcoming Infringement Festival, which runs in an estimated 72 venues from July 26 to Aug. 5. In the meantime, check out the festival's full (and very much subject-to-change) schedule, just posted at infringebuffalo.org.
Earlier this evening, members of Buffalo's cultural community dominated an hour-long public hearing of Buffalo Common Council. The cultural funding advocates, responding to a city budget that includes no funding for the arts, echoed and in many cases built upon the eloquent arguments of last year's Erie County cultural funding crisis.
Together, they made a strong collective case for the restoration of a small and stable level of funding to benefit the myriad cultural organizations within its limits. Buffalo cut the majority of arts funding out of its budget during the economic downturn that followed the Sept. 11 attacks and has not restored it since --though, after much haggling, it did provide emergency funding to arts groups during last year's county funding crisis.
Some highlights from the evening's remarks follow. (Please excuse the shaky camera work and note that most speakers or their organizations are members of the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance.)