Excitement is building over Tuesday's performance at Lippes Hall in Slee Hall of David Felder's extravaganza “Les quatre temps cardinaux." Homegrown soprano superstar Laura Aikin, pictured above, will be singing in the cycle. So will bass Ethan Herschenfeld, whom you can watch here singing the part of the dragon Fafner in Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelungs."
That is quite a costume! A very cool Fafner.
Felder's cycle includes the recorded voices of several of the poets whose poetry is woven into the work.
One of those poets is the late Robert Creeley. Felder has included a couple of settings he made previous of Creeley's poetry, "Spring Light" and "Buffalo Evening."
Earlier this evening, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarzdelivered his first "State of the County" address in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The location he chose to deliver that speech, the cultural flagship of Western New York and one of the driving forces of the region's ongoing arts renaissance, speaks volumes about the county executive's understanding culture's importance to the identity of Western New York.
And what he said in the speech about the role of the arts here -- something that until very recently a local public would never have acknowledged to the extent Poloncarz did -- will be heartening to the dozens of cultural organizations who lobbied so hard for the demise of his predecessor:
The Albright Knox is just one example of the abundance of riches we have in Erie County including: nationally renowned museums; an amazing philharmonic orchestra; landmarks from architectural giants; and, a thriving theater scene other cities would love to have.
I believe investment in our arts and cultural assets should be no more optional than funding our parks, roads and bridges. Each one of these is an integral part of the infrastructure of our community; some are steel and concrete, others are body and mind. The resident doesn’t need to ‘use’ the arts any more than the need to use every single road or bridge or park supported by their tax dollars to derive a benefit from them thriving.
This is progress. Much more work remains to be done, including the creation of a more equitable approach to funding the county's cultural organizations, and making sure our region doesn't put the cart before the horse when it comes to cultural tourism. But compared to the state of cultural funding and government foresight in this region two years ago, things seem to be looking up.
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:
Bryan Scott of the Buffalo Bills performs the song "Dedicated" at the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls as a part of awareness for the fight against breast cancer in October, 2012. (Photo by Harry Scull Jr. / Buffalo News)
am really excited about the chance to get more hands on with the students in the
Buffalo community,” Scott said in a statement. “I have always had a tremendous passion for the
arts and this is a great opportunity to connect with students to share that
excitement and impact the younger generations.”
The event, which runs from 6 to 10 p.m., includes live music, a cooking competition, a silent auction and appearances from Bills players George Wilson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mario Williams, Jairus Byrd, Alex Carrington, Arthur Moats, Chris White and Rian Lindell. Tickets are $75.
Brother Augustine Towey left his mark on Buffalo's theater scene. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)
Yesterday, Buffalo's theater community received the sad news that Brother Augustine Towey, the founder and longtime director of Niagara University's theater program and a major force on the Western New York theater scene, had died at 75.
In 2009 -- in an event I'll always remember -- members of the theater community gathered in Niagara University's soon-to-be-renovated Leary Theatre to read from Towey's book of poetry "The Poem You Aked For." That event, mercifully for those who have never had a chance to hear Towey's poetry aloud, was recorded for posterity. Below, I am excerpting two pieces of poetry from the event well worth the hearing.
The first is the marvelous and very funny series of poems "When Christ Comes," read by Towey himself. The second is "Lazarus Afterwards," read by Towey's friend and frequent collaborator Vincent O'Neill.
And a bonus, Towey reading "You Are a Word God Utters to Me":
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."
The final day of the 2012 Buffalo Infringement Festival, sadly, is upon us. If you still have any fuel left in your tank after yesterday's onslaught of Infringey activities, here are my five final picks for some Infringement activities to cap off the festival:
• Keith Michaud, seen below performing his song "The Ghost of New Orleans" a cover of John Prine's "Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)" outside Rust Belt Books on Friday afternoon, plays today at 2 p.m. outside Cafe Taza.
• Aside from Babushka!, the comedy duo that's been performing at Infringement for the past few years, there isn't an overwhelming amount of comedy at the fest. But today, you can catch members of Stand Up Buffalo performing at El Museo at 8 p.m.
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."