Buffalo’s electric cultural scene

Friday, November 26th, 2010. Filed under: Architecture Art Destination Guides
The Electric Tower (1912).

The Electric Tower (1912).

There’s something Gotham-esque about Buffalo, New York, at night. The moon rises through cold crisp darkness over monuments to its past wealth and importance: the ghost-white Electric Tower, the floodlit ladies atop the Liberty Building, the magnificent Art Deco pile of its City Hall.

In dark streets below, the city’s legendary nightlife carries on until a 4 a.m. last call. But if beer, chicken wings and surgical shopping strikes at Target are all you know of Buffalo, you’re missing out on a truly electric cultural scene.

First, the city’s architectural riches. Everything old is new again, thanks to dedicated “friends of” organizations that have brought landmarks like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House Complex and Graycliff Estate back from near-ashes and done a lot towards earning Buffalo a designation last year as a Distinctive Destination by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The New York Times, too, voted it one of the world’s top 44 places to go in 2009 and added that Buffalo is rapidly becoming a “center for creative types” thanks to affordable housing, inexpensive studio space and a super-supportive community.

New Sol LeWitt installation at Albright-Knox.

Sol LeWitt installation at Albright-Knox.

There’s so much going on artwise, it’s hard to know where to begin so I’ll begin where I usually do, at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Since my last visit just a few months ago, the Albright-Knox had almost entirely changed what was on display, pulling treasures by icons like Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol from their Aladdin’s cave of 20th century art.

One new commission: Wall Drawing #1268: Scribbles: Staircase, conceived by Sol LeWitt before his death in 2007, was recently executed in painstaking graphite scribbles by a team of artists following LeWitt’s instruction to make it look like steel.

Burchfield Penney Art Centre.

Burchfield Penney Art Center.

An exciting discovery was the new Burchfield Penney Art Center. Its proximity to the Albright-Knox (they’re right across Elmwood Avenue from each other) make both a do-able double whammy on a day trip but you’re definitely going to want more time. Beyond/In Western New York 2010: Alternating Currents (yes, an electrical theme) features 100 artists at over 20 venues like the legendary Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, founded in 1974 by a group of students that included now-icons Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo.

From live theatre, rock and jazz clubs, multi-disciplinary creativity all over the place and an increasingly sophisticated culinary scene that recently got a nod from Anthony Bourdain, Buffalo is accessible, stimulating and great fun. And while Pittsburgh has rightfully been getting a lot of buzz for being the “new New York” of the art world, Buffalo isn’t far behind.

Buffalo landmarks at Poster Art in Elmwood Village.

Buffalo landmarks at Poster Art in Elmwood Village.

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