Tag Archives: Buffalo

Infringement Festival Puts Buffalo’s Creativity on Display

A strange, albeit temporary, quiet has settled over the streets of Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood early this week, as the Infringers that have been a fixture in the neighborhood for nearly two weeks enjoy time at home. The Wambulance is notably absent from its spot on Days Park, and art lovers across the city are left, pleasantly exhausted, wondering why we all don’t Infringe more often.

There is a spirit to the Buffalo Infringement Festival (BIF) – the grassroots arts festival which took place from July 28 to August 7 – that would benefit us all if infused into the other 354 days of the year. It’s a sense of exploration, discovery, creativity and celebration.  It seems during those 11 bustling days that anything is possible because there are no boundaries, no restrictions and no judgment. It’s a space where art is created organically and with intention, with the support of a strong and organized community.

Infringement is an international phenomenon begun in Montreal that has grown particularly strong roots here in Buffalo, where our version of the festival has grown over its seven years into the biggest, baddest Infringement celebration in the world.

“I’m always amazed because this festival is able to do what we can only dream of,” said Donovan King, who created the original Montreal Infringement Festival as a response to conflicts with the city’s ironically mainstream Fringe Festival.  Each year his theater troupe brings the popular Car Stories, and this year produced the new interactive show Infringement Therapy, the highlight of which seems to have been smashing a television set with painted rocks of oppression.

“There’s no adversary here,” King said. “It’s like everyone is saying let’s do this and let’s have fun, and that’s the way it should be. It’s nice to see a town that’s so unpolluted by corporate interference … You guys have a sort of inoculation, a sort of resistance already, just by the way you’re doing the arts. Buffalo is a role model because you are demonstrating right now to the whole world how the arts should be done and you’re succeeding amazingly.”

The Infringement celebration filled the streets, parks and venues of the city with forms of art as varied as the performers themselves, intended to challenge the way we think about the world around us.  Subversive Theater Collective‘s The Guillotine: Heads Will Roll, which showed eight times in Days Park, presented a conversation through the lens of French history and inspirational historical figures, including Gandhi and Mother Theresa, that encouraged the audience to challenge our society’s own bourgeoisie and fight for each others rights.

From interactive theater performances to breathtaking puppet shows – Michelle Costa’s Ferdinand is truly a work of beauty, her gentle artistry bringing both her puppets and audience to life  – to non-stop musical entertainment, the underground art fest pumped out so much art it seemed nearly impossible to see it all. Yet one of the most enjoyable aspects of it was that you didn’t have to rush around and try to catch it all. Some of the best times were spent just roaming the streets and discovering what they had to offer around each turn.  Catching the sweet sounds of the strings of Ginger James on Sunday, we were passed by the colorfully triumphant Rise Up The Rainbow Over Buffalo! Street Pageant, an amalgamation of people and puppets marching down the streets in celebration of “the riot of colors and diversity of being that is life.” How could we not join them?

Following the march down Allen Street led us to the exploratory sounds of Steve Baczkowski , crouched outside The Antique Man spinning avant-garde records which he fused together and wailed over with his tenor saxophone. His was an inspiring and exciting performance that transcends what you would normally find on the streets, which in itself is one of the most exciting elements of Infringement – bringing this intelligent, exciting art to everyone.

The dynamic energy of Infringement filled the streets every day, and all night.  Creative original musicians played organized shows on the streets outside small local businesses – Jacopo de Nicola entertained coffee drinkers outside Cafe Taza with his kazoo-laden tunes; Jeremy Spindler explored his take on the rhythms of Brazil by creatively looping accordion melodies with percussion beats outside El Buen Amigo.  Hordes of entertainers filled Allen Street by night, particularly outside Neitzsches, spinning fire and hoops and tirelessly turning out jams until they could jam no more. The organic nature of the street art enticed explorations of sound and rhythm that were open to all to contribute to and be a part of.  Allen Street felt like it never has been and never should be any other way.

“The buskers in the street really came out and rose up” said Curt Rotterdam, BIF’s music coordinator.  “It was popping every night in the streets and that’s something that we didn’t program.  Artists that may never have played together before saw each other in the streets and came together, including many that didn’t sign up for the official festival.  That proves that you can still infringe on Infringement.”

“That’s the beauty of Infringement,” added Jason C. McClean, who helped start Montreal Infringement and has been to six out of seven of Buffalo’s, performing in Car Stories. “There are very basic rules, but it just comes down to a matter of community and respect for fellow artists.  Other than that, you can interpret it however you want.”

Increasingly evident throughout the span of Infringement is the community that builds up over the course of the 11 days, and over the course of the past seven years.  While the bulk of Infringers are Buffalonians, more are hearing of the scene and heading into town on a whim to check it out.  Singer/songwriter Lloyd Machardy traveled here from Nova Scotia and quickly became a favorite new member of the community, frequenting the open mics in addition to his booked shows. Lazy D and Krusty come up from Cincinnati every year for the whole festival and dive in, Infringement logo tattooed to Lazy D’s chest.

“The best thing is that people keep coming back,” said Rotterdam. “These people are starting to come from all over and come just to see what’s going on. It’s got to be helping people, it’s got to be helping the city, and we do it all with no funding.”

As Infringement continues to grow, it is the strength of the community, and the supreme dedication of its organizers, that will hold it together, as more acts and more attention means the need for more space and greater support. The beautiful gallery Sp@ce 224 was a hub of activity this year, hosting poetry slams, art shows, music performances and an impromptu BBQ and independent film night.  BuffaBlog stepped up to take the reigns of the Broadway Market Rooftop Extravaganza.  Rotterdam said Infringement will be looking for more relationships like these as the organizers move forward – anyone can host a party or be a venue, help create a space to support the art.  A garage party on Plymouth may have opened the doors for exploration on Connecticut street, a street brimming with potential and the logical next step in a geographic expansion of BIF’s home base on Allen.

“I think the businesses and the people involved see that this really works and they want to be a part of it,” Rotterdam said.  “It’s something that is so open that anyone can do it, and people really like that. It’s like the largest open mic in the world.”

The countdown’s already begun for next year’s festival, set for July 26 to August 5, 2012. How will you Infringe?

Photos and words by Buffalo’s own Anna Miller and reprinted with her permission. Originally posted at The Good Neighborhood.






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Buffalo vs. Detroit, an Art Showdown

There’s a little inter-Rust Belt rivalry going on right now.

Abandoned crochet work from the Packard Plant in Detroit. Photo: Christen Clifford

The antagonist is Buffalo. Inspired by Detroit’s DIY art scene, especially Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg project, Buffalo is nurturing a cross-regional artistic competition.

Artist Christen Clifford, a NYC-based Buffalo expat, is the brains behind a large scale art installation that seeks to imbue the Buffalo art scene with the same activist flavor as Detroits’.

Clifford is asking Buffalo area residents, as well as expats from near and far, to contribute to a knitting project. They are planning a 167-foot knitted strip, representing the 16,719 abandoned houses in the city. The fabric will then be hung on Buffalo’s infamous Central Terminal.

Clifford is called the project Buffalo vs. Detroit: Opportunity City Deathmatch. It will be part of the Echo Art Fair, of which Rust Wire is a media sponsor, taking place July 8 and 9th.

Clifford had this to say about the installation:

The project highlights the deep interrelations between knitting and mathematics, homemade dedication and the struggle to stay warm; it’s a combination of architecture and craft. It is a commentary on de-industrialization and housing and, hopefully, becomes a beacon of community interaction. It draws on the importance of warmth, of keeping something or someone warm. It pulls on my sense of motherhood and urgency to nurture. It brings a sense of home, of what was and what can be to a blighted section of Buffalo struggling to survive.

The installation will also include chalk drawings that are inspired by Detroit’s Guyton.

I see this as a big compliment to Detroit. Your art scene definitely has a distinctive brand that is inspiring followers. Maybe Buffalo isn’t too far behind.


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Brookings Report Says Rust Belt Succeeding at Attracting Skilled Immigrants

Look out, Silicon Valley.

Read the report from Brookings here, which notes the success Rust Belt cities have had in attracting skilled immigrants.

The report notes:

“Perhaps most notable is the very high concentration of high-skilled immigrants in older industrial metro areas in the Midwest and Northeast such as Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Syracuse. Detroit, for instance, has 144 high-skilled immigrants for every 100 low-skilled immigrants. Immigrants in these metropolitan areas tilt toward high-skill because they blend earlier arriving cohorts who have had time to complete higher education with newcomers entering who can fit into the labor market because of their high educational attainment. Several of the cities in these metropolitan areas also campaign to attract and retain immigrants, signaling appreciation for the small number of high-skilled immigrants they do have.”

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Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Education

TV Show Will be Buffalo “Lovefest”

The Buffalo News reports The Travel Channel will feature Buffalo this summer in an hour-long show that has yet to be named.

The show’s host told the paper:

“It kind of awes me that much of the country, like myself, is in the dark as far as what Buffalo means in the evolution of the United States. Buffalo was such a profound part of this nation. If I can do a television show that has any part in teaching that, that’s terrific.”

The series features places that are off-limits to the general public, such as the city’s old grain elevators.

Buffalo is one of 13 cities being filmed for the first season of the series; other cities include LA, San Francisco, New York and Seattle, according to the paper.

If you are a fan of The Queen City’s beauty, make sure you check out these previous Rust Wire posts that showcase its amazing architecture: here, here and here.

Sounds like it will be an interesting show!



Filed under architecture, Art, Featured, Good Ideas, The Media

Cleveland Takes its Fight Against Wall Street to the Supreme Court

We’ve previously written about Cleveland’s lawsuit against 21 big banks over the mess that was created by the foreclosure crisis.

This article in Cleveland Scene summarizes the case nicely:

“The case against the banks isn’t a class action about individual homeowner losses, or whether they were tricked into signing commitments they couldn’t keep. (Attorney Joshua) Cohen knows that’s a common misunderstanding. Instead, it’s about the big picture from the city’s point of view — an attempt to recover money Cleveland has been forced to spend cleaning up the mess Wall Street left behind.

The foreclosed homes often end up as abandoned, ugly board-ups that are a haven for crime. The city is left to mow the grass when neighbors complain about rodents. The police end up dealing with festering drug problems. All of that costs money. And ultimately, the city must demolish thousands of these derelict properties at a cost of $7,000 each or more. But Cleveland is not alone: A similar case filed by the City of Buffalo, New York, claims the maintenance, police attention, and eventual demolition of foreclosed homes totaled as much as $16,000 per building. Of course, Buffalo was left holding the tab.

‘Was it irresponsible lenders or borrowers?’ Cohen asks rhetorically. ‘You could argue that until the cows come home. But whatever conclusion you reach, Cleveland was an innocent bystander. It’s amazing to me that the financiers have not been called to answer for this in any meaningful way.'”

Where does the case, filed in 2008, stand now?

Headed for a long-shot run at the US Supreme Court.

In addition to Cleveland, similar suits have been filed by Buffalo, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Memphis, the article states.


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Filed under Editorial, Real Estate, The Housing Crisis

Buffalo Artist Uses Material Salvaged from Demolitions

Take a look at the pieces created by Buffalo artist Dennis Maher using materials salvaged from demolished buildings.

The Baltimore native came to Buffalo eight years ago and finds the city to be a very inspiring place, he said in an interview with Rust Wire.

“There are very few places where I could do the kind of work I’m doing here,” working with debris, Maher said.

When he first came to Buffalo, he worked on a demolition crew to earn extra income.

His interest in demolition has different aspects, he said: the physicality of it, the political aspect of it as a development strategy, and as a process of erasure.

His art is being displayed at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo (second photo from top) and was recently shown at the Black & White Project Space in Brooklyn (top photo).

Maher is a full-time faculty member in the department of architecture at the University at Buffalo, part of The State University of New York.

Want to know more?

Here’s a piece the Buffalo ArtVoice wrote about one of his exhibits several years ago and here’s something from Buffalo Rising about an exhibit last year.


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Filed under architecture, Art, Education, Good Ideas, Headline

Beautiful Buffalo in Photos, Part 2–Natural Landscapes

Continuing with our photo tour of the city of Buffalo, today we offer some landscapes from the natural world in an urban setting.

This shot was taken by Joseph M Verrastro in the city’s Tifft Nature Preserve, a reclaimed area minutes from downtown Buffalo:

An avid photographer of the natural environment, Verrastro also took this picture of wildflowers in front of the grain elevators of Republic Steel Company.

Those elevators loom large over the Buffalo River and have been the subject of many a local shutterbug. Here’s a different angle by the same photographer.

Course, like many of our cities, Buffalo has the natural advantage of being on the Great Lakes. These shots were submitted by Grechan Grobe.

Here’s another couple shots by the same photographer, blending industrial and natural.

This is a view of the Tonawanda Coke plant from Niagara River.

Thanks to Buffloians for sending photos and for being patient with me and my lack of expertise on the area. We are going to do one final installment in this series on houses and people with photos by Sean Brodfueher and Chuck Alaimo.



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