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Nonprofits team up to promote Buffalo's Arts & Crafts history

Monday, June 5, 2017

The 150th birthday of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright will serve as a launching pad for a new coalition designed to spread awareness about Buffalo’s role in the creation of the American arts and crafts movement.

The New York State Arts and Crafts Alliance will sponsor a series of events that begin around Wright’s birthday, dubbed FLW150 for short, including tours of the Darwin Martin House and the Graycliff Estate, a birthday celebration at Wright’s Fontana Boathouse, and the unveiling of a new gallery at the Larkin Center of Commerce, featuring an exhibit of the Larkin Soap Company’s Premiums and Products. Also planned: a series of tours, workshops and lectures through Oct. 29 at other sites important to the Arts & Crafts movement, including the Roycroft Inn in East Aurora as well as the University at Buffalo.

The event series is the culmination of three years of planning by the group of organizations, said Paul Hogan, executive vice president at the John R. Oishei Foundation, which provided $20,000 to fund a coordinator who helped plan a website, events and other resources around the milestone.

“This is a great opportunity to really build on what we’ve had here with the Martin House and Frank Lloyd Wright, but there is so much more here,” he said. “The others are not known nearly as much. We think it’s really critical that we know what our history is here.”

Other participants in the Alliance include the Burchfield Penney Arts Center, the University at Buffalo’s Anderson Gallery, the Larkin Center of Commerce, the Buffalo History Museum and Visit Buffalo-Niagara. Its mission is to strengthen and promote Buffalo’s, and Western New York’s, position as a leader of the arts and crafts movement, while connecting and deepening relevant assets in the region.

Jonathan Katz, an associate professor and director of UB’s doctoral program in visual studies, played a role as co-founder of the alliance and helped to plan an event June 7 on UB’s South Campus: Wright’s Larkin: Arts and Crafts in Industry. He’s also involved in a conference set for late October at UB: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Buffalo School of Arts and Crafts.

Katz calls Western New York the epicenter of the American arts and crafts movement, and home to the largest collection of acknowledged master artisans and masterpieces from the period. But despite his own design background, until he moved here eight years ago to join UB, he says he had no idea.

“Very few people, even in the most professional realm, really recognize how central Buffalo was to the development of design in America,” he said.

“This is really an attempt to find a way to fill a need both for people who are already coming to Buffalo, as well as to begin to market the city in terms of tourism. I think we’ve missed the boat in some respects, in that the epicenter of a lot of the most significant design initiatives in the United States was the region around Buffalo. We need to claim that.”

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