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Front Yard at the Center by Day

Front Yard at the Center by Day

The Front Yard on Buffalo Rising

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Front Yard @ BPAC on Buffalo Rising. Read more at

We’ve all been waiting for the day that public art would be incorporated into the landscape of the Burchfield Penney Art Center (BPAC). Well, that day has finally arrived, and let me tell you that the wait was worth it. On September 12, 2013, the art center will unveil a stunning permanent audio and video art installation on the Elmwood side of the building - The Front Yard. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for – the 38-foot façade of the Center will come alive as a 24/7/365 “new media gallery” featuring works from some of the most well respected notables, including artist and project designer Brian Milbrand along with legendary film and video makers Steina, Woody Vasulka, Peer Bode and even the late Paul Sharits (a newly re-mastered piece). “This new installation is being made possible by a generous lead gift from M&T Bank, a long standing benefactor of the Center, and by an enthusiastic group of donors” said Peter Fleischmann, chair of the Board of Trustees, Burchfield Penney Art Center. “We are grateful for the support of Louis P. Ciminelli and LP Ciminelli, Rigidized Metals, Buffalo Structural Steel and Klein Steel for their in-kind support of the Front Yard.”

Known as “the world’s first permanent environmentally-responsive, outdoor audio and video environment”, the ever-arching facade will soon reflect the artistic attitudes and theories of BPAC. “For centuries, extraordinary architecture and art in public places have changed the way that we experience the places we live and work,” said Anthony Bannon, Ph.D., executive director of the Burchfield Penney and research professor at Buffalo State. “The Front Yard extends what we have come to expect from our mediated environment and challenges the definitions of ‘gallery’ and ‘museum’.”

The installation dreamed up by Milbrand and artist/architect Brad Wales pays homage to the art and vision of Charles Burchfield (1893-1967) by taking the Center and transforming it into a public work of art unlike any other. Other parties involved with the project came together by teaming up with the Small Built Works* program at the State University of New York at Buffalo and communication students from Buffalo State. “This creative collaboration was an incredible partnership between two SUNY institutions that brought a breadth of innovation and perspective to an engaging project that will greatly enrich Western New York’s artistic community. We are proud to have been involved in such a dynamic visual arts endeavor,” said Dennis K. Ponton, Ph.D., Buffalo State provost and officer-in-charge.

The technology behind the initiative will be housed in three 24-foot steel and glass-clad towers in which a 7500-lumen Christie DWU775-E WUXGA DLP projectors will be located. “The Front Yard design will invigorate the Burchfield Penney’s facade. It makes a performance space of the front yard and allows for greater public engagement of the site,” said Omar Khan, associate professor and chair, Department of Architecture, School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo. “The Department of Architecture is happy to be part of this transformation of the space. The projection towers designed under the supervision of Professor Brad Wales provide for this new capacity with an understated and elegant design. We look forward to the first projections that will bring new life to the street.”

The technology used in this project is so advanced that it actually takes into consideration interaction with atmospheric conditions such as wind, rain and snow. As a constant and ever-changing content provider, three Panasonic WV-SW395 PTZ weatherproof dome cameras will be positioned on the grounds of the center and will feed images that will blend with the artists’ works. One Sound Audio will incorporate 6.1 channel surround sound comprised of six 112M, Pops15a speakers and two PopsSUBa sub-woofers. The audio and video will work in tandem with the building and its surroundings. “I’ve always been interested in Buffalo’s dramatic cycles of the seasons, and how we shift from season to season, a similar curiosity to that of Charles Burchfield,” said Milbrand, technical director for Buffalo State’s Communication department.  “Bringing public video art to this region is also a passion that I wanted to create with the talented media artists with whom I collaborate. Avant garde audio, film and video productions flood out of Western New York, and all the practitioners are presenting very experimental and challenging work.”

Burchfield will be ever-present in this artistic ensemble. Etched onto the stainless steel cladding of the sculptured units will be Burchfield works from the Center’s collection: Moth and the Thunderclap (1961), Wind-blown Asters (1951) and Oncoming Spring (1954). “Obvious in all of Burchfield’s work is how attuned to and motivated by nature he was. Cyclical patterns and weather highlights mark our time and experience of life,” said Scott Propeack, associate director/chief curator at the Burchfield Penney.

“The Front Yard will ‘project’ the sunset, ‘play’ the sunrise, respond in colors to a rainstorm and create music from the wind,” said Bannon. “Spectators will enjoy a powerful visual illumination in the midst of high quality sound where they are the subject or focal point of the production unfolding all around them.”

At the launch in September…

The Front Yard will go live at sunset on Thursday, September 12, launching a continuous audio and image installation by nearly 100 of artists. The opening will be a world premier of Afterglow Arrangements (2013), a work by Front Yard co-creator Milbrand followed by works by legendary film and video makers Steina, Woody Vasulka, Peer Bode and a newly re-mastered piece by the late Paul Sharits. Works from more than a dozen artists then will be presented through the night. An audio piece by J.T. Rinker will accompany the sunrise, cued by the change in light levels of the breaking dawn. Pieces by David Felder, Lejaren Hiller, Cort Lippe, and Harald Bode are part of the daytime environment on September 13. – BPAC

*The towers were designed by a team led by Isabella Brito a student design team comprised of Brian Belluscio, Isabella Britto, Andrew Durkee, Ryan Dussault, You-chiang Feng, David Heaton, Hanna Ihrke, Ian Liu, Alex Marchuk, Mike Mieszczanski, Maya Shermer, Ryan Sidor and Trenton Van Epps.

“I think I see nature with a more complicated eye than earlier. Where once a fleet of clouds blown by a wind across the ragged sky was enough for me; now I look at it, troubled how best to put it down ‘on canvas’. When this—the grammar of expression—has become as much a part of me as seeing, then can I return to my simpler sight.” – Charles E. Burchfield on February 11, 1915.