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WRIGHTING OUR AREA'S SELF-ESTEEM

In honor of the holiday, we take a break from the recent expressions of dismay and reminders of demise. There will be no talk of red budgets or higher taxes. There will be no mention that we're No. 1 -- in bad state government, high taxes and job loss.

Instead we will, as the song says, accentuate the positive. Nothing lifts our spirits as much as when the outside world notices us. I'm not talking about references to our fair city as America's armpit, or the joke about the fictional pilot who, upon descent into Buffalo, advised passengers to set their watches back 20 years. Not that kind of notice.

No, I mean good things. Events that aid in digestion of a Thanksgiving feast -- not that cause heartburn, agita or unrest. Things that make those in this inferiority-ridden Sally Field of cities cry out: You like us, you really, really like us.

The city got its props in recent months in publications from the New York Times to the Hamilton Spectator.

The New York Times: The time to visit is summer, when Buffalo gets a glorious payback for its snowy winters with some of the best weather in the nation.

Inspired by the Times piece, the features editor of the Chicago Sun-Times ventured here for Curtain Up! and wrote a piece that could have been dictated by the Chamber of Commerce. The article was a bore, but the headline worked: Thundering Applause: Buffalo's impressive arts scene is backed by rich architecture, dishes.

There was also what looked like an interesting story on our Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in De Standaard, the essence of which I'll happily convey as soon as I brush up on my Dutch. Worldlier readers can chew over this excerpt: Hiermee bouwt Buffalo zijn Frank Lloyd Wright-patrimonium flink uit; de stad heeft immers al zeven gebouwen van de architect.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

It's a sign of things to come. Buffalo needs good news, and here's some: When the restoration and rebuilding of Wright's Darwin Martin House complex near Delaware Park is done in two summers, the international attention will lift our communal self-esteem to the watermark. Architecture is what we've got over most places, and once the Wright is ready, the world will know us for more than blizzards.

Ed Healy may have the toughest job in America. He works for the Convention and Visitors Bureau. It hurts him more than anybody to call long distance in June and hear the voice ask -- seriously -- if there's snow on the ground. That's why, when it comes to Wright and the rest, Healy isn't taking chances.

The CVB has signed up the Manhattan PR firm of Resnicow-Schroeder, known for its arts media connections, to spread our word. Wisdom sometimes lies in knowing your limitations. What nobody at the CVB can do is get a guaranteed return call from Newsweek's Cathleen McGuigan, the Times's Nicolai Ouroussoff and other cultural media gatekeepers.

"We don't have the budget to move the needle on our own," said Healy. "Hiring Resnicow-Schroeder gets us on the radar screen with major newspapers and magazines in New York City and across the country."

It's part of the run-up to '06, when -- with the completion of the $25 million restoration of Wright's Martin complex -- we get the architectural lightning rod we need.

With major buildings by Wright and Sullivan and Richardson, with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, with the restored Shea's and the Philharmonic playing at the Saarinen-designed Kleinhans, we've got the cultural goods. It's time the world found out.

e-mail: desmonde@buffnews.com

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