If you ever wonder what Robby Takac did with his Goo Goo Dolls royalties, you needn’t look far for your answer. You can see the tangible results right here in Buffalo.
There’s GCR Studios, in the building that once housed Trackmaster Studios, where a young Takac cut his teeth learning the language of studio recording well before he was part of a platinum rock band. GCR is a physical manifestation of Takac’s desire to reinvest in the cultural community that nurtured his dreams as a kid. There, you’ll find young bands and seasoned artists translating their musical visions into recordings, working with talented in-house pros, who also are Buffalonians.
Then there’s Music is Art, the not-for-profit organization Takac founded in 2004, an idea, a collective and a concept that is actualized through community action. There are many arms of Takac’s ideological offspring – a foundation that oversees drives to collect old instruments and refurbish them for kids in area schools; an annual Battle of the High School Bands, the winner of which is awarded a prominent gig and recording time at GCR; and the Big Easy in Buffalo series, which, in the language of the MiA website, seeks to “foster a connection between our community and the artists of New Orleans and Louisiana” through exchange gigs between the two cities.
Finally there’s the annual Music is Art Festival, which ties these ideas together into a daylong festival celebrating the arts in Buffalo. The MiA fest will celebrate its 11th year with a 12-hour community arts party starting at 10 a.m. Saturday in Delaware Park, behind the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Here, Takac discusses the significance of the MiA Festival’s turning 11.
What changes are in store for the festival this year?
I’m pretty psyched that we’re going to have a comedy tent for the first time this year. You know, there’s been this sort of bubbling-under excitement about comedy in the city, and the folks at Helium Nightclub in the Cobblestone District have done really well bringing high-level comedy to their club. They are handling this comedy tent for us, and that’s pretty cool. There will be a lot of different DJs, a whole broad cross-section of styles this year, too. And we’re urging everyone to come down early – we’re going to have yoga with instructor Alanna Zabel in the morning, with some real chill DJ music.
You’ve said that the idea behind MiA is to “connect music and community, to ensure that all types of music are recognized as an important part of our culture.” Over the past 11 years, how successful do you feel you’ve been in achieving these goals?
We’ve had our moments, man. (laughs) Seriously, that original idea is still the main concept behind everything we do. The reality is this – there will always be people who don’t understand the role that music and creative art can play in making someone a whole person. It takes a long time to change the minds of people who just don’t see that connection. What I know for sure that what we have been able to do is gather together the people who already do understand that music and the creative arts are so important in making someone a whole person, and to unite them around the same cause. To gather all of these incredibly talented and creative people, and let them loose on something creative and worthwhile. I think we’ve done well in that regard.
You’ve been fortunate to meet and employ some incredibly dedicated people over the years.
I sure have! We’ve managed to make it through some serious changes with the many people from the original team intact. You remember the first years, when we were down in Allentown, and all that we went through with that. Those initial days were an awful lot of fun, and I think we are in most senses following that same original blueprint and manifesto now.
We’ve had missteps, too. We tried to do the festival at the Fair one year, remember? That didn’t work out the way I hoped, but it was a lesson learned. And then all the years with the Albright-Knox, which were amazing, and an incredible learning experience. Now, with the whole area around the (Marcy) Casino, the Rose Garden and the Shakespeare in the Park Hill, I really feel like we’ve found our home. It’s the perfect fit, the perfect space for what we do. We’ve managed to weather all of these changes, and still come out the other end with the same vision intact. That’s huge.