Four-month festival to celebrate legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright - The Buffalo News
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Four-month festival to celebrate legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright

Buffalo is throwing Frank Lloyd Wright a birthday party for the ages.

Starting on June 8, the 150th anniversary of Wright's birth, the newly formed Buffalo Arts & Crafts Alliance will launch a four-month celebration of Wright's work and Buffalo's undersung role in the Arts & Crafts Movement.

The festival, which will feature exhibitions and events in the Burchfield Penney Art Center, the Darwin Martin House, Roycroft Campus and the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Design, will culminate in a four day conference slated for Oct. 20 to 21.

Jonathan Katz, one of the alliance's co-founders and organizer of the celebration, said it is an attempt to remind people about Buffalo's central place in the legacy of American architecture and design and to reclaim its history as an incubator for one of the most important and wide-reaching aesthetic movements in American history.

"We wanted to both honor Frank Lloyd Wright's birth and frankly use that date to shine a very bright light on the cultural riches of our community," Katz said. "What often gets lost is that the national epicenter of the Arts and Crafts movement was Buffalo and its environs, and that Frank Lloyd Wright was initially attracted to Buffalo by a series of innovators who were themselves key figures in the Arts and Crafts movement."

While Buffalo's legacy as a center for architectural experimentation is nationally recognized, reputation as a hotbed for an entire realm of design has been less heralded.

University at Buffalo visual studies professor Jonathan Katz is one of the founders of Buffalo's Arts & Crafts Alliance and an organizer of a major celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright's birth.

The global Arts and Crafts movement, especially as embodied by Western New York institutions starting at the turn of the last century, was driven by artists, designers and architects who favored craftsmanship and hand-hewn detail over the uniform products of industrialization.

Visual traces of that movement remain visible in Buffalo, from the ornate gables of Victorian houses in the Elmwood Village to the products of artisans and craftsmen still working on the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora.

The four-month festival will reacquaint people with the influential achievements of Roycroft founder Elbert Hubbard, furniture designers Gustav Stickley and Charles Rohlfs, visual artists Clara Sipprell, Frederick W. Walrath, Alex Fournier and many others whose names have faded into history even as their influence has spread.

The series of exhibitions and events is funded by grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, the University at Buffalo, the Oishei Foundation and the Larkin Center for Commerce.

[Related: Click here to see a gallery of renderings showing the interior and exterior of the Larkin Administration Building]

"It's hard to overstate the impact that this small group of artists and designers had on the world of fine art, and it's hard to believe they were here in Western New York when they were developing their styles and their philosophies," said Paul T. Hogan, the Oishei Foundation's executive vice president in a statement. "It's long past time for this legacy to be recognized."

Exhibitions planned for the celebration include a display of furniture designed by Wright, Stickley, Rohlfs and others in the Burchfield Penney Art Center and a look at the Larkin Company and Wright's famed Larkin Administration Building organized by Katz and his students in UB's visual studies department.

"It's going to entail models of the building and photos of the building. We've also been scouring the area and have found some of the original furnishings from the building designed by Wright and they will be brought together for the first time," Katz said. "We will also be showing a film about the Larkin factory floor that was one of the earliest films Edison ever shot."

For more information on the celebration, for which dates and specific events have not yet been announced, visit artsandcraftsalliance.org.

email: cdabkowski@bufffnews.com

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