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Falls State Park offers photo focus in highlighting 'Beyond the Barrel'

It took Kenn Morgan more than six months to capture just the right shot of Niagara Falls State Park on film.

Morgan, a Buffalo resident, and seven other still-film camera buffs set out in the fall to find unique images of the country's oldest state park.

"The idea when we started the project was to photograph Niagara Falls not looking like any postcard shots or your typical tourist shots or what we call 'pedestrian shots,' " said Morgan, founding member of the Still Film and Camera Photographers of Greater Buffalo. "We wanted to dig a little deeper."

The result was 40 black-and-white prints of Niagara Falls State Park -- all shot on film and developed by hand -- that will be on view starting tonight in the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center.

The display coincides with the opening of the arts center's annual "Beyond the Barrel" exhibition from 6 to 9 p.m. today. The event, at 1201 Pine Ave., is free and open to the public.

The "Beyond the Barrel" exhibit this year celebrates the 125th anniversary of Niagara Falls State Park. More than 80 pieces by 30 local artists will be on view in the center's main gallery until Aug. 29.

Entries include a variety of works -- from metal sculpted pieces to oil paintings to plaster -- that refect the falls or the state park.

"This is the show that's been here the longest," said Bob Drozdowski, the center's director of operations and marketing. "It seems to have gathered its own traction in the arts community."

The opening tonight will also include the premier at 7 of a documentary aimed at preserving memories of Niagara Falls State Park.

The 28-minute video features interviews with local people who have long histories with the park, including Maid of the Mist owner James V. Glynn, local historian Paul Gromosiak and former park director Mario J. Pirastru.

The video also features interviews with a couple: Adolph Glemb, who worked at the park for 75 years, and his wife, Mary, who worked with him for about half that time.

Angela L. Berti, marketing coordinator for Niagara Falls State Park, who helped coordinate the documentary's production, said parks staff hoped to create an archive of oral histories related to the park. The project soon turned into a documentary.

"They've seen so much," Berti said of the people interviewed for the video. "And they saw so much change."

Interviews in the video also include City Historian Thomas J. Yots, State Parks Western District Director Mark W. Thomas and Doris D. Hampton, a former public affairs officer for the park.

The video, which is narrated by regional parks commissioner Cindy Abbott-Letro, was made during the last year by Niagara Falls State Park and Niagara County Community College. The college donated the expertise and resources for the project, Berti said.

A 10-minute snippet of the video aired during the annual meeting in May of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. Tonight's presentation will be the premier of the full-length video.

The opening coincides with Niagara Homecoming, a weekend celebration that continues from 6 to 10 p.m. today with a cocktail reception and benefit at the Rapids Theatre, 1711 Main St.

Tickets are $25, which includes 10 wine-tasting tickets. All proceeds benefit the NCCC Scholarship Foundation and Niagara Rises, the latter a group organizing the homecoming.

Guests are asked to bring a canned good or nonperishable food item for area food banks.

NCCC culinary students and representatives from the Niagara Wine Trail will work the food stations at the reception. A cash bar will be open throughout the evening.

Walking tours will be held Saturday in downtown Niagara Falls, highlighting the history and architecture of the region. Another tour that day will explore Niagara's important role in the Underground Railroad, a route to freedom for men and women who had been in slavery.

There will be a countywide real estate open house Sunday in an effort to match returning residents with houses. There also will be a Sunday "Arise and Shine" program in which multiple churches will center their sermons on the rebirth and regrowth of the city.

For information, visit www.niagararises.com.

See related story on Page B8 about a job fair in Niagara Falls on Thursday.

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com