Buffalo schoolteacher Stephanie Lee smiled as she looked around Albright-Knox Northland's airy, light-filled industrial space.
"I grew up in this neighborhood," Lee said. "It was really a dead area."
Today the art space across from the Northland Workforce Training Center on the East Side takes its place on Buffalo's cultural map.
"To see all this happening right now, with the art museum, is a wonderful thing," Lee said.
Albright-Knox Northland opens to the public from noon to 7 p.m. Friday at 612 Northland Ave., a for-now temporary attraction during the $165 million expansion of the museum's Elmwood Avenue campus.
A large rooftop created by artist Heather Hart for the opening exhibition dominates the 130-foot-long and 62-foot-wide space, which includes translucent wall panels, a concrete floor, exposed brick and a 24-foot-high ceiling.
"How many opportunities do you have to walk to the top of a roof and look out over a crowd?" marveled Mitch Flynn.
Frank Kowsky likes seeing the industrial site – where shock absorbers for trains and cars were once made – used for art.
"It's been done elsewhere in the country, and Buffalo is a prime place for it," Kowsky said.
"I think Albright-Knox Northland is a materialization of many of the dreams we share here in Buffalo," said Janne Siren, the museum's director.
[Photos: Smiles at Members & Neighbors opening at Albright-Knox Northland]