It’s been a difficult year for Buffalo, which makes it all the more important to gather, sharing happiness in the present and good memories from the past.
Here’s an obvious reason to feel thankful: A serious lake-effect storm is behind us, with enough time in between then and now to welcome family members from afar and clear the walkways for their arrival. It was a storm that could have caused a lot more chaos than it did, but, for the most part, we were ready. As usual, City of Buffalo side streets lag behind in the cleanup efforts; it’s a known liability – complicated by narrow streets and parked cars – that must be assessed and fixed.
Heartfelt thanks are due to those who helped us dig out, including first responders, friendly neighbors and good Samaritans – not to mention the fans who joined in the effort to help free snowbound Buffalo Bills players so they could get to Detroit for an encouraging win against Cleveland.
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The Bills season has (mostly) been cause for celebration so far, as the 7-3 team returns to Detroit for a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day matchup. The team is favored and a holiday spotlight on our sports-mad city is welcome.
Though the weather may have been turbulent, thankfully – given what happened in 2020 and on Jan. 6, 2021 – the 2022 elections were not. Though it may seem ridiculous to commend the politicians who lost their respective contests for admitting that they did, it’s a relief that the wins and losses were unaccompanied by refusals to accept clearly tabulated results - or violence.
As shockingly absurd as it is, election denying is a thing now, a thing to be repudiated and denounced. Although deniers of the 2020 presidential results did win seats in Congress – including two in Western New York – Americans can be glad that, across the rest of the country, such candidates were unsuccessful far more than otherwise.
Good news emerged from one of Buffalo’s top cultural institutions, the former Albright-Knox Art Gallery, to be known henceforward as the Buffalo AKG Art Museum. The official name change accompanies an official opening date for the expanded museum campus: May 25, 2023.
This is one of the boldest architectural additions Buffalo has seen in decades: A new three-story translucent building designed by Shohei Shigematsu of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture is nearing completion; there’s also a new community space created by covering a former exterior sculpture court with a massive sculpture of glass and mirrors by Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann of Studio Other Spaces. The 1905 E.B. Green Neoclassical building and the 1962 modernist addition by Gordon Bunshaft are undergoing extensive renovations.
One individual – Jeffrey E. Gundlach – as well as New York State’s support, deserve Western New York’s thanks for this ambitious, innovative re-envisioning of a Buffalo landmark. That private funding provided most of the $195 million necessary to make this transformation possible is another reason to feel grateful.
Those who have gotten used to the construction barriers and unattractive signage – and may have been wondering if it would ever be finished – now have a date to mark on their calendars.
When the museum reopens, an additional 30,000 square feet of exhibition space will be available to show off more artworks, many of which have never been displayed.
There will also be ongoing free admission to the modern portion, which includes the spectacular new community space and a large gallery. While specific free admission days are always scheduled by Buffalo’s cultural institutions, this permanent – if limited – welcome to all comers has never before been offered by the art museum.
As the museum construction nears completion, ground has been broken throughout Western New York for new housing and other amenities to improve the quality of life for all. But even with all the new construction and hope of progress for our region, this remains an especially sad time for the families and friends of the 10 people killed at the Jefferson Avenue Tops on May 14. Holidays are always the most difficult when there has been a recent family loss – and these losses were particularly brutal and abrupt.
May these families find comfort in gathering with others who remember and honor their departed loved ones. May their happy memories help balance the grief.
This balancing act is always part of every holiday when families – related by blood or by other means – get together. It’s still important to toast the present and celebrate reasons to be optimistic about the future.
Celebration and fellowship in of themselves are proof enough that life is good. Which is what makes this day so important.
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