Tony Goldman envisions creating "Arts & Industry Island." The merging of two of Buffalo's greatest assets -- a vibrant current artistic community & impressive industrial past. He proposed creating the world's largest free outdoor museum -- have international artists paint massive works on the grain mills. Promoted as such, it would be an international draw. It would make the millions of tourists visiting Niagara Falls, only minutes away, stop to check them out -- drive by, boat by, walk by, bike by, and kayak by. Designed to be enjoyed from different vantage points, it would help develop the entire area for miles around -- not just the Canal District.
How hard to pull off? Probably difficult. Architectural purists would not be happy, judging from the two comments I'd gotten on the blog post.
I say use 'em or loose 'em. As they are now, they are of interest to serious students of architectural and industrial heritage - not quite a large and booming group visiting Buffalo in droves and benefiting our economy. And unless they're willing to shore up, preserve, interpret the significance of, and promote these assets as a tourist draw to benefit the city, then they will sit there and continue to rot and deteriorate for the next few centuries (the grain elevators, not the purists!).
Expense is another hurdle -- the money to do large-scale public art like this is not necessarily the easiest to find -- but not impossible.
I think there are options that are not permanent though -- large banners, projected images (for viewing at night), wall-paper-like treatments. There's probably other options as well.
In Tony Goldman's talk he mentioned getting well-known graffiti artists from around the world to create the art. In Buffalo, that would be like off-shoring chicken wings. We have the creative talent here (artists and curatorial expertise) to create large-scale public art -- just few opportunities to do so. And I'd rather see us, as a community, spend money, time and effort furthering careers of artists that live and spend their money here.
^Lead image: Tom Holt, Berzerk!, 2009 (center four grain elevators); Felice Koenig, Cherry Fizz, 2009, and Gardening 2008-2009 (two right tanks).
^From left: Kurt Von Voetsch, Messbag Series, 2007; Amy Greenan, 1972; Mark McLoughlin, Stolen Souls Willing exhibition portraits.
^Jim Charlier, Powerplant, 2010.