With the year winding down, many of us here in the Queen City begin to slow our pace and prepare to settle in for winter. For the organizers of Artfarms
, however, there is plenty of work to be done between now and the coming spring. In order to get the project off and running, they could use a little help from a handful of local design-savvy individuals.
Earlier this year, BR sat down with Artfarms director David Lagé to get the details on his plan to breathe a little creative life into the city's East Side (see here
). His goal is to launch a grassroots project in which the worlds of agriculture and art will intersect, generating a catalyst for some long awaited growth in Buffalo's most distressed and vacant neighborhoods.
Using empty lots as their canvases, a group of local artists will work collaboratively with our city's urban farmers to construct sculptures that will serve a dual purpose as vertical gardens. By planting fruits, vegetables, and flowers in these above ground structures, the farmers can protect them from the debris-related contamination in the East Side soil. Not only will the sculptures add some much-needed aesthetic appeal to these abandoned spaces, but they will also provide a means to satisfy the local demand for fresh food sources.
Lagé's intention is to develop the phases of the project in such a way that we will see an immediate positive impact as the plan progresses toward its long-term goal of cultural revival and community redevelopment. Produce harvested from the first round of Artfarms will go to the Matt Urban Center
's food pantry, helping to meet the basic needs of the less fortunate in the surrounding community. The project will also tie into vocational programs at the Matt Urban Center, as well as educational ones with the Buffalo Arts Studio
. The short-term benefit that we hope to witness is the progression of the East Side into a more sustainable community.
As the project gains momentum and more Artfarms are constructed, perhaps we'll see a broader transition take place in the East Side: the growth of a cultural destination rooted in urban farming. A place that attracts the attention and investment of those interested in expanding Buffalo's burgeoning food and arts scenes into new territory. Those abandoned parcels that once produced only negative perceptions will become sources of economic value and agrarian revitalization.
"A lot of people are asking where Artfarms is at," Lagé said. "We've concluded the concept phase--finding partners, farmers, locations, and the artist's sketches. What we're looking at doing now is developing their concepts into sculptures that can be submitted to the city for review, as well as images we can use for fundraising. This four-week development process will culminate into an exhibition about Artfarms that will travel to other places outside Buffalo."
Lagé wants to start the concept development phase in mid-January, taking about four weeks to complete the design models. "We need to find five people who would be willing to help develop the artworks toward their realization," he said. "They should have a background in constructing models and 3D development." These individuals will be working out of the Matt Urban Center gallery, contributing about 20-25 hours per week for a paid stipend. Their models will then be presented to the city for review. Pending approval, Artfarms will launch its fundraising campaign and push for construction to begin in the early spring.
"We're just asking for help to get Artfarms to the starting line," Lagé said. "We need people who are ready to help launch the effort and are willing to develop the artwork so we can proceed with the review and fundraising processes required for realization."