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Keeping the Buffalo Arts Scene Thriving

After two years of working to build up the Buffalo arts scene, local gallery owner Marcus Wise is still keeping the momentum going.

Wise began his journey into the local arts scene after he graduated from University at Buffalo.  Having cultivated a strong interest in photography and art, he struggled to find a resource for information on how he could participate in the Western New York arts scene.  Wise chose to establish an online presence by launching his own website, MindWeb, which became a free platform for many artists seeking exposure.  In February of 2009, Wise and his stable of artists from MindWeb found a new home when he officially opened 464 Gallery on Amherst Street.

Since that time, Wise has been working hard to promote local talent and help local artists cultivate their careers.  He has hosted over 300 shows in the past two years, including student shows, group shows and even a mayoral debate.  He and his fellow artists also worked to revive the Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo (ELAB) group in June of 2010.  Since that time, ELAB has put on dozens of events, from networking to mentorship programs, to a fundraiser that brought in $2,000 after the budget cuts.  “We’ve had bigger cities coming to us, asking how we run our ELAB programs,” Wise said.  The group currently represents about 100 artists in Buffalo.

With the Echo Art Fair on the horizon, there’s still plenty of work to be done before the summer.  Because of his affiliation with ELAB, Wise was approached by a fellow organizer of the art fair and was asked to come on board.  “What we really wanted to do was offer a fine art fair,” Wise said.  “We wanted to draw in people from a broader audience and expose them to the great art scene that people from other parts of the country don’t really know about.  It was a perfect fit for us to help emerging artists, but also by giving all artists an opportunity to expose their work.”

Wise added that the Echo Art Fair, which is slated to take place at the historic Central Terminal on July 9, would also pump money into the local arts community and the economy.  “Hopefully it will bring some attention to the Central Terminal, the East side community and some of the architectural gems we have,” he said.  “It will show people that aren’t from Buffalo that there’s something in our community worth saving.”

Having the opportunity to help other artists gain local recognition is the force that has kept Wise so active within Buffalo’s arts community.  “What keeps me doing it are people like Chuck Tingley, Rich Tomasello, Tara Sasiadek and Marissa Lehner.  I get to work with them and go through their experiences with them. It’s good to know that you can help an artist find their way,” he said. “These people have also become my friends–friends and family, really. It’s also really cool to see what you’re capable of doing and how art can impact things in the city.”

Having done so much work to promote other artists’ shows, the time has finally come for Wise to have his very own first solo exhibit.  “Identity: A Photographic Collection by Marcus L. Wise” will open Friday, April 29 at 6 p.m. and will remain on view through May 20 at I Print From Home Gallery on Niagara Falls Boulevard.  Many people inquired as to why Wise didn’t choose to host this show at his own gallery. “I really wanted to be invited to do a show, and I also wanted to have that outside perspective and understand what the artists are going through,” he said.  “It’s made me realize what I’m capable of as an artist.”

The exhibit will feature a series of photographs taken by Wise that reflect his perception of personal identity. “I am reclaiming my identity by challenging the visual cues that teach people that different is negative,” he said.  The collection will serve as an autobiography of Wise’s experiences growing up as “an outsider” and the impact that they had on his identity.  “A lot of these things have shaped who I am today and have put me into this position to want to help people and do things for my community.  And I hope that others will take inspiration from it.”

With plenty of events on tap at the galleries and the Echo Art Fair coming up, it seems as though there is a lot of promise for Wise and his fellow artists this year.  ELAB is continuing to expand its membership and welcomes anyone to join their group or volunteer at one of their events.  Wise also is looking forward to opening up the upstairs level of 464 Gallery in September, where he will be including more artist studios and expanding the general gallery space.

For more information on “Identity: A Photographic Collection by Marcus L. Wise,” visit the Facebook event page.  A list of events hosted by ELAB can also be accessed by visiting their website.

photo courtesy of KC Kratt

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