Photographer Lukia Costello has been working on a new exhibition that focuses of the people that comprise Buffalo’s refugee community. What makes this show so different is that the images will not be hung in a traditional gallery space. Instead, large formatted photos will be displayed in the windows of Allentown businesses, virtually turning the neighborhood into an interactive display. Lukia opted to go in this direction mainly because the businesses that will be showcasing the works are on the routes that many of the refugees take on a daily basis to and from ESL classes which take place at the Adult Learning Center and the Workplace Learning Center at Edward/Virginia Streets and Elmwood Avenue.
Newcomers – Allentown Storefront Exhibition 2/7 – 3/20 at 10 locations in Allentown. Artist Talk March 20th 7-8 pm at El Museo Francisco Oller Y Diego Rivera 91 Allen Street, Buffalo, 14202. An artist talk will be held March 7th from 7-8pm at El Museo on Allen. Participating venues: Madonna’s, Cafe 59, Allen St. Dress Shop, Lonnie B’s Beads, Quaker Bonnet, Buffalo Big Print, El Museo Francisco Oller Y Diego Rivera, El Buen Amigo, Allen St. Hardware and Cafe Taza.
How did you decide which refugees to choose for the photos that will be hung?
I’m interested in the connection we make with other human beings when our eyes meet. Final images were selected by how each person engaged with me through the lens. The final set was narrowed to offer a balance of age, gender and ethnicity.
What organizations did you work with?
I didn’t work with any organizations, formally but, Craig Centrie of El Museo was indispensable in helping me secure the venues involved. El Museo is also hosting my artist talk March 7th from 7-8pm where I’ll be talking about some of the things I learned putting this project together.
How did you choose to feature the refugees in the shots – expressions, angles, lighting, etc. Did you ask them to smile, be natural, etc?
I only had a small window of time and I didn’t want to disrupt classes for too long. I choose a standard portrait set up with a mix of natural and artificial light.
Each person was photographed, one after another, in quick succession. Given that, and the language barrier, I really didn’t’ do to much directing. I welcomed them with a smile and let them be themselves.
What is the Individual Artist Commission – the organization that funded the show?
The show is funded through, one of 3, New York State Council on the Arts grants awarded in Erie County in 2013.
Why did you choose to feature the images in storefront windows, rather than a gallery setting?
The portraits are hung in windows to be easily seen from the street. Allen is one of the main routes that students take to class.
What is the message that you want to send to the community? And also to the refugee community?
I want people to be aware of our new neighbors, their beauty and what they offer to our community. We’re lucky to have them here and I am excited by all the ways they will enrich city.
I want them to feel welcome and respected, not for what they have been through but for who they are.