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Cornelia, Unveiled

For western New York’s visual arts community, the launch of a new arts review couldn’t happen soon enough.

Why? Recently, after a slow, decades-long decline in arts coverage by traditional media and even the alternative press, the end came swiftly with blows delivered in rapid succession. Artvoice’s arts voices were stilled. The Public ceased regular publication. And at the Buffalo News Colin Dabkowski, who had soldiered on in the face of management indifference to the visual arts, was pulled off the arts beat.

These developments left yawning void in arts coverage. As for filling that void, the who and the how have been a major topic of conversation in local art circles for over a year. But the famously fragmented and flaccid leadership in the local visual arts community, that largely squandered the unity and collective power it mustered a decade ago in the battle over county arts funding, just couldn’t seem to get off the dime. That left the situation ripe for younger, more entrepreneurial, risk-taking artists to step in. And thankfully, The BICA did just that. They didn’t just talk and kvetch, they took action. And they did it smartly. The result? Cornelia, launching this weekend.

You may not have heard of The Buffalo Institute of Contemporary Art, which not long ago opened an office and gallery space in a former garage on Elmwood just north of Summer. Created by the soon-to-be wife-and-husband team of Emily Ebba Reynolds and Nando Alvarez-Perez, they have already hosted several exhibits. Attending shows there by artists new to the Buffalo scene in an under-designed space that retains its industrial character reminds me of many great artistic experiences at the (sadly missed) Hi-Temp Gallery in the Cobblestone District.

Emily and Nando worked with Lindsay Preston Zappas, an artist who created an arts review in Los Angeles named carla (Contemporary Art Review LA). You might not think of Los Angeles, a major media market with a high-flying art scene, as a place that would face a gap in arts coverage. But it seems no place in America is immune from print media cutbacks. And if you think online publications and blogs and social media have filled the gap, anyone who works in the visual arts will quickly set you straight about that, pointing out that the permanence of print is essential in documenting the arts world.

As Lindsay relates in the editor’s letter,

Before I started my magazine, carla, there was a void of local arts coverage and criticism in Los Angeles. I was new to the city and looking for a way in (to Los Angeles, to the art world, to a community), but was hard-pressed to find any sort of comprehensive resource. The art scene, based on the sheer volume of weekly exhibition openings, was clearly growing, but there were few outlets for arts writing—and even less with a backbone—to catalog and provide discourse around all of this manic activity. Four years and 16 issues later, carla has not only created a dense record of exhibitions but has also actively fused local artistic production and dialog, knocking down certain barriers and hierarchies to bring the disparate communities within the LA art world together.

Lindsay led a weekend arts writing workshop in June, and guest-edited the first issue of Cornelia. She also has a show, “I Forgot My Shoes,” hanging at The BICA. Thursday evening she gave an artist talk where she showed other examples of her art and talked about her progression as an artist.

Lindsay’s work on carla has led to her hosting a weekly radio program on the arts on NPR affiliate KCRW. Imagine a similar show on WBFO, which broadcasts to most of the area Cornelia is intended to cover. There is certainly enough visual arts activity in that catchment for a weekly program.

The talk also served as a sneak preview of Cornelia, with several of the writers present (including me). Many of the writers of the initial pieces attended the workshop, including residents of Buffalo, Toronto, and Rochester. Many of the pieces germinated during the workshop, as the group visited Eleven Twenty Projects, Hallwalls, and The Box Gallery (next to the hostel). Some of the writers, like Emily Mangione, an editorial assistant at the Albright-Knox who also teaches at Canisius College, and Dana Tyrrell (who has also written for Buffalo Rising) are professionally involved in the arts community. Others, like Cliff Parks, Jr. (who has written about music for Buffablog and whose bio includes “concerned citizen, activist, and troublemaker”), and me, who began experimenting with arts writing a couple of years ago out of concern about important exhibits not getting more in-depth coverage (examples here and here, believe in the cause.

Cornelia content is a mix of full-length reviews of recent exhibits and “Piecemeals” – quick reviews of single artworks. The lead “Piecemeal,” by Cliff Parks, Jr., definitely puts the “snap” in snap review (when he read his first draft at the writing workshop, he got a solid round of applause). Some of the single works include murals, which absolutely merit serious review beyond the obligatory “Gee, there’s murals popping up everywhere!” articles in the general media.

Given the lead times involved in print publishing, most of the reviewed exhibits will have closed by the time you read about them. But now that Cornelia is up and running, the hope is that local arts venues may hold exhibit previews for writers so that reviews can be published while readers can still go see. Also, not surprisingly, many of the advertisements in Cornelia are from arts venues and include schedules of upcoming shows. In this and many other ways, Cornelia is about the regional arts community supporting itself.

The issue also includes an interview by Emily with Bronwyn Keenan, director of UB’s Arts Collaboratory. Emily intends an interview with a major figure in the local arts community as a regular feature.

This weekend, you can meet Cornelia, along with her publisher and guest editor and several of her writers, at her launch party. This being Buffalo, there will be food, and free issues will be available. Afterward, you’ll be able to pick up a copy of Cornelia at arts venues around town.

And who, pray tell, is the eponymous Cornelia? Cornelia tells you about Cornelia:

Named in honor of Cornelia Bentley Sage Quinton – a painter, as well as the first woman to serve as the director of an art museum in the U.S. at the Albright Knox, and the only Buffalonian to serve as the director of the museum.

Cornelia was a giant in the Buffalo art world. Perhaps from among those involved in Cornelia the next Cornelia will arise.

Cornelia launch, Saturday, August 24, 5–9PM

Cornelia, our regions newest art review magazine, is ready!

We are so excited to share the fruits of Lindsay Preston Zappas’ arts writing workshop this upcoming Saturday with the launch of Cornelia magazine, a new visual arts review for the Western New York and Southern Ontario region. From 5-9pm please join us at the BICA Garage at 324 Elmwood Ave–just down the street from the Elmwood Festival of the Arts–to celebrate the hard work of our writers and production team and the generosity of our many local sponsors. There will be beer! There will be grilling! There will be a brand new, beautifully produced magazine celebrating the rich visual culture of our region!

Written by RaChaCha


RaChaCha is a Garbage Plate™ kid making his way in a Chicken Wing world. Since 2008, he's put over a hundred articles on here, and he asked us to be sure to thank you for reading. So, thank you for reading. You may also have seen his freelance byline in Artvoice, where he writes under the name his daddy gave him [Ed: Send me a check, and I might reveal what that is]. When he's not writing, RaChaCha is an urban planner, a rehabber of houses, and a community builder. He co-founded the Buffalo Mass Mob, and would love to see you at the next one. He represents Buffalo Young Preservationists on the Trico roundtable. If you try to demolish a historic building, he might have something to say about that. He is a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Things you may not know about RaChaCha (unless you read this before): "Ra Cha Cha" is a nickname of his hometown. (Didn't you know that? Do you live under a rock?) He's a political junkie (he once worked for the president of the Monroe County Legislature), but we don't really let him write about politics on here. He helped create a major greenway in the Genesee Valley, and worked on early planning for the Canalway Trail. He hopes you enjoy biking and hiking on those because that's what he put in all that work for. He was a ringleader of the legendary "Chill the Fill" campaign to save Rochester's old downtown subway tunnel. In fact, he comes from a long line of troublemakers. An ancestor fought at Bunker Hill, and a relative led the Bear Flag Revolt in California. We advise you to remember this before messing with him in the comments. He worked on planning the Rochester ARTWalk, and thinks Buffalo should have one of those, too (write your congressman).

You can also find RaChaCha (all too often, we frequently nag him) on the Twitters at @HeyRaChaCha. Which is what some people here yell when they see him on the street. You know who you are.

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