Have you ever thought about buying a church? Have you ever dreamed about converting that church into something that’s right out of medieval times?
That’s exactly what Brian Wantuch (Wasteland Studios) has been doing at 193 Elk Street. Actually, that’s just the start. Along with this great old church (that we’re no longer calling a church), Wantuch has possession of the attached rectory, and ten surrounding residential houses. “We have to look at these places in reverse,” he told me, as he described his European-inspired thinking behind this morphing neighborhood. “Most people look at the front of the house where the activity happens – on the street. We are building a community where the ‘unity’ is in the back. There’s going to be an in-ground pool, hedge mazes, gardens, stages, patios… it will be a very social place for people who live here.”
What Wantuch is describing is almost festival-esque in nature, agreed Mark Madden (Madd Graffix) who is hosting an upcoming (sold out) event called The Blue Moon Mystery Masquerade (socially distanced of course).
While Wantuch has been spending a lot of time and money converting the church into a medieval-Gothic sanctuary for raves, events, themed weddings, and the like, Madden has been acting more like the Mad Hatter who is leading us all down the rabbit hole with this project.
“We’re actually building out a permanent-yet-morphing installation,” said Madden, who doesn’t even need to act to play the role of the stark raving mad art director.
“I’m an ordained Minister of Maddness, and this sanctuary is nondenominational. Want an Alice in Wonderland themed wedding? We can do that. Want a Willy Wonka wedding? We can do that too. We’ve got artists, and musicians – we’re just beginning to uncover the potential for this building and the grounds. There’s going to be a lot of new media technology, with augmented and virtual reality. The entire event is going to be live-streamed on my Art Channel 8 Youtube broadcast…”
Madden described Elk Tree Gardens & Castle as “Buffalo’s newest immersive entertainment complex.” He is excited to showcase the power and the potential of the complex at The Blue Moon Mystery Masquerade, which will include:
The worst band in the world “GREEN JELLO,” featuring virtual appearances of Maynard James Keenan of “TOOL” and “A Perfect Circle,” WWE superstar Hulk Hogan, comedy mash up “Weird Al Yankovic,” “Punk Rock Pope” William Manspeaker, and of course, the Minister of Maddness himeslf, Mark Madden (in the flesh). Plus, sculpture reveals by Tyler Griffis Studios at Tabula Rasa, and Molotov Cocktail (Shakra Bar Studio). Lighting by Solar Flare Productions, and video mapping projection by Newt. New episode by Tuk Talks.
“These masters of mayhem will be playing a few songs off their new album ‘Garage Band Kid’ signed by Cleopatra Records, as well as showing some highlights from their new video game for Playstation,” Madden told me.
If you’re thinking, “What the heck is going on here?” you’re not alone. Wantuch’s ideas for the complex are dizzying. “But they’re all happening,” he assured me. “It’s like the Wild West over here. We’re going to build outdoor kitchens, and more places for Buffalo’s best bands to perform… there will be art/music education and therapy. I’ve been working on this project for three years.
“We’re getting creative – I built walls out of the church pews, I’m tearing out the drywall and exposing the old stone (very castle-like in appearance)… we’re building a community where the action and the socializing takes place in the middle of the block.
I’ve been looking at cities all over the world, to see what they are doing, and I’ve been applying those practices. We’re going to have food (Moondoggies), guest residences (AirBnBs), there’s a recording studio… all the things that we need to live in a creative community.”
Moving forward, join Wantuch, Jes Tea, Mark and Dawn Madden (The Button Factory 716), and a host of other Elk Tree Gardens & Castle cast of characters, as they take us on interactive and exploratory journeys that will redefine what we ever thought we knew about Gothic and cosmos-inspired creative venues. It’s going to be hard to top this one in Buffalo, or anywhere else for that matter.
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