If you’ve driven, biked or strolled past downtown’s Sidway Building on the busy southeast corner of Main and Goodell streets, you’ve no doubt noticed a display of handsome photographic portraits in the massive ground-floor windows. The portraits are the work of Jacob Vogan as part of UB’s Arts Collaboratory’s project, “Show Your Work.” They represent the region’s energetic creatives who have continued to make art and thrive during the Covid “pause.” Clearly, artists have a hard time pausing. In fact, in many cases, the pandemic’s restrictions sparked an even greater need to create and connect. When Sam Savarino, a sponsor of the Collaboratory, offered the window space, the director of the initiative, Bronwyn Keenan, seized on the opportunity to showcase the artists in a highly trafficked city location.
The Arts Collaboratory’s goal is to bring together university-based and Buffalo area artists to encourage innovation and help share their work with the world. Having just celebrated its first birthday in the midst of the pandemic, the Collaboratory’s artists have been using a variety of media to work through feelings of isolation brought on as a result of the pandemic’s precautionary restrictions.
With Depression-era photographer Walker Evans in mind, Vogan, a UB Department of Art 2019 grad, has organized a living installation that presents a portrait of the arts community as a way to tangibly realize how art can positively bring about change. He builds on the long history of creative experimentation in Buffalo, and hopes to create a tribute to the many artists that have been working over the past months, as well as create a visual framework to generate dialogue between disparate creative communities.
“Beyond the portraits themselves, this project is ultimately a place to connect with each other, learn from one another, and grow together,” said Vogan. Photography can be a powerful instrument to inspiring action and the installation is an ongoing invitation to collaborate. It will evolve with time as more of the local community is documented. The Atrium at UB’s Center for the Arts has also become the backdrop for Vogan’s portraits installation, and can be viewed by appointment while Covid-19 restrictions affect on-campus events.
According to Keenan, bringing creative minds together results in great art and big ideas. “All too often, the arts exist in their own separate bubbles,” said Keenan. Her ultimate goal is to “gather Buffalo’s painters, poets, dancers and creators into one big community.” Believing that together, artists find more inspiration and power than they would our own.
Toward that goal, a major undertaking has been the creation of a comprehensive Buffalo Arts Calendar. This one-stop shop allows all arts organizations, theaters, galleries, clubs and individual artists and performers to list their events and engage with the public. And there is no charge for being included. In addition to the Savarino Companies, major support for the Arts Collaboratory comes from M&T Bank.
To learn more about the Arts Collaboratory and ways to connect, check out the Buffalo Arts Calendar, their website ubartscollaboratory.com and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.