Back in August of 2019, Rachacha wrote about the an awesome art undertaking that was underway in Buffalo – the unveiling of Cornelia magazine, and its home at the Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art (BICA). At the time, BICA had set up shop in a small garage on Elmwood Avenue, which is really all that owners and art programmers, Emily Ebba Reynolds and Nando Alvarez-Perez, wanted at the time – it was the perfect launching point. It was a small place to post up an office, rally some artists together, brainstorm, and host shows. Little did they know what was awaiting them around the corner, quite literally.
Reynolds and Alvarez-Perez have found a new supersized and streamlined gallery space that provides everything that they ever could have hoped for. Currently, they are in the midst of fixing up their new home at the former Big Orbit Gallery at the Essex Arts Center, as a tenant of Ashford Hollow Foundation (non-profit operator of Griffis Sculpture Park). Reynolds and Alvarez-Perez were clued in to the dynamic new space via an introduction by BICA board member Ryan Arthurs (Rivalry Gallery), who also happens to sit on the board of Ashford Hollow. Arthurs told Reynolds and Alvarez-Perez that Big Orbit was relocating to CEPA’s Big Orbit Project Space, which would free up the Essex Arts Center’s gallery, which happens to be the same complex where Hallwalls was initially formed. Alvarez-Perez describes it as the perfect storm.
After stopping in to take a look at their new digs, Reynolds and Alvarez-Perez got right down to the business at hand, by explaining their good fortune to me. It turns out that the new gallery space will provide for them in ways that will help to elevate Buffalo’s art scene exponentially. By ripping out the elevated floor (originally built as a dance studio floor), they gained ample footage (a good foot and a half) vertically. Enough so, that they are able to better capitalize on a mezzanine level where they are building their office and meeting space. Then they took out the extra walls to open the gallery up. At the same time, they are building out an annex gallery/studio for art education classes and as a project space.
Reynolds and Alvarez-Perez told me that one of the things that they are most excited about is the art education aspect, because the two are both disillusioned by the concept of the traditional art schools, which are very expensive and don’t do a good enough job in preparing students to access careers in the art industry – the financial models don’t work, they stated. They also mentioned that they wanted to create a place for younger Buffalo artists, who are missing art venues like Sugar City, Dreamland, and The Vault at the moment. They want to build strong ongoing relationships with the art community, by providing them with a place to work, show, socialize, strategize, and fully engage further.
For a while there, it looked as if the Buffalo art scene was hitting a bumpy road, with the disappearance of Sugar City, the Nina Freudenheim Gallery, The Corridors Gallery at Hotel Henry, Hi-Temp Gallery, Anna Kaplan Contemporary, and Indigo Art (currently looking for a new space). No one could have guessed that a slew of world class galleries were opening up, including Rivalry, K Art, The Space Between (coming soon), and now BICA, which is also home to Reynolds and Alvarez-Perez’s other art-business enterprise, Cornelia Magazine.
When BICA opens at the Essex Arts Center, it’s going to be a big deal for Buffalo’s cultural scene. Not only is this a gallery, studio, and educational space, there are also two sensational outdoor components – one in the front, where BAM parties were held for years (see lead image), and one in the back that is a stunning sculptural courtyard, tucked away where few people have ever visited (or even imagined).
These flexible outdoor spaces will allow BICA to entertain in ways that few galleries could ever consider, without renting out ancillary venues. These spaces will also allow BICA to transition at will, thus allowing them to carry on the rich history of the space ala Hallwalls, which launched the careers of the likes of Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman.
BICA is also fortunate to have Ashford Hallow as a close ally. This relationship will allow for closer visible ties between the city (at BICA) and the Griffis Sculpture Park, with potential for artist exchanges and collaborations. Reynolds and Alvarez-Perez said that Ashford Hollow has helped to spearhead their move into the space – something that they are both extremely grateful for. As for the rest of us, we should all be grateful to have the likes of Reynolds and Alvarez-Perez working their magic in Buffalo – a city that is conjuring up its cultural roots, while laying riveting new foundations for its artists.
BICA 30 Essex St Rear D Buffalo, NY 14213