Two independent WNY gallerists, Elisabeth Samuels and Emily Tucker (owners of Buffalo-based fine art consultancy Resource:Art), will be opening a new gallery venue at 1255 Niagara Street. Samuels and Tucker have spent the last 18 months seeking out the perfect space for their gallery concept, which they are calling Raft of Sanity (aka The Raft).
Ultimately, it was businessman Bill Breeser (an early investment pioneer on Niagara Street) who ended up “rescuing” the gallerists from their seemingly never-ending search for an ideal space.
“We met with a lot of developers and property managers. Bill Breeser was the only one who was supportive of our vision, and appreciative of the programming our space would bring to the incredible business district he is building,” R:A principal Elisabeth Samuels explains.
The addition of The Raft on Niagara Street will further the quest for a healthy mix of cultural and business entities along the ever-expanding corridor. The presence of the gallery also fills a void left behind by Anna Kaplan Contemporary (formerly BT&C Gallery), which also happened to occupy one of Breeser’s buildings at 1250 Niagara Street.
As for the name “The Raft,” it is derived from a quote by one of the gallerists favorite artists, Dorothea Tanning, who once said, “Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity. I don’t see a different purpose for it now.” This sentiment is especially timely in the face of a pandemic.
Part of the role of The Raft will be to connect regional artists with collaborators, critics, and collectors. They are doing this by banding together with a project space in Bushwick Brooklyn (for example), which will help to open doors for artists looking to further their reach beyond WNY. The goal is to create opportunities for the artists, by getting their works seen by broader audiences.
“We wanted to give WNY artists other dedicated places to show their work, and also grow the audience for what they do,” says Emily Tucker. “There are so many talented people working here that deserve someone in their corner promoting them heavily to a national audience.”
To that end, The Raft will be taking works from three WNY artists, to show at the SPRING/BREAK (S/B) Art Fair, which runs this September from the 8th through the 13th. After the Fair wraps up, the artists will be featured at The Raft, in a show titled Devotion (September 24–November 6, 2021). The artists participating are Ani Hoover, Bethany Krull, and Anne Muntges.
Devotion, combines the work of 3 artists to create a sacred space filled with totemic magic – a reliquary devoted to a quasi spiritual quest and a review of traditions.
The Devotion exhibition (featuring two and three dimensional works) will be held throughout The Raft gallery spaces. Each of the three artists will also be provided a small room for a separate installation. Needless to say, the historic industrial office building will lend towards some fantastic exhibition settings.
“It gives us lots of unique opportunities for installation,” Samuels says.
The Raft joins a number of other new gallery spaces throughout the city, including Rivalry, The Space Between, K Art, Gallery @ Duende, BAM!, and Stairwell & Co. Plus, BICA and Revolutionary Gallery have been in expansion mode, while other venues such as 3 Walls are making headway into the market.
The Raft is in good company with this new venture. At the same time, The Raft principals have been tirelessly navigating Buffalo’s cultural waters for years, which is why they are now, happily, captains of their own destiny. Thankfully, they have plenty of voyagers to assist them in the newest leg of their journey.
Those interested in visiting The Raft, can make an appointment to view the space and the current “soft-opening” exhibition Beginning, which is a small collection of the gallerists’ favorite works that they have seen in recent years. You can browse Beginning on Artsy.
The first public opening on September 24, 2021 will run from 6–9PM. Vaccination will be required, and there may be a shift to time slots if mandates change, or pandemic conditions worsen.
Contact Emily Tucker to make an appointment or with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 716.249.1320.
Lead image: Interior view of ‘Beginnings’