This city is empty. The stores alongside the subway line splitting Main Street are all boarded up. The east side and west side are slowly recovering as the Buffalo/Niagara region makes an effort to fill its approximately 45,000 vacant lots and homes.
Then there is South Buffalo, an area surrounded by the remaining fragments of the factory workforce, and cut off by expressways; mirroring the failed design, lost industry and white flight that has fractured most American cities. Due to the sparse groups of people and the separation of the University from the actual city, it can be a very isolating place.
I started to bike and explore during the few months of bearable weather this city is allotted each year.
One of the first places I went to were the grain silos in South Buffalo overlooking Canalside. These monstrosities of forgotten American industry still stand and symbolize Buffalo’s desolation. From the outside they are red-tinted, rusted and deteriorating.
Once inside, the silo becomes something new. It is a museum, covered in the artwork of its visitors. creating something new out of what seemed empty. The ground floor of the more habitable and accessible one is now being used for installations ranging from sculpture to dance performances, and is open to the public.
Then there is Buffalo Central Terminal. This station went bankrupt in the mid seventies, and fell into decay through multiple overambitious owners. The main concourse has been renovated and is used today for various fundraising events, one of them being a Dingus Day polka dance.
Beside the main concourse is a sprawling landscape of interconnected tunnels, platforms and stations. And if you crawl under enough fences you can find art covering the walls, spanning the platforms.
On a three block span of Niagara Street there is a vacant lot, a boarded up bar, a vacant building and a Chinese restaurant. It was at this bar where I met Frankie who was setting up for an event. He had repurposed it into a place where he could explore his love of lighting design. He called these projects “Strange Allure.” I reached out to him to collaborate and to the owner of the event company I worked for, and together we used equipment to change the interior into a colorful haze-filled environment for art-shows and installations
There is a lot to see in this city, and it is a shame how isolated the campus is from the actual population, a city design intended to separate white from black. Closed minds designed the city, and closed minds perpetuate this divided city. Even the restaurant I work at with sixty-dollar steaks on the menu, is down the block from a lot where heroin is openly sold. Perhaps the customers catch sight of each other in the parking lot. Perhaps, not.
It is important to Think Wide Open when pertaining to space, to society, to community. Grassroots events through PUSH Buffalo, exhibitions in found spaces and constantly exploring abandoned structures and empty surroundings are what have kept me sane in Buffalo. Through this photo essay I am trying to share the potential of the city with its residents, to help them see through my eyes, to consider the social disparities and racially defined inequities, to consider, to open their minds, to Think Wide Open.