The legacy of destruction & renewal: Cyclic urban regeneration and the resilience of art in Buffalo-Niagara
Olszewski, Rachel Macklin
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This thesis is a comparative inquiry into similarities and contradictions in the methods and influences applied in production of arts and culture in Buffalo-Niagara's avant-garde era to present day. It will investigate the influencing social and economic factors behind the region's contingent relationship to arts and culture, as well as the participation, utilization, and implementation of arts and cultural programming during both eras. Through the exploration of economic, social, and political elements, as well as an investigation of the phenomena of the unique arts era that reshaped Buffalo-Niagara's identity, and using the theories on commodification, gentrification, and urbanization of Neil Smith, Matt Bolton, and David Harvey, this thesis will investigate the relationship between urban renewal and the ongoing tradition of expending art as a community building apparatus and a buttress for economic growth. The thesis will look into the aforementioned relationship's history and influence on the substantial and vacillating cultural sphere in Buffalo, and overall impact on the identity of the Buffalo-Niagara region from the 1960's to present day. This thesis will endeavor to answer the following questions: What factors led to the development of new artist organizations, districts, and communities in Buffalo-Niagara during the 1960s and 1970s? What artist groups and communities assisted in the enrichment of the arts in the region, leading to Buffalo's national and international acclaim during the avant-garde era? How has this acclaim since been marketed and utilized in the region's economic sphere? How does the current production of art in the region differ from the art created in that era? How have the cities of Buffalo & Niagara come to rely on the commoditization of art and culture to augment real estate and tourism markets? Finally, how does that commoditization function as a mechanism for redevelopment and gentrification in communities and districts there within? In investigating and answering these questions, this thesis will prove that the art and cultural experiences that are being capitalized upon in Buffalo-Niagara today are an indirect contradiction to the intrinsic purpose and nature of art produced in the avant-garde era of the 1960s and 1970s. Thus Buffalo-Niagara faces a paradox in the promotion, production, and replication of an arts product that claims to celebrate the avant-garde; that which should be autonomous and produced for the sake of creation, experimentation, and innovation and is essentially nonreplicable.