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Seven cultural institutions that will introduce you to the new Buffalo

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The institutions leading the charge to Buffalo’s cultural rise

Seven cultural institutions that will introduce you to the new Buffalo
Photo by Nancy J. Parisi

If you think you know everything you need to know about Buffalo, think again. This border city is in the midst of an exciting revival and is firmly establishing itself as a hotbed for arts and culture thanks to its investments totaling more than $300 million in the expansion, restoration and reinvention of its cultural attractions. Rich in American history—it is both the birthplace of the Arts and Crafts Movement and home to a stunning portfolio of architecture, from Art Deco to Gothic Revival—Buffalo is perfect for a day trip or weekend getaway to feed your culture cravings. 

These seven cultural institutions will give you a taste of Buffalo’s inspiring cultural rebirth.

Buffalo AKG Art Museum

The breathtaking Buffalo AKG Art Museum (formerly the Albright-Knox Art Gallery) has reopened after a three-and-a-half-year, $230-million transformation. Enjoy music and performances under the striking new canopy of glass and mirror triangles by Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann. Inside, the museum now boasts more than 50,000 square feet of exhibition space with more than 400 pieces of art displayed through the updated Wilmers Building and the brilliant new glass-facade Gundlach Building, including newly acquired works of early computer art from artists including Vera Molnár and Waldemar Cordeiro.

Martin House
Photo by Randy Duchaine

Martin House

This Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie-style masterpiece built between 1903 and 1905 is considered one of the architect’s finest pieces of work. Now a National Historic Landmark, Martin House, designed as home for business executive Darwin D. Martin and his family, highlights architectural innovation, highlighted in Wright’s signature elements including the horizontal planes of this long, low structure, its open-concept interior, achieved through a pier and cantilever structural system, stained glass windows filtering in subdued natural light (including the custom Tree of Life window), and a limited palette focused on natural colours and materials (from the mahogany, white oak and cypress wood trim to the reflective gold mortar used in the interior).

Buffalo AKG Art Museum-Photo by Sharon Cantillon
Photo by Sharon Cantillon

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

The Grammy Award-winning Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has welcomed a number of guest performers to the stage in its home, the National Historic Landmark Kleinhans Music Hall, including Yo-Yo Ma, Sergei Rachmanimoff and Van Cliburn. The 23/24 season kicks off September 23rd with violinist Gil Shaham performing Tchaikovsky Violin Concert along with Mussorgsky’s musical interpretation of an art gallery presentation. Also in this season’s programming: beloved hits from John Williams’ film scores (think Harry Potter, Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark), “The Queen of Mariachi” Aida Cuevas and a two-weekend festival commemorating the 150th anniversary of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s birth.

Silo City

Once an industrial wasteland, the 14 acres of Silo City has been transformed over the past 11 years into a hub for arts and culture, with festivals, art installations and musical performances taking place both inside and outside of its three silo clusters, which stand tall and imposing like Modernist sculptures. Go on a ground-level or vertical tour of the grain elevator with Explore Buffalo to learn about the city’s history in the grain industry, or pop into Silo City’s restaurant, Duende, Thursdays to Sundays for live music (a mix of rock, folk and Americana, although Saturdays features a classical music series and Sundays are all about jazz).

Street Art

Thanks to Buffalo AKG Art Museum’s Public Art Initiative, you’ll find many of Buffalo’s walls featuring murals from world-renowned artists. Notable pieces include Rory Allen’s striking “Gord Downie Mural” on Hertel Ave., where you’ll also find Bunnie Reiss’s whimsical piece “Magic Buffalo. Head downtown to get an Instagram capture of the largest mural (for both the artist Louise Jones and the Public Art Initiative), the 80-foot tall “Wildflowers for Buffalo,” which features oversized native blooms, including red clover and coneflower.

Burchfield Penney Art Center

Dedicated to the art and artists of Western New York, the Burchfield Penney Art Center is continually bringing in new works to show alongside its impressive collection and typically features more than 20 exhibits annually. Works span from the late 19th century to today and includes pieces from its namesake, renowned watercolorist Charles E. Burchfield, and artists such as Robert Longo and Diane Bertolo. This November brings Art in Craft Media 2023, the juried biennial exhibition celebrating the contemporary work of fine artists working with craft media including glass, fibre, wood, clay and metal.

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Shea’s Performing Arts Center

The stunning historic Shea’s Buffalo Theater, one of Shea’s Performing Arts Center (Shea’s PAC) three theatres, was a movie-theatre-turned-vaudeville stage, hosting icons including the Marx Brothers, Frank Sinatra and George Burns. With a $30 million restoration, which landed the landmark on the National Register for Historic Places, over the past 20 years, the Buffalo Theater has hosted Broadway shows. This 2023-2024 season, this spectacular stage will be busy with back-to-back beloved musicals, including Funny Girl, Mamma Mia! and Moulin Rouge.

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