Marketing Buffalo to the World’s Artistic Class: Do As You Will

By Griffin Jones

Presumably, artists can make more money living in a large metropolitan area. But most of them don’t.

Increasingly, large cities are pricing out their artistic talent. Generally, artists can’t afford to cohabit with financial executives. That’s fantastic because Buffalo’s fourth marketing attribute is the freedom to be an artist. Think of the artist’s pain in this way:

Each major city is a giant mural, the best art in the world can be see on this wall. Each artist adds something to it, and more contribute, and more. Then the crowd comes. They have a right to see art. They are the world for whom the art is created. But they push the artists away. Only the artists who have the closest access can make any art at all, but even then they have to change the work of those before them. The middle of the wall is covered, there is no more white space.

So the artists go to the edges of the wall, but eventually every inch of blank space is covered there, too. And the crowds follow them to marvel at what they’ve done, and they push the artists back further still. And for a moment, there is a sea of artists with no canvas.

Artist Tommy Nguyen setting up his interactive installation at SILO City's City of Night

Artist Tommy Nguyensmith setting up his interactive installation at SILO City’s City of Night

Buffalo is a blank canvas. Every empty lot, every abandoned store front, every vacant brick warehouse is unmolded clay. As radio host Jim Kurdziel (@JamesRadio) puts it, even manhole covers and fire hydrants could be installations of street art.

Whether artists like it or not, they are meant to be pushed away. When they feel resentment about having no more space to draw, it’s because they’re staring at the same wall. It is time to create a new Opus. It will be a long time before Buffalo’s canvas runs out of room, or the crowds big enough to push the artists away.

Buffalo needs to market itself as this blank space for artists. While artists need the space and means to create work, they also want to collaborate with other visionaries.

That’s why Buffalo needs to showcase the work of people like Tommy Nguyensmith, a California artist living in Buffalo, or Brian Mihok (@brainhawk) who created this from his perspective about Buffalo.

Buffalo isn’t the finished piece masterpiece, so it means nothing to the crowds. It’s only the artist who hears the composition before its written.

Buffalo must make itself known to the world’s artistic class as one thing, and one thing only: an open space for their imagination. The rest is up to them.

Make it Your Own Space: Silo City Markets Buffalo as Another’s Treasure

By Griffin Jones

I listed Buffalo’s five new marketing attributes in this earlier post. Come to Silo City’s, City of Night, this Saturday (Aug 17), and you will see all five in full effect.

But it’s the attribute of being able to create the environment of where you want to live, vs. moving to where you want to live, that rises to the top of everything right about SiloCity.

Jay Schwinger started his business, BFLO Harbor Kayak, at Canalside in 2009.  Think; only four years ago, BFLO Harbor Kayak  was the first business at what has become a darling of Buffalo’s renewal.

Alex Farrington and Jay Schwinger getting ready for "City of Night" at Silo City, Aug 17.

Alex Farrington and Jay Schwinger getting ready for “City of Night” at Silo City, Aug 17.

Jay lived in San Diego and Los Angeles for about nine years. He told me about what drew him back to Buffalo that he couldn’t find in southern California. In my words, Buffalo’s third new positioning attribute, Active Participation. In his words, “Buffalo is a blank slate”. That’s what Jay saw at Buffalo’s waterfront. There were boats, and slips for boats, but no one renting kayaks or paddle boards. So without $10 million to build a giant retail store, BFLO Harbor Kayak started a business with the only infrastructure they needed, Buffalo’s water.

After taking several paddling tours to Childs Street’s grain elevators, Jay became acquainted with Rick Smith, the owner of the Marine A Grain Elevator, a massive legacy of the industrial age. Jay and his partners Kevin Cullen, and Andy Minier saw this unused space and began creating part of the city they wanted to live in. They presented Smith with a proposal to craft a rock climbing gym in the Marine A elevator. Try finding an opportunity like that in most major cities. Jay said while of course there are cool buildings in other cities, “there’s never going to be a grain elevator where a really cool guy is going to say go for it,”.

SILO City Rocks‘ marketing director, Alex Farrington lived away from Buffalo for almost a decade. She encourages people in Buffalo “to break the routine”. Instead of going out on a Friday night, she suggests getting up on a Saturday morning and coming down to SiloCity or volunteering elsewhere in the city. One can create a life of abundance in Buffalo that way.

So it is with Silo City Rocks, who didn’t get a 3 million dollar commercial loan to hire a renovation firm. They went with the lean start-up model and asked passionate customers who wanted to see this project get done to pay a little in advance. As Alex said, “it’s a mammoth project, but a small operation,”

One cool business a time we’re realizing we can create the city we’ve always wanted. From a couple SUPs in the water, to a rock climbing gym, to a retail store and a yoga studio on the horizon, their team is proving that it is better to create what we want than to look for it somewhere else.

“How do you eat an elephant?” asked Andy.  “One bite at a time,”