Tonawanda News

October 8, 2012

HAYNES: Out and about

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I usually try my best to cover as much of the arts scene in Western New York as possible. It's something I'm personally interested in — I was an art history major in college — and our region has no shortage of wonderful, cultural offerings.

From art galleries and history museums to the recent Curtain Up! in the theater district, there are plenty of things to do and see in Western New York. Since I don't have all the space and time in the world, I've written up a few quick reviews of some things going on around town.

AKAG

The Albright Knox Art Gallery is wrapping up its year-long 150th anniversary celebration. A series of three exhibits featured art collected by the gallery throughout its history and most recently it opened "DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002-2012." 

Taking up the entire 1905 Albright building, the exhibit is broken down into 10 themes: "Film/Photography/Fiction, Insidious Humor, L.A. Angels, Language Is a Virus from Outer Space, Psychology of Space, Sculpture in the Expanded Field, Shape of Space, Social Space/Private Ritual, The Wayward Line, and What Happened to Painting?"

My particular favorites from the exhibit are Mona Hatoum's large sculpture that includes a mechanical arm that simultaneously combs and smooths a pit of sand ("+ AND -"), and an immense three-panel pen and ink drawing by Joan Linder called "Where Death Delights in Helping the Living."

The latter is a meticulously hand-drawn, life-size scene of an office at the University at Buffalo. Not knowing the circumstances behind the drawing, I imagined a bored UB employee tediously cross-hatching every meticulous detail of their desk and office ... right down to the Post-it note reminders and phone numbers. Perhaps those numbers actually work, come to think of it. ...

Coming up at the Albright Knox is what looks to be a pretty cool event: "Illuminate AK." The gallery's website describes the event as a "large-scale 3D video projection mapping project."

"Gather on the Delaware Park side of the gallery to witness the 1905 Albright Building come alive with color, light and movement. The gallery’s story will be told through never-before-seen images from our archives, as well as highlights from our famed collection," the site said. 

I'll be there!

Billy Elliot

My first experience at Shea's Performing Arts Center in Buffalo was a touch underwhelming. I hesitate to say a negative word in connection with the gorgeous building and all the wonderful Broadway shows they bring to our area, but opening night of "Billy Elliot the Musical" left me feeling something — some spark — was missing from the show.

Don't get me wrong, the story of a 12-year-old boy who loves to dance — but finds resistance from his blue-collar miner father and brother — is at once charming and enjoyable. I just wasn't blown away.

The highlights of the show, for me, were the finale, the "Company Celebration," — which didn't seem to be as much a part of the story as it was a "last bow," so to speak — and the character of Michael, played by Sam Poon. Poon provided wonderful moments of levity and comedic relief in his penchence for dressing in his sister's clothing and trading a football jersey for nurse Barbie. The kid was brilliant.

But the show was a touch on the long side and some strange thrumming feedback in the show's audio proved to be distracting during quieter moments. 

Rest assured though, this experience won't prevent me from taking in another show at this famed theater.

Hotel Lafayette

OK, so maybe this isn't exactly an exhibit or a play, but go check out the Hotel Lafayette. Seriously, do it.

I've had the opportunity to visit the historic building twice now — a wedding and a birthday party — and I have nothing but good things to say about it (well, except for the comparatively drab, listless hallways of the upper levels). An hour just milling around and exploring the different rooms, areas and levels is an education in the arts. 

Notice the wood mosaics in the lobby, the meticulously restored red marble in the hallways leading to the grand ballroom, facing murals in one room, beautiful columns and ceilings in the Pan-American Grill & Brewery. 

It's a lesson in art, architecture and — for folks like me at least — a lesson on how to get gussied up a bit and go out for something a little nicer than a quick beer at the local corner bar.

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.