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International conference to focus on Buffalo as the capital of the American arts and crafts movement

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Jack Quinan, University at Buffalo
Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus and a noted expert on
Frank Lloyd Wright, will deliver the keynote address on Friday,
Oct. 20, at 6 p.m. for a groundbreaking three-day conference that
directs long overdue attention to Buffalo, New York, as the
epicenter of the American arts and crafts movement.

Quinan’s lecture, “The Larkin Building and
Wright’s Oeuvre” at the Roycroft
in East Aurora opens the event titled, “Frank
Lloyd Wright and the Buffalo School: An International Arts and
Crafts Conference,” which will run Oct. 20-22.

Buffalo’s role as the creative center for design,
production and innovation in American arts and crafts is widely
acknowledged by specialists in the field, but little known across
the country – including Buffalo itself, according to UB
associate professor Jonathan Katz, the conference organizer and
director of the university’s doctoral program in visual

While other cities with a fraction of the movement’s
examples stage annual arts and crafts celebrations, Buffalo has
tended to be quiet about it place in history, but as the city
begins to flower again, Katz sees a renewed awareness and
excitement to discuss and applaud Buffalo’s illustrious

“We want to make clear that there was something called a
‘Buffalo School,’” says Katz. “This city
produced what is perhaps the defining group of arts and crafts
artists and they were determinative for the direction of the
American arts and crafts movement.”

Buses will leave from the front of Hayes
Hall on UB’s South Campus
every half-hour from 4-5 p.m.
to provide roundtrip transportation to-and-from the Roycroft for
guests wanting to attend Friday’s lecture.

There is an $80 registration fee for the entire
conference.  Guests can
register online
. There are no fees for UB faculty, staff and
students, but email registration is required at artsandcraftswny@gmail.com.

After Quinan’s keynote and reception, all subsequent
conference sessions on Oct. 21 and 22 will take place at Hayes
Hall on the university’s South Campus

A complete schedule of conference presentations and speakers is
available online.

Katz says the European arts and crafts movement embraced a
nostalgic handcraft aesthetic that artists in the U.S. rejected.
The American variant of arts and crafts was forward looking in
creative contrast to Great Britain’s more sentimental
response to the Industrial Revolution.

For the Americans, looking forward was not just about the new
technology, but also harnessing its power to new ends. Technology
drove artists’ sensibility which in turn transformed
creativity, commerce and manufacturing into unprecedented designs
in residential architecture, furniture and decorative arts.

Buffalo’s great standing examples of the movement include
the Darwin Martin House, The Roycroft Campus and Louis
Sullivan’s Guaranty Building. Even demolished buildings loom
large: Wright’s groundbreaking Larkin building is the subject
of an innovative exhibition now on view in Hayes Hall. In addition
to the region’s arts and crafts assets, Katz says Buffalo was
also home to a number of resident geniuses from the period, like
Charles Rohlfs, perhaps the greatest furniture designer America
ever produced, yet still not a widely recognized historical

“His major works generally crest around a quarter of a
million dollars on the art market, yet there’s nothing to
suggest his history here,” says Katz. “There’s no
plaque on what was his Allentown home.

“We will discuss artists like Rohlfs at this conference
and Adelaide Alsop Robineau, who is acknowledged as America’s
greatest potter, and other key figures who defined the aesthetic in
the United States.

Katz says Buffalo in particular was helpful to these artists and
developed as a creative core in part due to its wealth and the fact
that the city’s patrons were intensely interested in the
future and its associated possibilities.

“There was a progressive attitude in Buffalo,” says
Katz. “The idea here was, ‘What’s the next thing
going to be?’”

Buffalo also had a strong industrial base, so designers using
industrial processes could easily find skilled workers

“The last component is that there were a couple of key
personalities in town who were the nuclei around which so much
developed,” says Katz. “Darwin Martin, who got Wright
to build the Larkin Building and later to design his home. And
Elbert Hubbard who was key to the success of the Larkin Company and
then key to the development of the Roycroft Campus.

“They knew how to spot other talent and were charismatic
figures who were able to bring like-minded people together,”
he says. “These combined to make Buffalo very

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