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UB joins new Arts and Crafts Alliance in celebrating Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo is one of seven
major cultural organizations in Western New York that will honor
the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth by
celebrating the renowned architect’s influence on the
region’s Arts and Crafts movement.

“Frank Lloyd Wright and the Buffalo School of Arts and
Crafts” is a community-wide festival presented by the New York State Arts and
Craft Alliance
.  A key exhibition within that festival is
“Wright’s Larkin: Arts and Crafts in Industry,”
opening with a reception from 6-8 p.m. on June 7 in Hayes
Hall on the university’s South Campus

Events continue through Oct. 29, with many venues hosting a
multifaceted program of activities, lectures and tours.

A detailed calendar for the festival is available online: http://artsandcraftsalliance.org/events/2017-06/

“Wright’s Larkin” will explore the emergence
of the uniquely American alternative to the guild-based,
handcraft-oriented Arts and Crafts movement that had previously
developed in Great Britain, according to Jonathan Katz, an
associate professor and director of UB’s doctoral program in
visual studies.

“British Arts and Crafts was very much a nostalgic
response to the realities of the Industrial Revolution,” says
Katz, “whereas the American model – and its epicenter
was squarely focused in the Buffalo region – was really about
bringing technology and innovative design together through new
forms of modernity.”

In the wake of the collaborations between Wright and
Buffalo’s Arts and Crafts industries, Western New York became
home to the largest collection of acknowledged master artisans and
masterpieces from the period, from the Roycroft Campus in East
Aurora to the Darwin Martin House in Buffalo, arguably
Wright’s greatest residential design, according to Katz.

“But in addition to these great works, we have a rich
history of figures like Charles Rohlfs, [a designer] who, though
not nearly as celebrated a name as Wright’s, is every bit as
significant a figure in the realm of furniture design,” says
Katz. “It’s an incredible history and that’s what
this program is intended to evoke.”

As Americans embraced what the British reacted against, they
created a confluence of human thought and machine production that
formed an artistic outpouring in the Buffalo region, melding
creativity, commerce and manufacturing.

The American movement in general and, more specifically, its
concentrated “Buffalo School,” as Katz describes it,
recognized how these new industrial processes and large-scale
capital investments could bring artistic design into modern

“Far from being a reaction formation, the Buffalo version
of Arts and Crafts made technology every bit as important a partner
as the artistic sensibility of the architects and designers
themselves,” says Katz. “If one added up the major Arts
and Crafts companies and designers, one would find that the Buffalo
region was the home for more of these entities than any other city
in the United States.”

The Larkin Administration Building was a case in point, bringing
together an innovative company, Larkin, with an innovative
architect to create one of the earliest modular designs in the
world, born of the revolutionary Cardex filing system developed by
Darwin Martin, a Larkin director, which brought order to the
previously jumbled process of filing millions of differently shaped
company order forms. With its standardized file cabinets, metal
office furniture and carefully planned systems, the Larkin
Administration building was a model of logic and efficiency coupled
with an inspiring aesthetic.

The exhibition gathers together many never-before-seen
Wright-designed objects from the Larkin Building, along with a
comprehensive collection of Larkin products.

In addition to Wright’s relationship to the Arts and
Crafts movements, Wright and the Buffalo School will show both
Wright-designed and Wright-inspired homes in Buffalo with a series
of exterior tours.

“Frank Lloyd Wright and the Buffalo School of Arts and
Crafts” is the maiden voyage of the New York State Arts and
Crafts Alliance,
an organization made possible through a grant
from the John R. Oishei Foundation and comprised of the Burchfield
Penney Arts Center, UB’s Anderson Gallery, the Roycroft
Campus, the Darwin Martin House, the Graycliff Estate, the Buffalo
History Museum and Visit Buffalo-Niagara,” says Katz.

“Three years ago we began a conversation with the major
culturals in town asking about a possible affiliation,” he
says. “And the university has been the spark for making this

All the organizations are deeply invested in Buffalo’s
future and by working together will leverage their marketing and
outreach, according to Katz.

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