Major Conference, Retrospective Exhibition at UB Art Galleries to Focus on Artpark's Influential Early Years

By Sandra Firmin

Release Date: September 10, 2010

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A conference about the heyday of Artpark, the acclaimed Western New York artist residency program, will be presented by the UB Art Galleries Oct. 8-9.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The seminal years of Artpark, the influential, highly acclaimed artist residency program in Lewiston, N.Y., will be the subject of a conference presented by the University at Buffalo Art Galleries to be held Oct. 8-9.

The conference will coincide with the exhibition Artpark: 1974-1984, on view in the UB Art Gallery, Center for the Arts, on the UB North Campus, Sept. 25 to Dec. 18.

Conference events will focus attention on Artpark and its legacy as an unprecedented experiment in artist-public interaction and site-specificity. It balanced a populist mission with some of the most impressive avant-garde, investigational art of its day; art that influences work being produced today and current museum programming.

Artpark, just north of Niagara Falls, was, during the period under consideration in the exhibition, a place where artists spent summers creating often astonishing temporary artworks outdoors. It opened in 1974 under the aegis of the New York State Parks Department and for 10 years produced an elaborate program of visual art and performance that drew national and international attention, and some of the most important new artists of its day.

The conference, featuring films and panel discussions, is free and open to the public. A dinner and reception on Oct. 9 is open to the public at $10 per person, although space is limited. Registration for all events is required by Sept. 17 by e-mail to Mary Moran at Registrants should specify the events they wish to attend.

The exhibition catalog, by curator Sandra Firmin, is titled Artpark: 1974-1984 and will be published by Princeton Architectural Press. It is now in press and will be available at the exhibition and conference and at the press website,

Conference Program

Oct. 8: 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Film Screenings

Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo State College, 1300 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 716-878-6011

-- Artpark People, by Michael Blackwood Productions, Inc., documents the 1976 Artpark Visual Arts Program; the screening will be followed by discussion between exhibition curator Sandra Q. Firmin and Rae Tyson, visual arts coordinator from 1974-78.

-- Citizens' Time Capsule, 1975-2000, documents Ant Farm's 1975 project, which involved the burial of an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser (still extant). The screening will be followed by a presentation of that project by former Ant Farm partners Chip Lord and Curtis Schreier.

Oct. 9: 10a.m. to 4 p.m.

Panel Discussions

UB Art Gallery and Center for the Arts Screening Room, Center for the Arts, UB North Campus; 716-645-0570

-- Panel I: 10 a.m. to noon

Panelists: Sandra Q. Firmin, Liz Phillips, Richard Tuttle, Glenn Phillips

Moderated by Heather Pesanti

Artpark was founded in the 1970s, a transitional time in the history of contemporary art. It was a period in which artists often left their studios to create site-specific work in rural and urban landscapes. They favored ideas, process, utility and performance over the creation of permanent objects; experimented with electronic media; and contested the commodity status of art. The panel will address how museums and galleries invested in historical analysis can present ephemera, documentation and non-object-based material from these watershed years in a way that is engaging and respects both the integrity of the original work and the artist's intentions.

-- Panel II: 2-4 p.m.

Panelists: Millie Chen, David Katzive, Jamie O'Neil, Jody Pinto, Charles Simonds

Moderated by Rebecca Reynolds

As a venue for temporary installations and performance activities that sought to close the gap between artist and spectator, Artpark was a testing ground for some of the most experimental site-oriented practices of its day. These ranged from large-scale "earthworks" to human-scaled sculptural landscape interventions; from participatory work to community-based projects based on dynamic collaborative exchanges.

In addition to analyzing specific projects realized at Artpark, this panel will consider its legacy of site-specific practices, which inform a great deal of work being produced today by a new generation of artists. They, too, are engaged in time-based, participatory practices that transcend traditional fine art boundaries; and they, too, seek to bypass institutional systems and establish direct links with a wide range of actual and virtual communities.

Saturday, October 9: 6 p.m.

Light Dinner and Reception

UB Anderson Gallery, 1 Martha Jackson Place, Buffalo; 716-829-3754

Friday night events will be co-sponsored by the Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College. Support for the catalog is provided by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional support for the exhibition and publication is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, with programming support from the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission and UB's Department of Visual Studies, Poetry Collection and School of Architecture and Planning.

The UB Art Galleries recognize Artpark and Company and the Natural Heritage Trust and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for their support of the projects produced at Artpark during the years 1974-84.

Artpark: 1974-84 was organized in partnership with Beyond/In Western New York: 2010. For information, go to

The UB Art Galleries are funded by the UB College of Arts Sciences, the Visual Arts Building Fund, the Seymour H. Knox Foundation Fine Arts Fund, the Anderson Gallery Program Fund and UB Collection Care and Management Endowment Fund.