In 2021, Buffalo-Niagara remains one of the most racially segregated metropolitan areas in the United States. For decades, Main Street has divided the city into two distinct halves. To this day, 85% of Buffalo residents who identify as Black live east of Main Street. The East Side of Buffalo has long been denied the services and amenities that the West Side enjoys. Economic mobility has been stunted by discriminatory practices, such as redlining, that have lasted well into the twenty-first century. The life expectancy of Buffalo residents drops by five whole years the second you cross Main Street.
Buffalo’s art world reflects this larger problem. Almost all of Buffalo’s cultural institutions were built on the West Side of town, reinforcing the misguided notion that art is for some people and not others. Highways constructed in the mid-twentieth century made it easy for those traveling from the suburbs to downtown Buffalo to bypass the East Side of the city altogether. For decades, there has been little cultural conversation between Buffalo’s East and West Sides.
The Arts Collaboratory aims to help change that. In early 2021, we’re opening a new arts incubator at 431 Ellicott—right on the border between East and West Buffalo. The Space Between, as we’ve called it, is equal parts studio, performance space and gallery. Here, art is for everyone, and all artists are valued. There will be no outsiders at 431 Ellicott. Everyone will belong.
In the coming year, we’re going to challenge expectations, pressure test new ideas, and show work that’s not quite complete. We aim to make disciplines collide and help artists broaden their audiences. We want The Space Between to be the place where East and West Buffalo converge, where horizons broaden and where new collaborators can meet.