The Humanities on Main Street: UB remembers Buffalo’s Woodstock Era

Gray Matter Series looks at UB’s political activism, scholarly innovations in the 1970s

Students gather in protest in 1970.

Student protest rally, South Campus, spring 1970

Release Date: April 15, 2013 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo Humanities Institute will begin its third annual Gray Matter Series on May 2 with “The Humanities on Main Street,” a retrospective on UB’s energetic campus life in the 1970s.

This event will take place at 6:30 p.m. in UB’s Anderson Galley, One Martha Jackson Place, off Englewood Avenue between Kenmore Avenue and Main Street, Buffalo.

It is free and open to the public.

The Gray Matter events are intended to familiarize the Buffalo community with humanities’ scholarship, research and practice.

The evening will feature discussions, demonstrations and presentations that illustrate the political action and avant-garde art, music, writing and intellectual innovation that marked UB in the 1970s and had a long lasting impact on the campus and the city.

In addition to illuminating UB’s exceptional academic star power at the time, presentations will focus on the synergy between the South Campus Buffalo cultural institutions—established ones like the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery—as well as independent, forward-looking newcomers like Artpark, Hallwalls and the CEPA Gallery.

Scheduled presentations and discussions that evening will include:

6:30 p.m. Panel discussion featuring three speakers familiar with UB during that era—Mark Shechner, emeritus professor of English, who will speak to the local poetry scene that produced—among other things—the “little magazines” of the ‘70s and a healthy serving of experimental literature; Mike Frisch, professor and senior research scholar in American studies, who will discuss the campus politics of the time and Renee Levine, managing director of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts at UB from 1965 to1978, and author of “This Life of Sounds: Evenings for New Music in Buffalo,” who will address the UB Department of Music and its avant-garde legacy.

8:15 p.m. Break-out sessions (visitors are invited to participate) — with Levine and Michael Basinski, curator of the UB Poetry and Rare Books Collection, who will present and discuss a sample of the “little magazines” that Buffalo writers produced in the seventies, many of which are held in the Poetry Collection’s 9,000-title Little Magazine Collection, which comprises publications dating from the mid-19th century.

Also available will be audio and visual selections representing the period:

  • An exhibition of slide images of the UB campus during the 1970s, taken from personal and university collections
  • Audio selections featuring the pioneering work of composer Terry Riley, a former creative associate of the UB Center for Creative and Performing Arts, and the late UB professor and distinguished composer Morton Feldman.  Both were pioneers of minimalist music whose work continues to have an important impact on that field.
  • Recordings of songs specific to UB’s spring 1970 campus protests, including “Hayes Hall Blues” by Vizzy Goth and the Vicious Vandals is available at: The song, by the late UB ethnomusicologist Charlie Keil (Vandal) and UB historian Michael Frisch (Vizzy), are among those that documented the infamous “UB riots” that rocked the campus early that year. The uproar, which was sparked by student activism related to the Vietnam War, as well as the debate over open admissions and Defense Department research at UB, was marked by strikes, violence, tear gas, a pig roasting, injuries among students and police and the arrest of 45 protesting UB faculty members.

Media Contact Information

Patricia Donovan has retired from University Communications. To contact UB's media relations staff, call 716-645-6969 or visit our list of current university media contacts. Sorry for the inconvenience.