Preview by Joshua Maloni
By now, you probably know Artpark’s summer season will look a little different than 15, 10 and even five years ago. Heck, more than 50% of a promotional two-sided event flyer focuses on events other than concerts.
What you might not know is why.
Not long after Sonia Kozlova Clark was announced as Artpark & Company’s president, she opined about what an already award-winning venue could become – if it was allowed to showcase all of its attributes.
“How do we connect outdoor/indoor? How do we play with the space itself? Can we flip it?” she asked. “Can we find different relationships between the stage and the artist, and just an experience that goes more naturally with the way we operate right now; the way we think?”
She immediately began to dust off some of Artpark’s original intentions – namely, a mission to promote art, nature and culture. Concerts, of course, would remain a key people (and profit) driver, but they would have to share the stage with educational and enriching programming.
When board member John Camp introduced Clark, he stated, “Her significant experience presents a unique opportunity to expand our offerings with an international flavor, which further enriches Artpark and Lewiston as a destination equal to our other cultural assets on the Niagara Frontier.”
Over the past half-dozen seasons, Clark has meticulously carried forth her vision.
Consider just a few of these examples:
Cirque will be on display this summer at Artpark. (Photo by Jordan Oscar)
•Art: “Niagara 1979” – also known as the late Gene Davis’ “Painted Parking Lot” – was recreated in 2017 adjacent to the red brick road.
√ Rob Lynch and Matt Sagurney (aka The Solo Roths) teamed with Cynthia Pegado and the “Artpark Bridges” community outreach program to add more mural art – this time to the main parking lot – in the summer of 2020.
√ Last fall, Artpark unveiled interactive installations "Murmuration” by SO – IL studio and “Unity in Diversity” by Muhammad Z Zaman.
•Performance art: French street theater group Plasticiens Volants absolutely wowed audiences with the 2017 debut of “Big Bang” in Lewiston. The troupe then topped that with a jaw-dropping, giant balloon-led performance of “Pearl” in 2019.
Plasticiens Volants returns this summer with “Leonardo, Dreams & Nightmares.”
•Culture: The Strawberry Moon Festival debuted in 2019 and served as an opportunity to forge strong ties with the local Native American community.
√ A peace garden was dedicated in 2020, and will serve as the site of this Saturday’s “Spring Awakenings” celebration.
•Family and children: The Fairy House Festival has grown, while “FREE Family Saturdays” and summer camps have been bolstered.
•Nature: Artpark teamed with musical ensemble Alarm Will Sound on the Western New York premiere of “Ten Thousand Birds” by John Luther Adams in 2020.
√ Last summer, “Sonic Trails” debuted and offered a “hyperlocal and equally global perspective.” Working with Sozo Creative and “some of the most influential BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) voices in music – The Holladay Brothers, Kronos Quartet, Rhiannon Giddens and Yo-Yo Ma, Indigenous artists curated by Michele-Elise Burnett, and DJ Spooky,” Artpark was able to “cultivate aural experiences exploring” the state park’s “unique geological and historic” attributes.
√ In September, “Sound Moves Me” debuted, inviting participants to “listen to the sounds of nature while exploring mindful listening, improvisation and guided performing and visual arts.”
So, the “Why?” is simple. It is as Clark prophesied in 2016: “I want us to be this community that dares; that thinks; that experiments; and just have that platform for progress. The role of the arts is to inspire; to push some buttons; but, ultimately, when you come here and you experience that 'A-ha' moment … that leads to maybe just a new realization that it's good to be here.”
Plasticiens Volants returns with “Leonardo, Dreams & Nightmares.” (Image courtesy of Artpark & Company)
Now with regard to concerts, Artpark & Company simply has outgrown its tried and true “Tuesdays in the Park” presentation.
You see, while “TIP” brought Artpark & Company back from the brink of obscurity nearly two decades ago, its success also brought about increased competition for bands – and audiences. Every community added live music, and major concert promoters did their best to outbid Artpark for headline acts.
Add to that a two-year pandemic that derailed and rearranged touring, and it’s no longer practical for the Lewiston venue to solely book live shows midweek.
This summer, concerts will take place throughout the week – and many weeks will feature multiple concerts – and multiple genres.
Artpark has evolved beyond classic and southern rock.
On Wednesday, Clark and Vice President of Concerts & Marketing Dave Wedekindt summed it up accordingly: "We're looking forward to these artists coming to Artpark for the first time, and especially welcoming many concertgoers back to our venues to open another season of programming. We anticipated this summer would be busy, given the sheer number of artists returning to the road to earn money again and get back in front of their fans, but this season really has exceeded our expectations.
“Beyond the large number of pop and rock concerts, we're truly activating Artpark in every sense of the word with an expanded ‘New Music in the Park’ series, multiple festivals, dance, Cirque nouveau, street theater, artist residencies, Indigenous programs, and so much more.
“It's a bold mix of programming, and we're definitely excited for the community to experience. It shows the momentum Artpark built through the pandemic when, in the absence of huge crowd events, we could really refocus on what is so special about this place, and the many ways people can enjoy the grounds and venues. Thankfully, with the support of the community, our funders, board of directors, dedicated and creative staff, and more, we are opening this season in a place of strength."
Artpark is located at 450 S. Fourth St., Lewiston. Visit artpark.net for more information or to purchase tickets.
The Head And The Heart (Photo by Alex Currie/courtesy of Grandstand Media)
Conductor Gil Rose in action. (Photo courtesy of Artpark & Company)
With the intention of bringing new artists and celebrating music’s global reach and impact, Artpark’s “New Music in the Park” series opens June 26 with the return of Sō Percussion. Performing with them will be Dominic “Shodekeh” Talifero, a groundbreaking beatboxer, vocal percussionist and breath artist. Additional concerts will include bandoneon virtuoso and composer JP Jofre and his Hard Tango Chamber Band; new music wind quintet WindSync; and Gamelan music from Indonesia performed by Buffalo’s-own Nusantara Arts. New directions in jazz will be featured in a concert by the Buffalo Jazz Composers Workshop. The season will also feature the category-defying Squonk Opera, now celebrating its 30th anniversary.
The world is shaken by the war in Ukraine, affecting so many people, including local residents with roots and loved ones across Eastern Europe. Planned as one of the highlights of the 2022 season is the return of Ukrainian ethno-chaos band DakhaBrakha. Scheduled for a July 14 performance in the “New Music in the Park” series, the quartet will present an original live soundtrack to the iconic film “Earth” by Alexander Dovzhenko inside the Artpark Mainstage Theater.
Artpark said it will “continue its commitment to celebrating our region’s Indigenous artists with a series of workshops, performances and special events curated by Indigenous Programs Producer Michele-Elise Burnett.”
Included will be an in-person “Spring Awakens” program at Artpark’s Native American Peace Garden (May 14 and June 4); the annual Strawberry Moon Festival; and the continuation of Indigenous Ways of Knowing during the “Free Family Saturdays” programming. This year, Artpark presents “The Red Dress Exhibit: If only they could tell their stories,” described as “a powerful and healing installation that raises awareness to racist crimes targeting Indigenous women and girls.”
Now in its 12th year, Artpark Fairy House Festival on July 9 welcomes visitors of all ages to marvel at fairy house creations by professional and community artists. Special musical guests Mucca Pazza will entertain with a rock ‘n’ roll marching band, street theater extravaganza. Highlights will include aerial and acrobatic feats – Battements de Cirque – by Montréal-based Anouk Vallée-Charest. And, of course, the whimsical and enchanting Artpark Fairies and roaming musicians will be outfitted by artist and designer Uta Bekaia of Tbilisi, Georgia.
Exploration of the interactive and physical theater arts continues with the hip-hop-meets-modern-dance-meets-cirque-nuovo company from France, Art Move Concept. Their show “Anopas” comes to Artpark’s Mainstage July 22-23. This summer also sees the return of Montreal-based Cirque Barcode and Acting for Climate, whose work focuses on lowering the environmental impact. They will perform outdoors in the Emerald Grove on July 30-31. Also, South Korean artist Juyung Lee and his group Galmae will transform a crowd of spectators into a problem-solving collective on Aug. 27-28 with a performance of “C’est pas là, c’est par là” (“It’s Not That Way, It’s This Way!”)
Artpark also continues its program of artistic residencies and development of new work. Jon Lehrer Dance Company will create a new choreography and film around Artpark’s 2021 major installation “Murmuration” by SO-IL. Additional artistic residencies invite Czech artist Kateřina Šedá working with independent curator Claire Schneider, president of C.S.1 Curatorial Projects, to create a new project exploring the relationships between people within the Village of Lewiston.
Artpark’s collaboration with Buffalo’s Torn Space Theater will continue on a new production entitled “CrossWalk” on June 17.
Artpark & Company announced “Opera in Concert at Artpark: Up Close and Personal” in the Mainstage Theater at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 30. The performance will feature the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gil Rose along with vocalists Danielle Talamantes (soprano), Janna Baty (mezzo soprano), Dominick Chenes (tenor) and Michael Chioldi (baritone).
This summer, Artpark will launch a new adult education initiative: The Artpark Devised Performance Institute (ADPI) that “brings together cutting-edge international companies who push the boundaries of physical performance with participants interested in an intensive study of creating physically.”
Returning to the theme of history, nature and artistic experiences, Artpark’s new-and-improved free Sonic Trails audio app by Holladay Brothers and SoZo Creative is “an immersive and empowering way to experience the dynamic traditions of Artpark's historic location daily from dawn until dusk.”
As always, Artpark continues its now expanded community and family programming with its now expanded “Free Family Saturdays” in July and August, visual arts camp for three one-week sessions in July, and Artpark Bridges program empowering underserved people of varied abilities. See details at artpark.net.