Artful connections at Station 12
True, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery as we know it will be closing its doors soon, as a major expansion begins its construction phase. That doesn’t mean that Albright-Knox programming stops; far from it. In addition to the new annex in the Northland Corridor slated to open early next year, expect the museum’s public art projects to flourish throughout Western New York. Some of these projects will be in unexpected locations, including the former strip mall on Sheridan Drive now known as Station 12, a project of Boston-based WS Development.
The planned Albright-Knox gift shop will more than double the size of the current cramped facility on Elmwood.
So far, the lifestyle center that is replacing Northtown Plaza has signed up a nice array of commercial tenants, including West Elm, LL Bean, Public Espresso + Coffee, Banana Republic, Vineyard Vines, and others. In total, roughly fifty-five local and national tenants are expected to populate the center, which includes a central green as well as stylish storefront configurations. Strong cultural and recreational components are also planned, including a new gift shop from the Albright-Knox and a range of arts programming. Brian Sciera, a senior vice president at WS, explains the collaboration this way: “Every day we ask ourselves: How can we be different? How can we do something unexpected? How can we be forever curious? To this end, a collaboration with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the cultural backbone of Buffalo, was a natural fit.”
WS is already known for a focus on eye-catching public art. Visitors to Boston’s Seaport can’t miss a seven-sculpture installation of Okuda San Miguel’s Air Sea Land; the large, colorful works run right down the center of Seaport Boulevard. Last winter, the firm brought two interactive installations—involving musical cylinders and rotating prisms—to join the Okuda creatures.
Plans for public art at Station 12 are still being hatched, but expect anything from imposing sculptures to ephemeral electronics—and everything in between. It’s also important to note that WS has its own plans for additional art on this property. What is for certain is that the planned Albright-Knox gift shop will more than double the size of the current cramped facility on Elmwood. Local museum gift shops already dominate in terms of offering out-of-the-shopping-box items, so a handy AKAG shop will doubtless be a formidable player in the Northtowns.
Lifestyle centers like Station 12 are still either completely unknown or barely understood entities throughout Western New York—in some ways, this is reminiscent of the early days of the medical campus or the first steps toward Canalside. As local malls close or downsize, it’s clear that new models are emerging—and not just on Sheridan Drive. Other US communities have already experienced this transition to a different template that combines shopping, community connections, and relaxation. WNYers are lucky that our biggest cultural player is already an anchor for this intriguing new commercial venture.
By: Elizabeth Licata