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Trimania, the gargantuan event that transforms the normally sedate Tri-Main Center into a roaring bedlam of sights and sounds every three years, began with a rejection.

In 2002, Joanna Angie, the founder and executive director of Buffalo Arts Studio, went to City Hall to plead for funding for her own organization along with Hallwalls and Just Buffalo Literary Center, also Tri-Main residents at the time. Like many other arts groups, she was rebuffed and trudged away empty-handed.

But Angie was undeterred. She picked up the phone and called her friend, Babatunde Olatunji, the famed Nigerian drummer, who brought his band to Buffalo to perform a fundraising concert. And so Trimania, which has since evolved into one of the most highly anticipated nights on Western New York's art and music calendar, was born.

Compared with other outsized art fundraisers like Hallwalls' Artists and Models (coming on May 21) and Squeaky Wheel's Peepshow, Trimania strikes a decidedly international tone. Angie, who has ties to artists around the world, has positioned the event as a cross-cultural experience meant to expose Western New Yorkers to a wide range of international art and music.

This year, the lineup for the event reflects that spirit perhaps more than any previous Trimania. Music-wise, the international element comes mostly from our Canadian neighbors, with performances from Toronto-based band Dinosaur Bones, opera singer Elton Lammie and others. Gerald Trentham, a Toronto-based dancer and choreographer, will perform at the event alongside Buffalo-based artist Jamie O'Neil. Members of local bellydance troupe Fleuron Rouge will also perform, as will a triennial African drumming performance in tribute to Olatunji, who died in 2003.

Most of Buffalo Arts Studio's 50 studio spaces, which represent an enormous range of styles and media, from William Y. Cooper's fantastical canvases inspired by West African culture to Scott Bye's wacky sculptures, will be open for inspection.

For Angie, the evening isn't just about showcasing global art forms to raise money for Buffalo Arts Studio. To put it in hippie-esque terms, it's also about sending some of that love back out into the universe.

As in past years, Angie said, Trimania will contribute to development and irrigation projects in the struggling African nation of Cameroon and in Tibet. She hopes to raise about $10,000 for those projects.

"Our goal this year is to dig another well and plant trees in a Tibetan settlement," Angie said. She also hopes to mount a last-minute program called "Tips for Japan," which will collect money to aid in that country's ongoing nuclear and post-tsunami crisis.

The sprit of Trimania, which casts its fundraising net in some ways as widely as its programming, reflects an altruism and desire to work collaboratively that is part and parcel of Buffalo's visual arts community.

"You can't think of yourself in isolation like that. I just don't believe in that kind of thinking," said Angie, who was also a key figure in fundraising for last year's mammoth Beyond/In Western New York collaboration.

"It's kind of nice that we can do an event that helps us to subsist for two or three years and it also helps globally," Angie said. "When you sit there and think that it keeps your organization afloat for several years, but it also helps 30,000 women carry water, it feels so good. How can that not feel good?"

e-mail: cdabkowski@buffnews.com

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Trimania

WHEN: 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Saturday

WHERE: Tri-Main Center, 2495 Main St.

TICKETS: $25 in advance or $30 at the door

INFO: 833-4450 or www.trimania.com