The buzz surrounding Buffalo's long-disused grain elevators is approaching a fever pitch.
The imposing structures – symbols of the city's heyday, of its importance to international architecture and finally of its long decline – have lately become blank canvases for artists working to revive the city's cultural reputation.
"American Grain," the largest artistic project yet to be held in a Buffalo grain elevator, will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Marine A elevator inside the Silo City industrial complex along the Buffalo River.
The project, funded in part by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., will bring together theater performers, dancers, musicians and video artists to create an immersive experience in seven separate silos within the elevator.
Mark Goldman, the local restaurateur and developer who organized the event, said he hopes it will begin to change negative perceptions about the city's rusting former industrial core.
"I think what it'll do is cement this place as an arts destination," Goldman said. "If you want to keep young people in this community, you've got to do it through the arts."
The event will feature performances by University at Buffalo professors Jonathan Golove and Matt Sargent, who have composed pieces specifically for the event, as well as a play directed by Dan Shanahan of Torn Space Theater, a performance from Nimbus Dance and multimedia video work by Buffalo artist Brian Milbrand.
Each performance is about 40 minutes long and takes place in one of the elevator's 110-foot-high silos, with audience members moving from silo to silo as the evening wears on.
Though the event is officially sold out, Goldman said the final performances will be projected on the grain elevator exterior after dusk and that an after-party open to the public will take place outside the building from about 9:30 to 11 p.m.
While giving a brief tour of the space earlier this week, Goldman praised the strange acoustics of the space, which he said make conversations difficult but will lend a special quality to the string quartet that will perform there Saturday night.
"American Grain" is by no means the first artistic event to take place inside a long-vacant grain elevator – events were held during the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference last year in Marine A, as was a performance that was part of UB's "Fluid Culture" series. Long before that, the elevators served as canvases for graffiti artists whose tags are still visible on the hulking concrete walls of Marine A.
But "American Grain," soon to be outdone in scope by the sprawling City of Night party planned for Sept. 8 at Silo City, signals a growing desire by local artists to experiment with challenging spaces and to bring those spaces to the attention of the public.
And that, as Goldman suggested in a written statement about "American Grain," can only be a positive step.
"While the grain elevators are an indigenous expression of Buffalo's incredible architectural legacy," Goldman wrote, "cutting edge contemporary expression in the arts is equally as integral to the history of our community."
Where: Marine A elevator, Silo City, 20 Childs St.
Admission: Performances are sold out; outdoor after-party and video projections are free.