Two short years ago, the words "Silo City" would have meant very little to those outside a small circle of academics, artists and preservationists.
But thanks to increased attention after the 2011 National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference and new funding from the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., the rusting complex of grain elevators and industrial buildings along the Buffalo River has quickly become the city's newest cultural obsession.
On Saturday, the site will host City of Night, the largest and most ambitious event to take place in the incipient arts venue yet. The event, organized by Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo, is the brainchild of Dana Saylor, an artist, preservationist and historian who has contributed to an impressive array of cultural and preservation projects in the region.
Billed as a mixture of art, history, culture and sustainability, it will feature more than a dozen art installations inside the grain elevators, performance pieces throughout the site, live mural painting and projections, walking and kayak tours, music, artist booths and dance.
As part of Saylor's efforts to promote local sustainability efforts and to encourage decreased dependence on fossil fuels, the events kick off with a bicycle ride led by members of Go Bike Buffalo. They will lead bikers from Shea's Performing Arts Center every half hour beginning at 4 p.m. and into the evening.
For Saylor, whose experience in separate cultural circles in Buffalo inspired her to create the festival, City of Night provides an opportunity for disparate cultural groups to interact and may serve as a catalyst for future collaborations. "By experiencing these different parts of the city's [cultural] world, I started to see a lot of intersections, a lot of people who kind of lived in both of them or multiples of them," she said. "What I hope will come out of it is increased collaboration and communication between the groups and the individuals out there in Buffalo who are making a difference. I believe that through one-on-one interaction, people meeting each other in person finally who have only heard about each other, who have only heard about their groups, will have an opportunity to finally connect."
The event will feature more than two dozen installations and musical performances, including a piece by Meagan Baco and Crystal Sanchez re-creating a Pan-American Exposition-era dinner party, a musical performance in which baritone sax player Steve Baczkowski plays a duet with a grain silo, panoramic paintings in another silo by Thomas Webb and an ambitious installation musing on the transformation of the site by Kristina Segel and Jörg Schnier.
In addition to the art and the opportunity for Buffalo's growing cultural community to come together, City of Night may also open the door to more activity, development and investment in Silo City and other relics of Buffalo's industrial heritage. The silos, Saylor suggested, are places where the weight of Buffalo's history is palpable.
"They're an actual standing remnant of that industrial heritage," Saylor said. "We hope that people will be able to increase their access and their understanding of the space, but that it will provide opportunities for connections for future redevelopment and reuse."
What: City of Night
When: 4 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday
Where: Silo City, 20 Childs St.
Info: www.cityofnightbuffalo.com or 218-8525