Life in Buffalo’s post-recession economy is weird.

Buildings are rising on the Medical Campus and waterfront, each one a new piece of evidence of the increasing fortunes of the city’s traditional power brokers. At the same time, grass-roots organizations are gathering strength in their opposition to some aspects of the city’s development. Others are working to extend the benefits to everyone.

This time of heightened tension between Buffalo’s many grass-roots projects and its more traditional developers seems to call for artists. It is the focus of “Performing Economies,” a three-day conference featuring artists and thinkers from across the country whose work deals with alternative or radical ways to think about and create architecture, urban development and economic prosperity.

For University at Buffalo visual studies professor Stephanie Rothenberg, who co-organized the event with Paige Sarlin of UB’s media study department, it seems like the right event at the right time.

“I’ve just seen this incredible amount of development happening in the past three or four years,” Rothenberg said. “Post-2008, people have really been trying to find alternative ways, more democratic ways, more sustainable ways to exist … I think it’s very visible in Buffalo because of its small scale, and it just seemed really timely to put something together like this.”

Though “Performing Economies” has an academic focus, the weekend-long series of events is free and open to the public. Organizers ask that those interested in attending conference events register on the conference website,

Highlights include a visit from New York City-based eco-artist Mary Mattingly, who will give a preconference demonstration in the UB Techne Institute’s mobile art trailer from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at 555 Ellicott St. and again from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday. At noon Saturday, Mattingly will talk on sustainable architecture in the UB Educational Opportunity Center (555 Ellicott St.).

The directors of local grass-roots organizations PUSH Buffalo, GO Bike Buffalo and the WASH Project will lead a pair of “redevelopment bus tours,” which will give passengers an overview of Buffalo’s changing streetscape, at 11 a.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Sunday.

A series of sessions on Saturday in the Educational Opportunity Center will focus on environmental justice, cultural production, food security and labor and industry. Local guests include Partnership for the Public Good co-director Sam Magavern, artist Dorothea Braemer, actor and teacher Annette Daniels Taylor, curator Claire Schneider and Echo Art Fair founder Frits Abell.

Sunday’s events include an expanded version of Sugar City’s popular “Sunday Soup” series, co-hosted by Food Not Bombs and featuring presentations by Mattingly, members of the Sugar City collective, the Breadhive Cooperative Bakery and demonstrations of the Techne Institute’s mobile art lab.

A full list of events is on the conference website.


What: “Performing Economies”

When: Today through Sunday

Where: University at Buffalo Educational Opportunity Center, 555 Ellicott St. and locations throughout Buffalo

Tickets: Free, but attendees must register