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Arts/Culture

Archival effort calls for public input at CEPA Gallery

There is little background information accompanying the captivating black and white images that are currently lining the walls of CEPA Gallery. The lack of context doesn't inhibit the inclination to stop, stare and wonder about the many photos on display as part "Unearthing Erie County: Faces & Places from the CEPA Archives."

While some of the photos show everyday people working and recreating, others provide historical glimpses at familiar landmarks: Buffalo harbor jammed with freight barges; the Central Terminal looming above a World War Two-era bus; the Great Northern Grain Elevator on a young Buffalo waterfront standing alone without the shabby industrial structures that obscure its character today.

Executive Director Veronique Cote says the exhibition is the first outcropping of the work of an archivist who was recently hired under a joint effort between CEPA and the Buffalo History Museum. There's a lot of work ahead.

Cote offers a guess of between 10,000 and 15,000 photos in CEPA's collection, but categorizing and counting aren't the only priorities.

"Now. I need the public to get involved because I think they're the important people, right. And that's what the exhibition is about," Cote said.

She envisions the photos eventually showing up on the walls of offices, pubs and other public spaces throughout the region.

Cote expects to be "inviting people to dig through" the archives. She would also like to see more contemporary artists incorporating the historical photos. The works of three such artists--Alex Cassetti, Cathay Panebianco and Gerald Mead-- are displayed as part of the current exhibition.

"I want to allow the public to be a curator to tell me what they think is important," Cote said. "I think there is Buffalo pride [in its history], so I think we are able capable as a community to do some pretty heavy historical research without having degrees and so on. Because we are proud of the history, the industrial history, the working class history, the architectural history."

"Unearthing Erie County: Faces & Places from the CEPA Archives" runs through April 30 at CEPA Gallery, in the Market Building at 617 Main St. in Buffalo. Gallery hours are Wednesday noon-4 p.m., Thursday 4 p.m.-7 p.m., Friday noon-4 p.m., Saturday noon-4 p.m. Other times are available by appointment.