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Arts & Culture

Rivalry Projects' exhibition designed to explore and challenge history

A woman sits in a chair wearing a black shirt, blue jeans, and black shoes in front of an art installation that is orange and pink checkered.
Artist and Rivalry Projects, Buffalo, NY
Elizabeth Corkery from Artist and Rivalry Projects

What was once an Allen St. car garage is now a commercial art gallery, Rivalry Projects.

"Having worked for galleries in other places and seen some of the challenges, Buffalo allotted a lot more space for us," said Ryan Arthurs, owner of both the gallery and the building in which it is located.

"We would never be able to have this in San Francisco or New York."

Like Arthurs, Rivalry Projects director Olivia McManus spent part of her career elsewhere before returning to Buffalo.

"Ryan owns the building so we have a massive break in terms of overhead costs and that provides a safety net to take risks and maybe do a little more experimental programming than some other places," McManus added.

"But in terms of the longevity of the business, it really boils down to the support of the artists."

Artist Elizabeth Corkery was enjoying some of that support on the eve of the opening of her exhibition "Well-Ripened Seeds" when Arthurs, McManus and others were helping to install her work.

"A lot of artists who are on the emerging side are used to doing every single aspect of their install themselves. So, it's been a real luxury having this many hands," said Corkery. Originally from Australia and now based in Sacramento, her work has been exhibited in Europe and around the United States.

Preparing an exhibition like "Well-Ripened Seeds," Corkery says, takes immense planning.

"As a process, you almost need to know where you want to end up and then you work backwards. You don't work forwards the way you might for a painter or someone who is working reactionary."

Heavy research is also part of Corkery's process. At the core of "Well-Ripened Seeds," she explains, is a reflection on the history of plants, their relationship to colonialism and "trying to understand how plant cultivation and plantations and those sorts of economies have really shaped the world we live in today."

The installation also features three hearths in Victorian style.

"So, when people enter this space is going to feel familiar," McManus said.

"You're going to see and discover all these connections that really undergird our historical and architectural history here. So, there's a lot of fun things to discover and I think for all the people who are passionate about architecture and design in Buffalo, it's going to be a great exhibition."

McManus and Arthurs also stressed the desire for Rivalry Projects to connect with all parts of the community.

"It's a joy being situated, literally, on a residential street where we're kind of this buffer between residential and commercial," Arthurs said.

"This show, particularly, brings the residential into more a 'White Cube' space that can feel a little intimidating or unfamiliar to some."

The business hours for Rivalry Projects are 11 to 5, Wednesday through Saturday. Appointments are always welcome.

"It's important to note that we are free and open to the public," McManus said.

"There are absolutely no barriers to entry. If you're curious, you can stop right in."

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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.