A Grand Idea To Revitalize A City, Using Living Art

Can a unique combo of art and urban farming revitalize East Buffalo?

David Lagé believes that East Buffalo needs a bit of TLC. The Brooklyn-based architect established Terrainsvagues as a type of think-tank for discussions around the plight of vacant plots that have popped up in cities grappling with their less-than-bustling, post-industrial realities. For Art Farms, its first initiative, Lagé teamed up with co-curator (and fellow Brooklyn-based architect) Andrea Salvini to revitalize the upstate Rust Belt region from the earth up.


Though much of it is contaminated and in need of pricey remediation, the local land hasn’t, in fact, gone completely neglected. Cooperatives like the Massachusetts Avenue Project and Farmer Pirates have established gardens in abandoned areas, cultivating edibles and greens in above-ground beds, then making them available directly to the surrounding community.

Lagé and Salvini believe that an additional element of engagement will deepen the connection between residents and their budding home turf and have enlisted five local artists to create free-standing sculptures for three established locales: Wilson Street Urban Farm, Cold Spring Farm, and Michigan Street Farm. The quintet of creatives–most of whom teach in the Department of Visual Studies at the University of Buffalo–were given a single stipulation: Their site-specific works must somehow, someway support agricultural activity.

The resulting proposals represent a wide range of forms and function, from an amphitheater built into a sloping hillside for hosting social events to a turn-of-the-last-century-style horticultural center designed to collect and retain water. “These are an unconventional approach to art that embrace socioeconomic and place-making issues,” Lagé and Salvini tell Co.Design. “We think they have the potential to establish a new identity for the area.” The hope is that each of these places would elicit a kind of cultural chain reaction, attracting people, then potentially new businesses like cafés, which would draw more visitors and truly start the stimulation process.

Art Farms is currently in fundraising mode but on track to start fabrication for an anticipated debut in spring of next year.