Friday, April 23, 2021

Garden Walk Buffalo to return in-person


Kaleidoscope by Miriam Kelley
By Rhiannon Browning             

          Garden Walk Buffalo is coming out of a virtual hiatus this summer and is scheduled to be in-person on July 24 and 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.

            GardenWalk Buffalo is one of multiple events hosted by Gardens Buffalo Niagara. It has been known to bring in thousands of visitors from all over the country and even Canada. The gardens for the walk are scattered all over the West Side. Maps where gardens can be located will be provided.

        The pandemic caused Garden Walk Buffalo to go virtual last year with live streaming, online tours and educational videos. Marketing director of GardensBuffalo Niagara Jim Charlier said that he and his team had to decide very early on last year whether they were going to host the event.

            “We came to the conclusion that it wasn’t possible to be in-person last year as far as the Garden Walk goes, but we still did host our annual Open Gardens,” Charlier said.

            As opposed to the Garden Walk, which is completely free of admission and anyone can submit their garden as part of the walk, Open Gardens is a ticketed event with select gardens throughout western New York.

            “Open Gardens includes Erie and Niagara Counties and features urban, suburban and rural gardens,” said gardener Dennis Martinez, who participates in both events.  “It takes place during the entire month of July on designated days and times, some afternoons and some evenings.”

            Martinez said that he noticed an increase in Open Gardens visitors last year since the Garden Walk was virtual. He said that the pandemic didn’t affect his garden and describes it as “a great place to read a book with a glass of wine, or two.”

            Gardens Buffalo Niagara hosts numerous events along with the other two. East Side Garden Walk, Urban Farm Day and an art show are a few events it plans on holding this year. Charlier said that there is talk of having a butterfly launch, but it depends on how well everything runs this summer.

            “We’ve had a lot of time to experiment with these events last year and I think if we just keep doing what we’re doing, this year should be a lot of fun,” Charlier said.

            For 27 years, Garden Walk Buffalo has provided many local gardeners with opportunities to show off their hard work. Miriam Kelley has been a participant since 2003 and said that she used the pandemic as a way to add on to her already unique garden.

            “I made a hanging succulent basket and I designed and built a Garden Kaleidoscope for the front yard that people will be able to actually use,” Kelley said. “I also acquired a small cement buffalo that will have a place of honor in my front yard.”

            Kelley said one year she and her daughter counted around 1,000 visitors in her backyard on Dorchester Road, which is also a concern for Charlier.

            “A lot of our gardens have one entrance that also acts as an exit. We just hope our gardeners feel safe enough this year to allow visitors to come through and anticipate having to control the quantity,” Charlier said.

            The Garden Walk is going to have mask and social distancing regulations this year, but Kelley and Martinez still anticipate a good outcome. Between just the two gardeners, visitors can expect a water garden in an old rusty cauldron, gnomes, Buddhas, Buddha gnomes and an oasis with ponds, fountains and green landscapes.

            Any gardener on the West Side willing to share their work has a deadline of May 15 to submit with “no site visits, no judging, no entry fees, nothin’,” according to the Gardens Buffalo Niagara website.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Cherry Blossom Fest online again this year


Cherry blossoms in full bloom in 2017
By Shania Santiago

            The budding cherry trees signal the approaching Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival. Like last year, the festival will take place remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions.

            This year will mark the 8th annual festival, which is set to take place April 26 to May 1. The festival will be held in Buffalo’s Japanese Garden, located in Delaware Park. Paula Hinz, co-chairman of the Japanese Garden, can’t wait to see how the cherry trees bloom this year.

            We are so lucky to have a variety of trees in the garden. Some bloom early, some bloom late and some are right in the middle of it all,” Hinz said.

            The garden looks different each year depending on when the cherry trees bloom, something Hinz attributes to Mother Nature.

            The garden is always looking for ways to help build its partnerships and community, Hinz said. This year’s virtual festival will be filled with a variety of activities for remote visitors to enjoy.

            “We’ll have virtual presentations by Sato Restaurant, Sun Cuisines and Lockhouse Distillery, the local creators of Sakura Gin. We’ll have a meditation and a walking tour in the garden. Nature lovers are invited to find inspiration in the garden and try their hand at writing a haiku, a 17-syllable traditional Japanese poem,” Hinz said.

            Visitors will have the chance to see the garden from Mirror Lake. According to Hinz, Buffalo Maritime Center will have rowboats available to rent. There will also be a virtual tour available of the Kenroku-en garden in Kanazawa, Japan.

            The festival has a number of other features to look forward to, including performances organized by Music is Art. According to Tracy Fletcher, Music is Art executive director, these performances will be recorded and premiere on May 1.  

            “We will have four to five different performances,” Fletcher said.

            As of now, Music is Art is not ready to announce the performance lineup.

            With one remote festival already under their belt, garden volunteers have learned to keep the virtual program focused and engaging, Hinz said.

            With everything shutting down in March, our yearly rhythm completely shifted and Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy quickly took on the role of coordinating with our partners to create a virtual program,” Hinz said.

            Buffalo’s Japanese Garden was created in the 1970s. The festival has been held in the Japanese Garden for the past seven years. The goal of the festival is to help raise funds and awareness for the care and maintenance of the garden.






Friday, April 9, 2021

‘Crown’ event celebrates Black culture

 By Hannah Turnbull

Phylicia Dove had something inside of her that she knew she needed to get out.

After acceptance into top fashion schools, a successful career as a fashion stylist, and even a venture toward law school, Dove still felt that that thing brewing inside her.

And when she finally let that thing out, Black Monarchy was born.

Black Monarchy is a global fashion boutique located at 527 W. Utica St. Dove serves as the owner and lead designer. The boutique sells jewelry and clothes from all around the world, most being from Africa.

That thing inside of Dove was the yearning to combine her passion for fashion and advocacy to celebrate cultures from around the world.  

            “I wanted to create a safe space where people from all cultures could communicate through fashion,” Dove said.

            The store was opened by Dove in August 2017 in the Five Points neighborhood. 

            On April 11, Black Monarchy will be holding its annual Adjust Your Crown event. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event will be held virtually. The event will discuss the history and significance of African headwraps, or as Dove likes to call them, “crowns,” as well as demonstrating the various ways to style them.

               The headwraps are made of 100% authentic African fabric sourced from Ghana, Nigeria, and the Congo. Each participant will receive an authentic Ankara headwrap and learn to style them with confidence.

            “The history of head-wrapping is one of utility, shame, and even pain,” Dove said.

            Headwraps originated in Africa, often being worn to protect women from the sun or heavy baskets that they carried on their heads.

            When Africans were taken to America as slaves, headwraps became a symbol of inferiority. Headwraps were forced upon by slave owners who sought to designate and degrade African Americans as slaves.

            But African American women have redefined the meaning of headwraps, wearing them as a symbol of pride rather than shame, beauty rather than pain. Headwraps have evolved through vibrant colors, sizes, patterns, and embellishments.

            The event will be held virtually on Facebook Live at 5 p.m.

            The wrap styles will  vary from easy to technical, all via a hands-on tutorial.

            “Our attendees can expect to have a fun, free, and open dialogue in a space curated just for us,” Averill Dove, COO of Black Monarchy, said.

            In past years,  the Adjust Your Crown event was extremely successful with tickets quickly selling out. In past years, the event has also been very emotional for some guests. 

            “The bonding that takes place through story sharing, history lessons, and lived experiences allows for room to peel back layers we all once carried, but no more,” Dove said.











Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Neighbors take to streets to pick up trash

By Jonathan Schultz

            As the snow melts away, a new problem is revealed. Trash covers the streets and lawns of the West Side. Citizens have taken it into their own hands to get neighbors together and pick up their streets.

Block clubs and other individuals have made it an event and social gathering to come together and pick up trash around their neighborhood.

            Elaine Grisanti from the WestSide Business and TaxPayers Association  saw the need to get rid of waste on Grant Street. After protests on Grant Street near Lafayette Avenue, there was an enormous amount of litter that filled the streets. Grisanti along with others, gathered people together to get rid of it all.

Photo by Renee Asher

      “We started to bring community together and clean up the street after the protesters. After we did this, a ton of people showed up and it was really a great community spirit,” Grisanti said.

After this, many people communicated that they wanted to continue the effort, which sparked a monthly event.

“Once a month, at the last Sunday of the month, we hold a ‘trash mob.’ We pick a different place in the community. It’s not just the point of picking up trash, it’s getting to know your neighbor and your community,” Grisanti said.

The association will be putting on an Earth Day clean-up competition on April 22. All you have to do is go outside, pick up trash, take a picture of it and you will be entered into a raffle for prizes.

            A study done in 2018 illustrates just how much trash Buffalo consumes each year.

            In 2018, there was 150,024 tons of landfill trash alone. Curbside recycling resulted in 30,882 tons. As waste collectors pick up people’s trash, some gets left behind and it’s up to citizens to get rid of it.


          Some have gotten fines for having trash on their abutments. Renee Asher noticed the trash on her street and didn’t want her or her neighbors to be fined, so she took matters into her own hands.

            “I went around to each one of my neighbors houses and put an envelope at their door, asking to come out during certain days to participate in cleaning up our street. There were about 20 people that showed up,” Asher said.

            Asher stated how it took them about 10 hours just to clean up five houses and they still have about 10 houses to go. She mentioned how there’s a vacant lot near her that has a huge amount of trash. Kids play there all of the time and it’s a big concern of the community to get rid of it, they are planning on going to that lot next.

            “It was really all well-coordinated about being safe with Corona but really we wanted to give back to our community, especially our street we live on. No one else is going to pick it up for us. It was really fun and just brought people together,” Asher said.

            Another community member, Deborah Williams shared the same concerns of trash piling up on her street.

“If you don’t want to have garbage out front of your house, you have to pick it up. I mean there’s just no other choice. It’s not yours, you didn’t put it there, but you want to take pride in your neighborhood,” Williams said.

Williams is a part of the Auburn-Crossroads Block Club that shares flyers with people when they see the need for picking up. She said how everyday she sees at least one person who throws something on the ground.

For a small annual fee, the Tool Library located on West Northrup Place lets you borrow tools and other items that one might not want to buy for a lifetime. They have garbage pickers and other tools available to clean up the streets.

The City of Buffalo has a scheduled bulk trash pick-up for all of 2021.

“If you reach out to your community, your community will be there for you. If you don’t reach out and you never say anything and never ask, your problem will never be resolved,” Asher said.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Crucible comes through for artists

 By Rhiannon Browning

            It’s been over a year since the initial shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it has taken a toll on the art industry. Galleries had to close and artists had to find other ways to feature their work. One establishment decided it didn’t want to take a pause on promoting local artists.

           The Crucible Art Collective, 334 Connecticut St., is a tattoo parlor-art gallery hybrid that features a monthly, local artist who displays their collection in the gallery, while promoting and selling their work.

            The Crucible is kicking off spring with its April artist, John Latona, a graduate of art education and fibers and textiles at SUNY Buffalo State.

            Latona, who is a graphic design teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools system, found refuge during the pandemic because he was able to use his struggle with anxiety and depression and put it all into creating new, different artwork.

            The installation, called Deflated, is made up of a set of three-dimensional prints that include balloons and common household items. Latona said that the collection represents a feeling of “isolation and loss of intimacy” brought on by the pandemic and the connection between that and the LGBTQ+ community. He will be donating half of his proceeds to the Gay and Lesbian Youth Services of Western New York.

            “It is so cathartic working on this collection,” Latona said. “I am turning something bad into good and I am donating half of my profits to GLYS.”

            When The Crucible opened in June 2019, owner Taylor Heald and gallery curator Alicia Malik wanted the young, new art community in mind when it came to the gallery side of business.

            “A lot of galleries in the area try to stay traditionalist when selecting their art shows, but then you’re not linking to the younger artists who need a place to start,” Malik said.

            She and Heald loosely began their monthly art shows, but only featured the friends and employees of The Crucible since it had just opened.

            Malik handles everything from booking the artists to maintaining the art wall and even greeting and handling the appointments on the parlor side. As the gallery became more popular, Malik had more artists making reservations for art openings, but when the pandemic hit, she gave the artists a choice to go digital or move the date of their opening.

Artist Ashley  Johnson chose to keep her planned art show for December through January this year, but there was no in-person reception. Instead, her show was virtual.

            “Unfortunately, my show was up during the worst months, so the whole thing ended up being virtual,” Johnson said. “I did sell some work, but it’s never the same as an in-person event. Art is always better in person.”         

            Although her show was not in-person, Johnson said that she didn’t do this for exposure and encourages other artists to stop giving their hard work away for that reason.

            “Stop focusing on exposure and think about networking and being supportive in the creative community instead. Go to shows and meet other artists. Hype your friends up by sharing their work with proper credit,” Johnson said.

             Malik said the biggest thing they wanted to push during the pandemic was to stay busy.

The first initiative they thought of when everything shut down was the “Five by Seven Art Exchange.”      

             In April of last year they allowed any artist to send in a 5-by-7 inch work of art. Whatever they received, they displayed on the gallery wall and posted it to The Crucible social media pages. After some time, Malik sent the artwork back to the artists “blindly,” so each artist got back someone else's work.

            “This was the first thing we did to keep up with the artistic side of things and get people involved and engaged while everyone was shut in,” Malik said.

            Since being able to feature their monthly artists again, the parlor and gallery encourages strict social distancing guidelines.

            “It’s still very important to us that everyone, including the artists, feel like this is a safe space,” Malik said.

            The gallery charges $200 a month to artists to display their work but has a lower price for art students to make it more accessible. As far as sales go on the artwork, they only take 25 percent rather than the standard 40 percent.

            “We found a way to keep business going on the parlor side and maintain the ability to promote young, aspiring artists without the worry of heavy expenses that you would find at other galleries,” Malik said.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Elmwood farmers market to open May 15

By Shania Santiago

          With spring in the air, bees aren’t the only one’s buzzing. Customers and vendors alike are awaiting news to see what the Elmwood Village Farmers Market will look like during the pandemic. Questions have arisen as to how the market will run this coming season as COVID-19 still lingers.   

         The market, located on Bidwell Parkway at Elmwood Avenue, is a producer-only market that gives local farmers and craftsmen the opportunity to sell their products. The selling season for the market is every Saturday, from May 15 to Nov. 27.

         The pandemic resulted in the cancellation of many spring and summer events, but the market managed to avoid being shut down last year. Bob Weiss, board president of the market,  aid it was an incredibly different environment compared to previous years.

         To keep up with state safety regulations, the entire layout of the market was changed. In addition to all in attendance being required to wear masks, vendor setups remained six feet apart to enforce social distancing. Vendors were supplied with hand sanitizer and served customers one at a time. Performances that were part of the market in past years were notably missing this time around.   

         “We really did try to pay attention to New York State and what they were putting forth and saying,” Weiss said.   

         Weiss said that there are still discussions to be had on how exactly the market will be handled this year. Since COVID-19 is still very much at play there is a good chance that the market  will follow similar procedures as last year.  

         “We are still going through the pandemic, we’re probably going to keep that same set up we had. It seemed to work pretty good,” Weiss said.

         Kerry Planck, owner of Alpine Made in South Wales, has been selling her handcrafted soap and skincare products at the market since 2012. Planck praised the regulations put in place by the market last year. She is grateful that last year’s market was still able to take place through the pandemic.

         “Had it closed down like many other venues it would have disenfranchised small farms, local farms that don’t have that other outlet to sell quite a bit of their products,” Planck said.

         Looking ahead, Planck is starting to prepare for this year's market. Depending on how everything goes, she may bring in a second helping hand for her tent.

         Matt Kauffman, manager of 5 Loaves Farm, a non-profit food farm located at 70 West Delevan Ave., is another vendor for the market. The farm has generated products such as its fresh produce, jams, and spices for the market since 2016. Like Planck, Kauffman approved of the COVID-19 regulations made for the market last year and admits he actually prefers the way it was set up. 

Kauffman said 5 Loaves Farm is starting to make early preparations for the market  this year.

         “We’ve ended up focusing a lot on our early spring production and sales, so that we can make sure at the beginning of the market season we have lots of food that we can be distributing to folks,” Kauffman said.

         The farmers market is currently accepting applications for vendors this year. More information about the market can be found on their website.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Neighborhood gets to the heart of hunger

 By Jonathan Schultz

     In this unprecedented time, more people than ever are facing food insecurity right here on the West Side and the surrounding areas. Community members and non-profit organizations have donated time, money and resources to fight hunger. Food insecurity is when a person doesn’t know where their next meal will come from.

            One community member has taken her own approach to help neighbors who might need extra food and other items. Megan Gerrity, a resident of Putnam Avenue, realized the need for food, clothing items, personal hygiene products and pet food. Gerrity has set up a table in her front lawn where anyone walking by can take items they need, no questions asked.

Megan Gerrity's table on Putnam Ave.

       “As it started getting colder, I realized there might be a different need. So I just started putting out food and clothing items just for people to take, share, donate or do whatever they want with,” Gerrity said. 

     She tries to leave the table outside as much as possible. It is usually there overnight as well so when people are walking home from work or out and about, they can still get these items.

            Easy things to grab like soups, canned meats, hats, gloves, socks, tissues, soap, deodorant and underwear are just some of the things available. Instant soup and juice are the most popular items people take.

            She gets occasional donations; Elmwood Pet Supplies has been a big contributor, donating pet food. Gerrity does take donations. She doesn’t have a website but one can donate using Venmo. Her Venmo tag is @megangerrity23

            “Heavy winds, the snow and the ice make it very difficult. Stuff will blow down the street and I don’t want to create problems with the neighbors. One night we had a heavy freeze and everything on the table was frozen the next day,” Gerrity said.

            FeedMore Western New York, a hunger relief non-profit organization, can attest to the greater demand for food brought on by the pandemic.

            The food insecurity rate for in Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Niagara has increased by 41% due to the pandemic, One in six individuals in Western New York may be struggling with hunger as a cause of COVID-19, Catherine Shick, FeedMore communication director, said.  

             The organization has distributed enough food in 2020 to provide almost 16 million meals. That is about 4 million more meals than was done in the year before, when COVID-19 was not around.

             FeedMore partners with six food pantries, a soup kitchen, a youth snack program, two shelters, three backpack programs, and a group home on the West Side alone.

FeedMore’s pantry locator can help locate the location of assistance.

            The First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo’s Lyon Food Pantry, One Symphony Circle, has been serving the West Side community in one way or another for over 50 years.  Leaders there have seen an increase in demand for food items since the pandemic hit.

            “Prior to COVID we were doing 20 bags a week and we bumped it up to 30 bags now,” Christina Banas, the church’s business manager said.

            The pantry is open at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Volunteers ask no questions of the people that come in. No I.D. or government assistance is needed.

            “Every penny or canned good that comes in is donated. We do the shopping at Wegman’s and volunteers from church make the food bags,” Banas said.

            The church is always looking for donations whether it’s non-perishable food items or a monetary donation.