Silent Poets is a step forward for Canalside

Public art will continue to grow around Canalside this summer as Buffalo’s newest installation was put in yesterday.

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Rising.

Silent Poets will reside at Canalside until late 2016, joining the ever popular Shark Girl and other public art pieces in the downtown park district. Meanwhile, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Company continues to inch towards completion of the lighting project on the Connecting Terminal Grain Elevator across the river.

After getting a chance to cruise by Silent Poets last night, I have to say they’re incredibly impressive. The addition of Silent Poets is a definitive step forward for Canalside as the area is still lacking any semblance of permanence as it pertains to activities and attractions. This new piece of art is also a much larger statement when compared to Shark Girl, which has its own level of whimsy but certainly isn’t the jaw-dropping installation that Canalside needs.

Shark Girl certainly has her own rightful place in the Canalside landscape. In fact, her new home near the re-watered, historically aligned canals is perfect. The sculpture is nestled in nicely in what should be a highly trafficked area which should eventually allow Shark Girl to be a tremendous compliment to the greater Aud Block development. We just aren’t there yet, which is why so much of the hubbub regarding her installation rubbed the wrong way.

Many of Canalside’s parcels are set for development (despite how it looks), which means they’re hardly available for a massive installation like Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate. That being said, the goal should be to provide a permanent installation that draws crowds no matter what the weather is like. As impressive as Silent Poets is, I’m not sure it does the trick.

The short stay for Silent Poets obviously alters the overall impact since they aren’t going to be indefinite Canalside residents. They’re large sculptures that look much bigger in person than they do in any pictures or other form of media. The LED lighting is beautiful and they terrific to enjoy at night. However, I don’t think I’d put them in the category of an installation that will draw massive crowds. They’re certainly attention grabbing, but I’m not sure they’re the answer for Canalside.

I had two thoughts looking at Silent Poets. The first was that it’s a terrific new addition to Canalside that everyone will be able to enjoy. The second was that I wish the statues were larger and situated on the ground. As great as Silent Poets look, I can’t help but think that two 15 or 20-foot versions of the sculptures situated on the ground wouldn’t be that much more awe striking. Just thinking of two, huge, glowing statues as an attraction at Canalside seems incredibly cool to me. Maybe I’m nuts, I’m not sure.

Editor’s note: I an art person, so I’m sure that recommendation could be misconstrued as an insult to the artist or the art community as a whole. That’s not my intention, the sculpture itself is terrific. I’m looking forward to enjoying it over the next year and a half. But it still feels like Canalside is falling short in a way.

The timeline doesn’t help one bit. If these sculptures were set to grace Canalside forever, I think I’d have a different opinion. There are still too many small, temporary attractions at Canalside. We keep hearing about the waterfront we deserve, yet so little has been done to provide permanent examples of it.

The Spirit of Buffalo, BFLO Harbor Kayak, Water Bikes and the skate and ice bike rentals in the winter are phenomenal. The same can be said of the bier garden and lawn games. It’s all great. It makes the Central Wharf the focal point it should be. It’s a focal point that should be anchored by an awe striking piece of public art. I think Silent Poets is certainly getting us to that point; they just maybe aren’t at the level of something that draws a crown like Cloud Gate does.

I think of things like Herd About Buffalo and what Silent Poets and Shark Girl represent for Canalside and I hope to see something evolve so that Canalside (and Buffalo) gets its rightful attraction. Something that can be positioned at the corner of the Central Wharf that looks out onto the mouth of the river and/or the entire Canalside development and serves as a focal point for the district.

Clearly the canals and the eventual brick-and-mortar buildings will alter the landscape, but a large, permanent piece of art positioned on the Central Wharf would add a terrific layer to what is set to grow into a terrific public place.

I hope that Silent Poets sets the stage for something great. The installation looks terrific and I wish we had them longer than 18 months. The opportunity for ECHDC and the Albright Knox is there, hopefully they go even bigger when they have the chance.

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