Much as I love Artvoice as a contributor and avid reader, I bristled at Zachary Burns' characterization of the National Trust's Annual Preservation Conference in this week's issue. Burns' sarcastic comments about volunteers "dressing up" Buffalo to "hide [its] shame" for the sake of "streetcars and steel mills" of no apparent value smacks of the widespread and tragic misunderstanding of the practice of historic preservation and its potential to make a substantially positive impact on a nation and culture in the midst of painful flux.
I have to wonder if Burns stopped typing long enough and stuck his head out the window to feel the palpable energy that the Trust has brought to Western New York this week. If nothing else, the thousands of preservationists from around the nation have provided crucial perspective on Buffalo / Niagara's burgeoning preservation scene - the accolades have been humbling and inspiring, and what reason would these out-of-towners have to sing our praises if they weren't genuinely impressed with how WNY is reinventing itself as a mecca for cultural, historical and architectural tourism?
I know that I may be a little close to the action to be objective on this, but that's precisely my point about such events that coax Buffalo / Niagara onto the national stage. Time and time again, we prove that we're really good at being our own worst enemy, and it takes visitors from Tucson, Baltimore, Galveston and Santa Barbara to say "OMG - Buffalo?" to make us realize what genuine power of place and strength of community we have here.
And it's not just small city dwellers that have had their socks knocked off during the Buffalo conference. New York's grande dame of architectural preservation, Dr. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, said that the Martin House is "a singular vision executed to perfection" and promises to spread the word about Buffalo's gems when she returns to the City. How many such statements will it take to convince the naysayers that if you rebuild it, they will come?
So Mr. Burns' weekly scorecard is in need of some revision: the National Trust's Buffalo conference was one for the "win" column, and our leadership role in "Preservation Nation" is secure.