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SURVEY: Re-mapping Buffalo’s urban space


Buffalo, for all of its intellectual wealth in the form of colleges and universities, has routinely suffered as the result of poor planning and politically self-interested decisions. And its various grassroots community organizations have often been tasked with the job of cleaning up whatever messes remain.

That’s partially the focus of an upcoming, wide-ranging public symposium, set to take place this Friday and Saturday (April 4 and 5). Survey: Re-mapping Buffalo’s Urban Space is intended, as its name implies, as a survey of what community activists and university scholars from many disciplines are working on, and how they might better collaborate to improve the city.

The conference is the brainchild of UB’s Interdisciplinary Group for Social Engagement, a new group of graduate students whose studies include political science, economics, gender studies, media study and English, among others. Says Crystal Hickerson, a symposium coordinator and comparative literature student, “We were concerned with two things: one, just increasing conversations between different disciplines; two, extending conversations beyond our own academic projects to connect them with community issues.”

In total, there will be more than a dozen representatives from UB giving presentations and sitting on panels alongside the likes of community activists such as PUSH Buffalo’s Aaron Bartley and Buffalo First’s Amy Kedron. We’re not just talking UB planners and architects here, though. English professor Bruce Jackson will talk about his Buffalo Film Seminars, Associate Professor of Law Teresa Miller will present about domestic violence and incarceration of Buffalo’s African American women and Associate Professor of Visual Studies Carole Rosenstein will talk about cultural-based development and how it might better serve artists.

These kinds of cross-disciplinary conversations will hopefully lend valuable perspective to members of the varying disciplines, whose methodologies and theoretical approaches to their work are often very different.

“We really wanted very diverse perspectives of how space is visualized. How do we understand our social groups, or our neighborhoods, or different plans for changing and improving the city?” The discussions will range across topics including affordable housing, localizing and greening the community, deconstruction, reconstruction, community networking, micro parks, Buffalo’s racial divide, art in the public sphere and UB’s role in the city, particularly concerning its UB2020 master plan and proposed expansion of its downtown campus.

Regarding the theme of urban space, Hickerson says, “We focused on space this year, and urban space specifically, because there’s a lot going on in Buffalo. We thought this would be a good topic for us to get some of the leading community members together with people at the university, both graduate students and faculty members who could connect work that they’re doing with imminent situations in Buffalo.”

It’s a challenge to academics to extend their work beyond the theoretical and into the community, and for community groups to engage the university and make use of its valuable, often locally applicable, research. And, above both of those things, it’s about “eroding this line between university and community, as though the university wasn’t part of the community already,” Hickerson says.

Click here to download a complete schedule and listing of speakers.

Friday, April 4 @ 8:30am. Karpeles Manuscript Museum (222 North St., Buffalo). Free.

Saturday, April 5 @ 9am. King Urban Life Center (938 Genesee St., Buffalo. Free.

  • Derek Atknison

    Do not become another Seattle!! Seatown used to be a city that at one time had funky flair to it. Now it’s all about Condo’s,Condo’s and more Condo’s,killing that funkiness. Please communicate w/ each other clearly on what is best for the People of Buffalo.