By Brian Nowak
The Buffalo iNFRINGEMENT Festival is entering its 13th year as strong as ever before. It’s mission statement says the festival is a “non-commercial, non-hierarchical endeavor dedicated to experimental, controversial, and anti-establishment artwork of all forms. Taking place in multiple venues in and around Buffalo’s Allentown District, the festival is an annual 11-day event running from the last weekend of July through the first weekend of August.”
The first Buffalo iNFRINGEMENT Festival was held July 28th through August 7th, 2005. Since then, the festival has grown in size, duration, and number of locations. iNFRINGEMENT began in the back rooms of 11 bookshops and bars 13 years ago. For most of that time, it was an underground festival. Today, there are 84 indoor and outdoor venues all over the city of Buffalo.
Early on, the festival was billed as “the Buffalo iNFRINGEMENT Festival: 11 days of art under the radar.” These days, it’s marketed as “11 days of art beyond the radar.” Even though it has grown considerably since its inception, iNFRINGEMENT has stayed true to its original vibe and general mission. The festival has “mushroomed into a vibrant festival involving scores of artists and a myriad of art forms – theatre, performance art, interpretive dance, cabaret, staged readings, street theatre, rap, and poetry slams, as well as cutting edge film, music, and multi-media work.”
Heather Gring, and organizer with the festival, spoke with The Collective News about Buffalo iNFRINGEMENT:
“The nature of iNFRINGEMENT is always shifting, but what remains constant is the spirit of inclusive, accessible, and explosive art all over the city of Buffalo. The performers (visual artists, musicians, writers, performers, and film makers) change from year to year, but the weirdness and exploration is constant. For example, Michelle Costa, a master puppetteer, have been with us many years creating incredible heart-expanding works.”
iNFRINGEMENT is organized by 12 volunteers and dependes heavily on voluntary community support. Around 360 different acts are taking part in the festival, with 80% being Buffalonians and Western New Yorkers. The acts will be performing at locations throughout Buffalo.
Gring tells us that “iNFRINGEMENT is based on an exchange/barter model of shared resources. The artists share their creativity, people share their space, and the audience shares their attention and documentation.”
Buffalo’s City Hall’s permit office has no clear way to classify Buffalo iNFRINGEMENT. Even though it’s a festival, it’s very decentralized, with a number of performers acting pretty much independent of the organizers beyond participating under the iNFRINGEMENT banner. Over the 11 days, Heather Gring says well over 1000 people will come out to the various performances: “does programming a single violinist in a park warrant a permit, that we, a loose collective, have to pay for?”
Community support is expanding every year as iNFRINGEMENT gets more attention and exposure. The outdoor presence by performers draws larger crowds and new performers. Among the new attractions, Heather mentions the shows on Grant Street among her favorite. There are “lots of group shows where you can see many different types of performers. Lots of performers out and about during Garden Walk, too!”
Buffalo iNFRINGEMENT is growing every year, and all signs point to the festival having a bright future. “We need more people excited about organizing other artists to perform! We especially need tech people (who know database design!!!), literary and film organizers. We need the city of Buffalo to understand that our only goal is to continue to weave creativity and weirdness into the fabric of Buffalo, and keep the Buffalo arts scene vibrant and inclusive.”
The 2017 Buffalo Infringement Festival runs from Thursday, July 27 through Sunday, August 6.