City of Night, Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo, Artist and Preservationist – Dana Saylor – Part I

ELAB Board

ELAB Board before City of Night! Dana is in the center with the awesome glasses!

I recently had the pleasure of meeting one of Buffalo’s hardest working individuals, Dana Saylor. If you’re not quite sure who she is, then let me introduce you to her. If you have stepped foot at City Of Night, Live Art at the Ruins with Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo, or any number of workshops and events they (ELAB) have held, then Dana has had a hand in your experience. She was quite modest as we sat down for our interview, compelled to remind me of all the people who work with her to make these things happen.


Meet Dana Saylor

So without further ado, here we go. Not originally from Buffalo, Dana grew up in Sterling, NY. Some of you may have been to the Renaissance Festival held there annually; it’s located about 45 minutes North of Syracuse. Growing up in a small rural area, she said, “I felt that since I was 6 years old, that I’d be an artist.” She also was acutely aware that Sterling would not provide the artist’s life she craved. While at Oswego State, she met her husband, and they relocated to Utica, NY. It was here that her interest in the history of the Mohawk Valley, Grain Mills, Architecture and especially the Erie Canal, became a movement for her. Utica has some great late 19th and early 20th Century Architecture as well as landmarks such as the Stanley Theatre. Then in 2008, Dana and her husband were planning on moving to an area that could support their love of the architecture and the arts. She had toured areas such as Pittsburgh and New York City, but it was a visit to her cousin in Buffalo that started the love affair with the Queen City. “We had never been to Buffalo before, and realistically it blew our minds,” she said. “The conception that Central New York has of Buffalo is nowhere near the reality.” Within a month they made the decision to move to Buffalo. “My cousin showed us Elmwood Village and Buffalo’s West Side, and that was it. We were headed here in October of 2008”.

“Traditional skilled craftsmanship has not been lost. What has been lost is the willingness to pay for it.” – Vincent Kuntz


Told you she’s an artist! Oh she’s on Etsy if you’d like to see her prints!

Dana is an artist first, and an activist and preservationist second. While speaking to her, she reminded me that the goal of ELAB was to help change the public perception of art and history. She also pointed out that “things like City of Night were put together to help raise awareness of Art and Buffalo’s history to mass crowds in an effort to perpetuate economic support of artists in general.” Hence, the quote you see above. Dana made some great arguments that the term “Starving Artist,” was not just a generalization, but the real deal. She also pointed out that “We’ve been paying the artists since the beginning in 2012, and they’ve continued to receive modest honorariums, though we hope to do more for our participating artists in the future.” It’s important to say that ELAB and Buffalo’s artists are not being greedy. They do, however, feel that there is a value that should be placed on their art or wares. Dana also stated “ELAB uses the proceeds of City of Night for additional programming and events year-round, all of which support and encourage the work of Buffalo’s emerging artists.”

In the end putting more money in their pockets will increase their economic footprint locally, and hopefully this will result in bettering the community as well. She added that ELAB is interested in doing things to better communities through involvement with local residents on a day-to-day basis. But lets not get ahead of ourselves, I have a few things to talk about before we get into that.

“The harness of waterfalls is the most economical method known for drawing energy from the sun.” Nikola Tesla

City of Night is a play on the term City of Light, which is what Buffalo was being called during the 1901 Pan American Exposition. That was not the most important thing to come from the Exposition, but it seems that Buffalo has oddly been striving to live up to that declaration for over 100 years now. The power for the lights, of course, came from the mighty Niagara Falls, which lit the whole city up when the sun set in the west. City of Night is not on the scale of the Pan American Exposition, but is–in my opinion–one of the most unique events in Buffalo’s history. It may also be the most unique thing to happen to Buffalo since the Exposition over 113 years ago!

Art at City of Night! Photo by Erica Morano.

Art at City of Night! Photo by Erica Morano.

The play on words took me three years to get. Yeah, I didn’t see it; so sue me. But the event itself has drawn over 30,000 visitors in the last two years alone! Couple that with little to no outbreaks of fighting over the past few years, and this seems down right family-oriented in my book (see Buffalo Bills tailgating incidents for issues with drinking at large events). Dana stated that this year they hired “20 armed guards to satisfy insurance requirements, 12 more than in 2013,” but in reality there was little to no need for such security. That was apparent to all the parents with kids along with artists and people of all walks of life who meandered around the event. Dana made a point to say that “this is what it’s about, being able to bring large groups together to explore and celebrate Buffalo’s history as well as its art.”

Wow that’s a lot of info, so this is it for Part I. Tune in next week for the second part to my interview with Dana Saylor! I promise you’ll enjoy it!

If you’d like to see more of Dana’s Art then check her out on Etsy!


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