Long Story Short: on Wright, pride, and a classic couple


illustration by JP Thimot



Buffalo is home of the first…

It doesn’t really matter what comes next. When it’s national news and Buffalo’s mentioned in a positive light, it could be, “…home of the first scotch tape dispenser recycling plant,” and we would fist pump, YES! But when it’s something as important as the first experimental opioid addiction intervention court, it’s a genuine source of pride. And when that news is promptly followed by more positive national press about Buffalo’s entrepreneurial potential, it’s enough to induce a drug-free high.


The details:

A year ago, County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz announced that Buffalo’s population gains of the past twenty years would be wiped out by opioid deaths in two years. It was a bit of hyperbole but it spotlighted the seriousness of the problem. The city’s three-year, $300,000 dollars opiate treatment pilot program, funded by the U.S. Justice Department, actually began May 1, but last week the Associated Press picked up the story and it became international news. The forward thinking concept puts treatment ahead of punishment. Users who test positive for heroin or prescription opiates are put into treatment within hours of arrest. They check in with a judge daily, adhere to a strict curfew, and attend daily drug counseling. Case managers from University at Buffalo Family Medicine enforce curfews, do wellness checks, and transport patients. City Court Judge Craig Hannah presides over the program with Atticus Finch like compassion, with the primary goal of saving lives. This is progressive thinking from a city not known for being progressive, and the results so far are promising.


On the heels of that national news, Buffalo was named by Entrepreneur Magazine as the second of eight “Cities Whose Entrepreneurship Communities Are Booming.” The story mentions Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billions Fund, and our decision to invest in infrastructure that still exists, including financial services, biotech, sports science, and education. Then they dropped the B word! Buffalo, they say, is a former factory town that is now “booming.” San Diego was named #1, but we ranked above Richmond, Va., Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C., New Orleans, Cincinnati, Nashville, and Baltimore.


The takeaway:

Maybe it’s time to stop talking proud, and let the rest of the country do it for us.



What’s up?

Martin and Lewis, Sonny and Cher, Brad and Angelina, and now—say it ain’t so—Cellino and Barnes. You probably already heard, the lawyer team you love to hate is headed for splitsville. Cellino is suing Barnes to dissolve their longstanding partnership.


The details:

News of the iconic attorneys’ pending split made it into the New York Times, New York Post, People, USA Today, and the British Daily Mail Online, among others. The breakup is ugly. Unsealed court papers reveal “longstanding” “internal dissention” involving employment issues (Barnes won’t hire Cellino’s kids), aggressive client poaching practices, disagreement about on which coast they should focus their efforts, and a myriad of others.  


In various reports, Ross Cellino is described as the nice guy and family man, a West Seneca native who bought the Harvest Hill Golf Course so he could provide country club quality at public course rates. University of Buffalo Law school graduate Steve Barnes is described as the shark, the risk-taking former Desert Storm Marine who almost made it to the top of Mount Everest before becoming seriously ill. Together they are the Bert and Ernie of billboard attorneys, the poster boys of oily ambulance-chasers. Each day, countless Buffalonians catch themselves involuntarily singing, “Cellino and Barnes...injury attorneys...call 888-8888.”


Yet, here’s the thing; U.S. News ranks them the #1 Best Law Firm for Personal Injury Litigation. They take on cases others don’t. They are willing to go to trial to fight for their clients, many of whom say they truly care. Love them or hate them, you have to give them props. They changed the personal injury litigation industry with their ground-breaking media saturation approach to advertising—the billboards, the jingle, the incessant radio and TV ads. Watch those commercials featuring young, good looking “clients” who say things like, “After my motorcycle accident Cellino and Barnes got me $1.5 million dollars, twelve times more than insurance offered.” Freeze frame on the fine print: “Paid actors illustrating actual cases.” Slick. Now note how the smiling lawyers appear against a white screen without interacting or coming into contact.


The takeaway:

Admit it; you will miss those ubiquitous billboards dotting the roadside, which along with the jingle and ads have become as much a part of the Buffalo landscape as chicken wings and Bills Jerseys.



What’s up?

Seven original Frank Lloyd Wright art glass windows find their way home to the Darwin Martin House Complex in Buffalo.


The details:

Seven years ago I visited The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Browsing the design collection, I was startled to find a Tree of Life window, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Darwin Martin Complex in Buffalo. That belongs in the Martin house, I thought. The Darwin Martin House—considered by scholars to be one of Wright’s greatest achievements—was neglected for decades throughout the mid-twentieth century, when Wright fell out of favor as the International Style of architecture rose. During those years the house’s windows and furnishings were sold, often cheaply. Wright is now considered perhaps America’s greatest architect, and the Martin House has undergone an extensive fifteen-year restoration.


Today most of the 394 art glass windows are scattered throughout the world in museums and private collections, including the de Young Museum in San Francisco, Corning Museum of Glass, Milwaukee Art Museum, Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, The Art Institute of Chicago, and Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2011, Christie’s auctioned two Martin windows for $62,500 and $104,500 dollars.


Representatives for the non-profit Martin House Restoration Corporation have made repeated requests for the return of the windows, though they have no claim on them, since all were obtained legitimately. Remarkably, the University of Victoria in Canada, which owns seven of the valuable art glass works, announced that it will return them to the house where they once belonged. The University was under no obligation to return the works. In a posted statement, Mary Jo Hughes, director of Legacy Art Galleries says, “This decision reflects our university’s ongoing commitment to artistic stewardship and heritage preservation. We are grateful for these five decades with this exquisite collection of art glass. And we know we are doing the ‘Wright’ thing by reuniting them with their original home and within a meaningful context.”   The donation will occur in October, after a farewell exhibition in the University’s Legacy Art Gallery. 


The takeaway:

Many, if not most, collectors and institutions that own these works, obtained them inexpensively. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they all felt a similar sense of historical responsibility as our Canadian friends at the University of Victoria? Hats off to Victoria.


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