Tony Billoni on the History of Artists and Models – Buffalo Rising 6/11/14

Tony Billoni on the History of Artists & Models

Hallwalls interview with founder of Artists & Models (learn more here):

Tony, what was the origin of the Artists & Models Affair?

In the early 1980s after being Performance Art Curator at Hallwalls and being among a number of original music musicians from Kenmore, I started booking shows with music and films in some less traditional clubs around town. I had made a lot of connections in NYC and a couple bands/artists from Buffalo had located there so I would go down to visit often. It was the time of Danceateria, Mudd, Hurrah, Area and others that consciously mixed art, live music, DJ/dancing into a sprawling eclectic experience. I said, “We need to do this in Buffalo!!” I was in a relationship with painter Catherine Howe, Steve Gallagher had just made it to town and my friend/fellow party thrower Bernie DeVille all joined in the fun of throwing off-kilter parties at unusual settings like Little Harlem and on boats.

1-Tony-Billoni-Buffalo-NYWhy did organizing such An event even occur to you?

A couple of touchstones – Sometime in early 1980s, the Albright-Knox restaged with Don Metz/EBMA a HPSCHD happening, where people were playing pianos all over the place and films were projected on stretched fabric. Then I went to my first opening of the then Western New York show and saw more than 1000 people in an art setting – something I never saw in Buffalo. When I asked where everyone was going after there was no single answer. I thought, take the free-floating wandering art experience I saw in NYC and give this huge art-infused crowd something to do after.

Why did you use the title “Artists & Models?”

As other artists/supporters became involved we soaked up many suggestions. A fellow named Willie (Bernhard?) suggested Artists & Models as a throwback to similar parties held in NYC in the 1950s. After we started, older arts people told us it reminded them of a Beaux Arts Ball held for a few years in the early 60s.

Did the event change or transform froM its original intent?

Our original goal was to show, unvarnished, the power of our local art community to people that would never think of stepping inside the Albright, much less Hallwalls. By combining visual, media and performance art with a dance floor and a DJ playing cutting edge music heard in no club in Buffalo, and a well-run well-stocked bar, we had all the elements to appeal to a broad audience – artists, art lovers, fashionistas, punks, rockers, clubbers, bar-goers, gays and tourists. The other key element was to locate it in a building no one had traditionally seen as a nightlife venue that was large enough to create several separate environ- ments to give attendees many hours of new experiences; also allowing people that came together to split up and have many different stories to tell afterward.

Not much changed from that blueprint. People came and people left the small group of key planners. It was mostly me and Steve Gallagher and Arthur Karpati for the first 6-7 years. As we got popular, more people wanted to get involved. I still meet people for the first time who tell me they were in this or that A&M. It got so that I would meet with 8-10 organizers and they would go out and get people to populate their installation. We started inventing some provocative theme for people to rally around, but never took it that seriously to not let something in that looked like a mind-blower. We moved away from featuring a live band early on and made sure the DJs got a full night of spinning. It was one of the most popular parts of the event. Some people would come just for that and dance all night.

Can you share some of the notable moments from your history with the event?

Steve Gallagher’s postmodern stage pageants were always a gas. We had a guy paint himself bronze to emerge from a card- board trilon & perisphere re-creation of the New York World’s Fair. It was cool but he was a real pain in the ass! Everything that David Butler has done is a notable moment. All of Bruce Adams’ pieces were amazing. Proud that we were able to bring Brent Scott to make what is for many the most enduring A&M image – Nancy Parisi shrinkwrapped in plastic hanging from a block and tackle. We had a group of sexy young women become the PMMS – Post-Modern Militant Sisterhood who would go to couples and steal a male or female date to make out with; Steve organized a salon d’refuse of all the artists that submitted to the Albright and were not included; Gina Sully and Lynn Herzog were the primary designers who held up the “Models” end constructing a spectacular fashion show each year. Once the head of a venue called the cops to close the event because he thought art by Frederick Seton was pornographic. Favorite locations include Shea’s, old Sample Shop on Hertel and where Darcy McGee’s is on Franklin.

Why did you eventually bequeath the event to Hallwalls?

By the early 1990s, most of the original team had fallen off and the new group, while eager, were young and didn’t quite get the “work” side of making the party happen. Plus, I had started travelling for a job I had so I didn’t think I would be around enough to make it happen. I also did not want see it just disappear like many storied fun events in Buffalo social history. I started talking to Hallwalls as the most likely beneficiary, since they had been a feeder/friend for most of our existence. I also offered to consult for a few years to help them get the timing, the workload and the mix to a point where they could begin to play with it while making the most of the successful elements.

Seems to have turned out that way!


Following are the performance details of the event…

LIZ BAYAN who will be producing a series of masks of herself so that the A&M audience can pose with them and the artist can properly take selfies…with herself.

SETH TYLER BLACK who present a performance piece exploring the seven deadly sins, which he promises will change and decay until it is “rendered chaos/hell at the end of the night.”


MICHAEL BOSWORTH whose building an oversized pinball machine full of sound and fury but signifying nothing, a spectacle alternating between play and tilt.


NELSON BRADLEY who is organizing the First Annual A&M Indoor Kite Festival.

1-David-Butler-Buffalo-NYDAVID BUTLER who is the mac daddy of Artists & Models, having performed in more events than any other Buffalo artist (ever), will offer up his truck in a one-car Auto Show, including warranty information, loan applications, and a b-roll of the defectively sexy vehicle in action.

1-Butler-Merritt-Zayatz-Buffalo-NYKYLE BUTLER, RUBY MERRITT, NECOLE ZAYATZ who will offer the audience health and wellness time in their Clinic For Well Being, a social performance and functioning pseudo-clinic with reception desk and pharmacy.

SCOTT BYE who will present new and recently-produced sculptural works.

JODY HANSON who will present a blackboard-based sculpture as a tribute to the geeks, visionaries, and savants of the world.

KYLE MARLER & JAX DELUCA who, as the conglomerate FLATSITTER, will use an Oculus Rift helmet to invite the audience to experience a virtual landscape of unsettling sights and sounds.


KEITH HARRINGTON who will offer audience members a rapid fire photo booth with selective backdrops and loading messages, which will project their portraits in a continuous live feed elsewhere in the event.


LIZ LESSNER & ADAM McFILLIN who will explore the gestural nature of speech in an audio piece located in the stairwell recording live sounds from two sources and remixing the recording in pitch and modulation for a live feedback.


1-Jeff-Mace-Buffalo-NYJEFF MACE who will present an oversized turntable sculpture in a sentimental nod to songs he recalls from his grammar school years, which will be mixed and played from the sculpture.

1-Jimyn-The-Singing-Mime-Buffalo-NYJIMYN THE SINGING MIME who will roam the space in order to solicit guests to perform and sing with him in various short skits.

BUFFALO LAB who have promised a transtemporal booth, training workstations, and other technologies all culled together in an effort to travel back in time. To kill Hitler.

MARTY McGEE who will present a Defect-Effect Test Zone, which will ask the audience to follow instructions and replicate various movements and vocalized sounds.

Model: Gina McGinnis

BRIAN MILBRAND & HOLLY JOHNSON who will present the Glamorandom Beauty Salon, where visitors can explore a full body makeover and leave with a complementary photograph of your salon experience.

1-Kurt-Von-Voetsch-Buffalo-NYKURT VON VOETSCH who will be doing a performative dance with the dead, with tombstone rubbings, with himself, with the fates.

NANCY J. PARISI who will revive her perennial A&M photo booth, situated appropriately close to the outdoor beer tent.

LIZ RYWELSKI who will dress in homage to Shaye Saint John and play ping pong with you.

1-Tara-Sasiadek-Buffalo-NYTARA SASIADEK who will organize a cluster of dancers into a moving spine sculpture.

CHUCK TINGLEY who will be painting live for the duration.

1-Rich-Tomasello-Marcus-Wise-Buffalo-NYRICH TOMASELLO & MARCUS WISE who will present a action figure box/photo booth in which audience members can have their portrait taken in a customized setting under various titles: Artist, Curator, Hero, Jerk, Villain, Asshole…

LORNA MILLS who will be offering up a curated projection of gif loops entitled Clusterfuck Zoo and featuring the work of 51 international artists.

1-Sara-Zak-Buffalo-NYSARA ZAK who will be painting live for the duration.

As should be apparent from those shotgun descriptions, almost all installations and performances include elements through which the audience can be engaged directly with the artwork. Our participating artists are sharing their defective selves with your defective self and they know that sometimes that a meeting of defective hearts and minds requires direct action.

True to Artists & Models original Billoni-blueprint, the majority of the musical entertainment this year will be provided by a series of DJ sets, featuring:






And, as has been the case for several years, spontaneous live musical augmentation will be provided by Buffalo’s 12/8 Path Band.






@ The Garage 151 East Eagle Street at Michigan, just a few blocks from the Hotel Lafayette in beautiful downtown Buffalo, NY

SATURDAY, JUNE 21, 2014 | 9PM TO 1AM

TICKETS $15 Advance | $20 At the door | $15 Students at the door (with ID)

Tickets available at:

Hallwalls (in person, online, or phone 716.854.1694716.854.1694)

Talking Leaves…Books (both locations)


Farmers & Artisans

Rust Belt Books


7:30 to 9pm

$50 per person

Hors d’oeuvres, wine, beer

Entertainment by ABCDJ

Food Trucks On Site


Lloyd Taco

Betty Crockski

Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs