Visiting Buffalo’s Native American-Owned Art Gallery

By Maria Scrivani

Published on | Last Updated

Maybe it’s high time people stopped asking, “Why Buffalo?” about anything. Maybe it’s perfectly logical that one of the newest additions to Buffalo’s already amazing and renowned art scene is a small commercial gallery on the edge of Allentown that showcases contemporary art is situated on historically Seneca Nation land. And the owner of K Art, David Kimelberg, a venture capitalist/lawyer/art collector, is a member of the Seneca Nation, whose dream to open an art gallery was realized in December 2020.

Photo: K Art

K Art is situated in one of the city’s historic buildings, near the corner of Main and Goodell, next door to the Gothic majesty of St. Louis Church, the so-called Mother Church of the Buffalo diocese. The gallery makes up about a third of the 1878 building at 808 Main Street, formerly home to Siracuse Engineers. A co-working space, K Haus, occupies another third, and finally there is the law firm, for which Kimelberg serves as namesake and managing partner. And he still maintains an office in New York City.

Ok, we’ll ask the annoying question again, why Buffalo? It’s Kimelberg’s hometown for one thing, and though he moved to the Albany area at an early age, he spent summers here, on Native land near Irving, NY, where he developed a strong awareness and connection to the maternal side of his heritage (his father, a Jewish neuroscientist, hails from London, England). Kimelberg’s mother, a teacher, was very involved in the Seneca Nation. His brother, now deceased, was chief operating officer for them. His great uncle, Cornelius Seneca, was president of the Nation in the 1960s.  

Kimelberg was living in the Boston, MA, area when he was recruited back here by the Senecas, returning to Western New York a dozen years ago. “I’d always done work for them,” he says. “And I got an offer when they were looking to move into revenue streams other than gaming.” Today he lives in Williamsville with his wife, a professor at UB teaching in the disciplines of sociology, economic development, and urban poverty, and their teenage daughter.

“This is my passion project,” he says. “I collect contemporary art, and I always wanted to open a gallery. I love the eclectic, arts-focused Allentown area. When I found this building for sale, I knew the high ceilings would be perfect for a gallery. The driving force for me was this idea that people, Native and non-Native, don’t realize there are really high-level Native artists creating contemporary artwork. We want to give more of a voice to those artists and their work.”

K Art’s newest exhibition, Watch the Sun Turn to Gold, is set to open on October 14, 2022 and will run through December 9, 2022. The work of two Toronto-based artists, Maria Hupfield, Anishinaabe-kwe of Wasauksing First Nation, and Jason Lujan, Chiricahua Apache and Mexican, will be on display. From the K Art website:

Watch the Sun Turn to Gold explores the artists and their endeavors in cosmopolitanism and communication systems. Maria Hupfield utilizes industrial grey felt – a neutral medium – as a contemporary vehicle for artistic liberation. Jason Lujan seeks communicative transparency in painting and sculpture to build relationships with the unfamiliar. In various media, both turn to the Sun to reflect and uncover new possibilities of expression and unity.

Most notable are that both artists represent themselves rather than their collective. They haven’t presented their work alongside one another since 2016. Since then, they cofounded and presented work under Native Art Department International, a collaborative project focusing on communications platforms beyond identity-based artwork.

A special public reception will be held on opening night, October 14, 2022 from 7pm to 10pm. Both artists will be present for the opening.

For Kimelberg, a dream come true is history to be shared, through contemporary Native art, in Buffalo, of course!

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K Art
808 Main St., Buffalo
www.thek.art

Maria Scrivani headshot

Maria Scrivani

Maria Scrivani is a former reporter for The Buffalo News and a contributing writer for Buffalo Spree Magazine. She is co-author of BEAUTIFUL BUFFALO: PRESERVING A CITY, wrote BRIGHTER BUFFALO: RENEWING A CITY and her latest book, a children’s guide called ALL ABOUT BUFFALO.