Louis Grachos, director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, is Canadian-born, the son of post-WWII immigrants from Greece. True, he's taken up residency here from across the lake as opposed to the pond, or the sea, but he has made Buffalo his home, one he has embraced since his school days.
Grachos' early relationship with Buffalo began as a matter of art—field trips that his savvy art teacher in his home of Toronto shared with her students. The Albright-Knox was a destination and a muse for Grachos early on, long before he would make a conscious decision to spend a life immersed in an interactive art environment. He believes in and has worked toward an interactive environment, whether with community involvement, or the "re-mix" of contemporary and classical art he strives for with gallery installations.
So, even though Louis Grachos can take a five-minute ride to his motherland, his relocation to America, and more specifically to Buffalo, speaks of his devotion to his location of choice and his loyalty to the Albright-Knox. It's the discoveries Grachos has made since moving here that root him to the community. Though he said that his first seven to ten trips here were made straight to the gallery, it's the side trips that he's taken that impress him.
"I'm impressed by the lair of cultural institutions…Hallwalls…and other components…all these smaller non-profits and other types of arts. Not just one or two museums," he said. "And there's some really great throw-back qualities to life here…an urban zoo. In my early visits, I never took the opportunity to discover the neighborhoods and architecture that make living here very special. I never went to see the mansions up and down Delaware."
When Grachos arrived at the Knox, he was able to make terrific things happen. "I worked to activate and implement the strategic plan that was in place—a guiding light to define and build programs to make the gallery community interactive and focus on the mission of a modern/contemporary plane and working with the permanent collection in new and exciting ways. Thus was born Remix, which involves ongoing groupings that give us the opportunity to bring out artwork that has been hidden in storage.
"I'm really excited about building stronger ties with the audience. Gusto at the Gallery has helped build a diverse audience—the people feel welcome, and the staff is collaborative. I see the museum growing through dance, music, theater, performing arts. We have great colleagues in the culturals," Grachos said.
Grachos' relatives landed in Detroit, Michigan; London, Ontario; Montreal and Toronto. His parents met and courted in Greece, and when his father was in the Greek Army, his mother's family immigrated to Canada. Once he was out of the service, Grachos' father, a mechanic with the United Nations, followed. Grachos' working class parents appreciated the excellence of the public schools in Toronto in the 1950's and 60's, where he was always encouraged to make art. He went to college at the University of Toronto initially, and latched onto art history. Then, during a year at NYU, his career ideas really opened up.
The next move had him interning at SFMOMA in San Francisco, and then the Whitney in Laguna Beach for more than a year. This, Grachos said, was his turning point in contemporary art and the role curation plays in it. He thoroughly enjoyed his time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, saying that the community, full of artists and writers, created quite a scene. "The ratio of artists is high." Perhaps that's part of what Grachos is working at here, by expanding the scope of the gallery to all forms of art, he can spin an arts community that centers on the Albright.
Grachos still goes back to Toronto from time to time, but mostly for his son's hockey tournaments and to visit his parents. As long as he's able to mix and remix in Buffalo, he's found a happy home here.