GO-Art! gallery in Batavia features photos of opera house in Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 June 2016 at 12:00 am

Photo by Walter Jakubowski – This and other photos of the Pratt Opera House in Albion are featured in an exhibit at the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council in Batavia. There is an opening reception today from 5 to 8 p.m. at the gallery, 201 East Main St., Batavia.

BATAVIA – An Albion photographer has documented the restoration efforts at the Pratt Opera House, a transformation that shows the floor of historic site covered with pigeon droppings and bird carcasses to a space that has been cleaned, sanded and refurbished.

The Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council is displaying photographs of the work at Pratt Opera House, an exhibit that opened June 7 and continues until Aug. 30. There is an opening reception today from 5 to 8 p.m. at the GO Art! gallery in Batavia from 5 to 8 p.m. The gallery is located at 201 East Main St.

One of Jakubowski’s photos shows a ticket from a performance at the Pratt Theatre.

Walter Jakubowski of Albion photographed much of the restorative work at the opera house from 2013 to 2015, highlighting the efforts by the building’s owners, Michael Bonafede and his wife Judith Koehler.
The exhibit also includes old seating charts and some historic photos of the Pratt, where construction on the third floor building started in 1890.

The opera house seated 400 and hosted numerous plays, theater events and other live performances. By World War II, the opera house was largely dormant and its chairs removed so the steel could be salvaged during the scrap metal drives.

The opera house would spend about 70 years pretty much out of the public eye. The site was falling in disrepair when Bonafede and Koehler purchased it in 2005. The couple was on the tour with former Congressman John LaFalce and former Albion Mayor Ed Salvatore. The mayor asked the Bonafede family to take on the project, seeing a restored opera house as a major draw for Albion.

The family has done extensive work on the opera house and the entire building. The opera house has more work to be done.

Photo by Tom Rivers – Walter Jakubowski is pictured in May 2015 when he was setting up his exhibit on the Pratt Opera House at the Salih Studio in Albion.

“My goal artistically was to produce images which evoke the spirit of what once was a lively cultural landmark of a small Historic community along the Erie Canal,” Jakubowski said in an artist statement. “Within this space of grandeur, remembrances of spirited times past await in repose with perhaps a hope of a future awakening.”

Jakubowski wanted to document the efforts by Bonafede and Koehler, and also highlight an important building in Albion’s history. Jakubowski said generations of people have been driving by the building without seeing or appreciating the opera house. He wanted them to get a glimpse of the grandeur.

“I think a lot of people aren’t aware of what’s up there,” he told the Orleans Hub last year. “It’s tucked up on the third floor and people don’t see it or think about it.”