New murals will add to Buffalo’s cityscape

More than five murals will be created in the next few months.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo’s newest mural will soon be taking shape right before our eyes.

A freshly repainted white wall at the 710 Main Theatre will soon become an abstract geometric design, the work of a pair of Baltimore artists.

“It will be an opportunity for us to have an impact presentation of world class art,” said Aaron Ott, Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s director of public art.

That’s just the beginning.

Murals are colorful dramatic splashes of public art that are changing Buffalo’s cityscape.

“It’s really an exciting time,” said Catherine Gillespie, chair of the City of Buffalo Arts Commission.

“A few years ago murals were few and far between and they are beginning to become ubiquitous,” said Bruce Adams, a painter who has also done murals.  “They are starting to pop up everywhere.”

More than five major murals are launching soon all over Buffalo from the Theater District (710 Main Street Theatre) and Main Street (BCAT Building at 1221 Main St.) to the Niagara River shoreline, (along the bike trail) Elmwood Village (at least two, locations not announced yet) and North Buffalo (74 Jewett Parkway).

Each mural captures a slice of Buffalo with its bold colors, images and stories.

“Murals are a really dynamic form,” said Ott.  “They allow for a lot of content to be decided by the community. It can be a reflection of different cultures, different regions, different spaces.”

Buffalo artists Bruce Adams and Augustina Droze have collaborated on three major area murals:

“The Feast” on Elmwood at Bidwell

In the City of Lockport, a giant mural tells the story of that city’s Erie Canal history.

And the most celebrated, the “Go!” mural on the south side of 95 Perry St in the Cobblestone District.

The building owner, Sam Savarino wanted a mural to reflect the waterfront. The artists came up with a bold, colorful Bauhaus-inspired design with the images of grain mills, sailboats and machinery,

Visible from the Skyway, the mural has captured the public’s imagination

“I hear from people all of the time that you can see it from the Skyway and it’s just one of those things that people orient themselves by. They can say, it’s near the mural and I think it’s kind of exciting when a piece of art becomes a landmark in the community,” said Adams.

“Ray of Light,” Buffalo’s most recent mural mixes paint, glass and tiles to create a dramatic new entrance into Masten Park on the city’s East Side.

t grew out of a family’s desire to bring hope and honor to a mother of seven who was murdered.

It’s also become a collaboration between the family and the city.

“This wall is owned by the city  but not all places that are art in public places have to be owned by the city,” said Gillespie.

An important role in any mural project is making sure the mural wall is property prepared.

“The city is very careful and the arts commission is very careful about making sure that when a mural is put up that the preparation is done and the walls are prepared so the artwork can last,” said Gillespie.  “We don’t want people to spend the time, the energy and the love of putting it up and having it crumble. We really do encourage people to prepare the walls well and the city will help with that if it’s in a public place.”

The commission is launching another mural along the Niagara River trail. Like many mural projects this one is a competition. Artists are coming up with their visions for the long wall near Broderick Park which is barely visible to passersby or bicyclists on the trail.

And in Riverside, a recently finished mural on the side of an AMVETS Medallion Post #13 at 25 Review Place near Tonawanda Street celebrates patriotism and a community’s pride

“To me it’s just a real sense of pride not only being a veteran and honoring all past and present veterans and the branches of service with all of the different emblems up there but  it instills a sense of pride back in the Black Rock and Riverside communities. We’ve been really cast as a negative stereotype in the past couple of years,” said George Fitzpatrick, president of the River Rock Community Coalition.

Fitzpatrick said the project started as a solution to graffiti. They were happy to enlist Buffalo mural artist Vinny Alejandro, a veteran who immediately put his vision into the mural.

“We gave him a couple of ideas,” said Fitzpatrick.  “We obviously wanted to install a patriotic theme, this being an AMVET Post but we also wanted to give him free reign, with being a veteran himself and seeing his previous works, to kind of whatever came while he was working as an artistic muse to just go with it.”

While Buffalo has dozens of murals around the city, it is still way behind other cities that have turned murals into public attractions.

The gold standard is Philadelphia which started creating murals in 1984 to fight graffiti. It now has over 3,600 murals depicting the city’s art, culture, history and politics.

“The more art we have whether it be temporary or permanent it really does make a difference,” said Gillespie. “In Philadelphia they noticed that people go down to whether it’s Society Hill or South Street to look at the murals. And that’s what would be wonderful here too.”

The city is getting to the point where murals can become an attraction, said Ott.

“It allows for a lot of different kinds of expression. You can celebrate an artist’s style, you can celebrate a geographical location or history or different aspects of civic pride,” said Ott.

“When all of that comes together, and you have multiple locations you begin to set up this feeling that you can go place to place and know you’ve arrived and see something special at every different location.”

For the first time in many years, Buffalo is setting aside $40,000 for public art.

The push came from North District Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. who would like to fund at least one mural on the south side of 114 Elmwood Avenue in Allentown, home of the Latin American Cultural Center and  its storefront, El Buen Amigo but he needs to get support from the full council.

Mural supporters say the $40,000 can only cover one or two murals. Their hope is that continuing funding will allow for others in the future.

City ordinance does have a mechanism to encourage public art.  All projects that get city funding must set aside at least one percent of the project for public art which can include murals.

Some private developers are willingly adding murals or other public art to enhance their projects.

Savarino said the idea for the mural came from his daughter Julia and it has turned out to be something that his tenants are really happy about.

“We want to make sure developers know that putting artwork in public places in their projects  not only enhances the city but it enhances the value of their project,” said Gillespie.

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