Girl in the Buff: Make Art Public!

by / Oct. 5, 2016 12am EST

I love my city. I want to scream it from the rooftops, I want to write it on the walls. 

Not everyone is down on this place. Public art is a way to visually describe a community’s inner workings, to put down a painting of our collective pride and capture a vibrant moment of life in action. Community-based art is monumentally important. I was blown away by Brooklyn artist Amanda Browder’s Spectral Locus, located at the Albright-Knox building on Elmwood. The fabric was donated by the community and sewn together with the artist. The project was a ray of sunshine: I applaud the community involvement, and I was sad to see it get taken down. Buildings wrapped in hippy patchwork brilliance, almost as if we were in a dream, they were temporary in order to be appreciated. I wanted to walk barefoot around them. They caused people to explore—maybe not as much as Pokemon Go, but hey, this is just art. 

New York City-based artist Alice Mizrachi worked with local students from Byron Brown’s summer youth program to create and execute the Dream Keepers mural on the side of Buffalo Artspace. I enjoyed riding by while Baltimore artists Jessie and Katey painted the Noodle in the Northern Lights mural in the theater district, bringing life and playful movement to the wall. I tried to find out about the faded Entertainment mural above 710, but couldn’t find any info. 

The Albright-Knox’s “You Are Beautiful” billboards and stickers from Chicago artist Matthew Hoffman just make you feel good, I saw it painted big in New Orleans. I love finding those stickers around. Another piece that I rather enjoy is the art for art’s sake sculpture Shark Girl by Ohio artist Casey Riorden Millard. I think a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sculpture should be next. I also love Cool Globes, referencing climate change, here until November. I love but am still distracted by the pretty lights on the silos. Then there was that giant duck…

There is so much awesome new public art happening in Buffalo by out-of-town artists. Their work is incredible, and in no way am I discounting it, but I think it is counterproductive to outsource. Outsider voices are essential and showcase fresh perspectives, but I know so many incredible local artists screaming for attention, ready to explode on the walls and hearts of their beloved hometown. People live here, love here, die here, and make art here. Home is where your story is told.          

Buffalo has so many stories, none of which involve a giant duck. We need to celebrate the diversity of local talent that makes this place glow. My friends, local up-and-coming artists, deserve to make money from their art and pay those art school loans, just like the kids from Brooklyn. 

The Buffalo Public Art Initiative is sponsored by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. They are “committed to visual innovation and community engagement” for both permanent and ephemeral works. It is awesome that money and time is being dedicated to the production and display of public art in Buffalo.

Buffalo artists Bruce Adams and Augustina Droze (who also created Grant Street Global Voices with local children) painted large pop art murals on Elmwood and Bidwell and in the Cobblestone district. The Allen Street Art Collective created huge, colorful work dedicated to local artist Spain Rodriguez as well as works on Allen Street Hardware. Buffalo artist Daniel Galas created a new black and gold mural at 72 Jewett Street with different scenes from the community at large. Shasti O’Leary Soudant is one of my favorite local art stars: Check out her large, colorful piece, Gut Flora, in the Allen Street NFTA station. 

Some of my favorite local public art is by Bre Zo. Her beautiful figures are magical and scattered as wheat pastes across Buffalo. I also really love Chow Monstro’s work; his most visible emblem is the Mickey Mouse skull. Max Collins’s Push on Grant is beautiful. Chuck Tingley is an incredible muralist—one of my favorites is a small painting of a woman painted on a utility box on Elmwood. Nietzsche’s Without Music Life Is a Mistake is an incredible addition to a local live music mecca by local muralists Yames and Tom Holt, who also painted the Could Be Wild building and are part of the new Pine Apple art collective and shop at 224 Allen. 

Perhaps the most emotional recent public art piece is Ray of Light, a mural  of peace doves painted on the opening of Masten Park, in honor of a mother of seven who was murdered. It is a project sponsored by the city and her family. 

We need to be more like Montreal, which hosts a huge street art/mural festival each year celebrating local and worldwide artists. Philadelphia hosts more than 3,600 murals; they started their initiative in the 1980s to combat graffiti.

Buffalo artists need to hit up business owners and get their art in windows and on buildings. The ideal is to get paid, but sometimes in order to get your images visible, you need to be creative. It is illegal to “deface” private or public property, and not all of us are Banksy, so be careful and know the repercussions.

Why are there blank, peeling walls when they can be filled with new art? Why are there out-of-work artists when there is so much work that needs to be done? When artists come from another city they have an edge, a mystique, an air of coolness and extreme new that a local might not have. 

What we do have is heart and emotional connection to those walls. They are our walls—let’s reclaim them!