Buffalo is becoming quite the street art city. Not that we haven’t always had an active art scene here, it’s just that now you can’t help but notice.
Our art scene began with The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy. It was founded in December of 1862, with President Millard Fillmore, who was a Buffalonian, as one of its incorporators. The Academy used several different locations temporarily, until John Albright donated the money for a permanent structure to be built. It was placed at the edge of Delaware Park overlooking what is now Hoyt Lake. It was opened in 1905, having been renamed the Albright Art Gallery.
An addition was added to the gallery in the 1960’s, funded largely by a donation from Seymour Knox Jr., and the museum was again given a new name, the Albright Knox Art Gallery.
The Gallery is home to a vast collection of modern art and is considered to be world class. It is again undergoing a major expansion as I write this. Read more about this expansion here.
The Albright Knox is certainly not the only game in town when it comes to art. We’ve got the Birchfield Penney Art Center just across Elmwood Avenue from the Albright Knox, in addition to many, many independent galleries across the city and region.
So Buffalo already had a vibrant art scene in 2013, when the Albright Knox went into a partnership with Erie County to bring art into public spaces for the enjoyment of all. They called it called the Albright Knox Public Art Initiative. The city joined in on the action in 2014.
Boy do I wish this had been my idea! The Public Arts Initiative has, as they say, created a monster. A wonderful, endlessly creative monster. There is so much public art in Buffalo now, and so much being created practically daily, that it’s getting a bit difficult to keep up!
I’d like to share with you some of the must see murals in downtown Buffalo, and just a bit north of the downtown core, on or near Main Street. Art that is part of the Albright Knox’s Public Art Initiative is noted. The rest are funded either privately, or through donations. Note that I will be covering only murals in this series.
Artists: Augustina Droze | Bruce Adams
Located at 95 Perry Street
This collaboration won a contest put on by Savarino Properties. The design highlights the historic Cobblestone District and Buffalo’s past by incorporating machinery, grain elevators and ship’s masts. It also breeds hope for the home team of Buffalo with the woman’s face at the top yelling out Go!
Colored Musicians Club 2005
Artist: William Y. Cooper
Located at 145 Broadway
Painted by well-known Buffalo artist William Y. Cooper, these vibrant paintings fairly jump off the building, letting people who enter know just what they are in for inside this historic building. What are they in for? History. Live music. Jazz. Black, white, purple or polka dotted, if you are into jazz, this is the place for you.
Wildflowers for Buffalo 2018 – AK Public Art Initiative
Artist: Louise ‘Ouizi’ Jones
Located at 465 Washington Street
Louise Jones is a Detroit based artist with works in Detroit, LA, New York City, Shanghai and other international cities. All the flowers in this mural are native to the Buffalo area and were chosen specifically for that reason. Jones hopes that she has provided a beautiful backdrop for Buffalonians going about the business of their day, working and living in Western New York.
Freestyle Faces of Main Street | Diver & Sea Creatures 2012
Artists: Matthew ‘Ogre’ Grote | Chuck Tingley | Max Collins
Located at 515 Main Street
This mural has been around since before the AK Public Arts Initiative. All three artists have become well known in Buffalo since. These are artists who have both sanctioned and unsanctioned work in Buffalo, harkening back to the days when artists went out under cover of night, always looking over their shoulders for fear of getting caught. And by the way, the property adjacent to this mural is screaming for a Main Street pocket park. Can’t somebody make this happen?
Greetings from Buffalo 2016
Artist: Casey William Milbrand
Located at 461 Ellicott Street
This mural was funded through crowd-sourced donations and has become a mecca for Instagram selfie seekers, wedding photographers and all around general Buffalove. Casey created a custom font and drew inspiration from Buffalo City Hall’s stained glass ceiling for this mural. Milbrand’s genuine love of Buffalo shines through in this mural.
Optichromie–Buffalo 2019 – AK Public Art Initiative
Artist: Felipe Pantone
Located at Town Ballroom, 681 Main Street (Washington Street Side)
This is one of Pantone’s series of Optichromie Op Art paintings he has been working on all over the world, Buffalo being one recent installment. Albright Knox was interested in having Felipe come to Buffalo to parallel this amazing Op Art design with the extensive collection of Op Art owned and displayed by the AK. The design itself appears to resonate off the wall of the Town Ballroom, much like the live music featured inside this legendary concert venue.
Walking Back in Time 2019 – AK Public Art Initiative
Artist: Logan Hicks
Located at 5 East Huron Street
Based on a photograph taken by Hicks looking down Court Street towards Niagara Square and City Hall. He made a series of stencils to create this mural and the faces of the people are his own friends and family members.
Dream Keepers 2016 – AK Public Art Initiative
Artist: Alice Mizrachi
Located at 1221 Main Street
Mizrachi worked with Mayor Byron Brown’s summer youth program to develop the design for this mural at the Buffalo Center for the Arts and Technology. The students then completed the mural, under Mizrachi’s direction. If you look close, each student’s name is painted somewhere in the mural. Cool!
The Freedom Wall 2017 – AK Public Art Initiative
Artists: John Baker | Julia Bottoms | Chuck Tingley | Edreys Wajed
Located at the Corner of Michigan Avenue & East Ferry Streets
This important work stands at the northern entrance to the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor. It highlights a mere 28 important African American leaders, both local and national. This is perhaps the most moving of all the murals in Buffalo.
Metamorphosis #5 2019 – AK Public Art Initiative
Artist: Tavar Zawacki
Located at 1665 Main Street
To date, this is the largest mural Zawacki has created, and it is also the largest mural to date, in all of Western New York. It features the artist’s signature upward facing arrow and incredibly vibrant colors.
72 Jewett 2016 – AK Public Art Initiative
Artist: Daniel Galas
Located at 74 Jewett Avenue (72 Jewett is the former address of the building.)
Daniel Galas is a Buffalo based artist whose work is primarily based on architecture in and around Western New York. He uses his own whimsical style when featuring iconic buildings. The buildings featured in this mural are all within walking distance of the building they’re painted on. They are: the Darwin Martin House, the Elephant House at the Buffalo Zoo, Highland Lodge / Central Presbyterian Church Community Center, the Kensington Water Tower, St. Mark’s Church, Blessed Trinity Church, the Second Pierce-Arrow Showroom and Bennett High School & All-High Stadium.
And now for a little bit of random fun, found all over the city:
I hope you’ve enjoyed the first installment in my series about Buffalo Street Art! Check out Part 2 in the series for more incredible murals in Allentown, the West Side and the Elmwood Village! Comment below and tell us your favorite street art, whether in Buffalo or anywhere else. Include photos!