Buffalo State, with partners Young Audiences of Western New York and the City of Buffalo, will join a well-known muralist this summer in the innovative project, “Celebrating the Refugee and Immigrant Experience.”
Community sponsors, including the Cameron and Jane Baird Foundation, Niagara District Councilman David Rivera’s office, the New York State Council on the Arts, the West Side Business and Taxpayers Association, the Buffalo History Museum, and Lorigo’s Meating Place, have matched a $75,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant allowing for a series of art experiences, workshops, and public displays that will take place over the summer.
The culminating activity will be a large-scale mural by public artist Augustina Droze (pictured) that highlights the contributions of immigrants and refugees to the city. The 32-by-80 foot mural composed of 80 panels will be installed in mid-August on the side of Lorigo’s Meating Place, 185 Grant Street, on Buffalo’s West Side.
“Through the language of art and the dynamics of community interaction, this project seeks to transform a core Buffalo neighborhood noted for its rich history of immigration and its textured multiethnic presence into a destination point in the city,” said John Siskar, senior adviser for Buffalo State Educational Pipeline Initiatives.
Siskar is facilitating the Buffalo State portion of the project with Meg Dee, director of Buffalo State’s Community Academic Center (CAC); Maureen McCarthy, CAC program coordinator; and Gary Welborn, associate professor of sociology and coordinator of community engagement.
Starting in late May, Droze will begin painting the panels filled with designs made by students at Lafayette High School, PS 45 International School, and in workshops held throughout the year at the CAC and Westside Art Strategic Happenings (WASH) Project.
Philip Ogle, professor and chair of the Fine Arts Department and Candace Masters, assistant professor of art education, along with three of their students, will be assisting Droze with painting, overseeing, supervising, and executing this project. Additionally, two of the college’s AmeriCorps students will paint with Lafayette High School students in late May.
The mural will reflect the personal journeys of the immigrant children whose native lands range from Yemen to Puerto Rico. Their poignant drawings provide insight into the lives they left behind and what they hope to find in their new homeland. The mural also will feature historic scenes from the West Side and portraits of neighborhood residents.
“Recently, a roundtable discussion was held at the CAC where participants got to see pictures and hear stories created by the children involved,” Dee said. “It really made it come alive for the listeners.”
In conjunction with the mural project, about a dozen Grant Street merchants will display the children’s artwork in their windows over the summer. Meanwhile, students in Buffalo State’s museum studies program will interview West Side merchants for a documentary on the immigrant experience.
In early September, a public celebration of the completed mural will bring together the educators, artists, business owners, children, and families who have contributed to this remarkable community project.