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Buffalo Architecture and History website:  Public Art - Table of Contents

"AK Public Art Initiative" on Buffalo Architecture and History Website
  

"Shark Girl"



About the Public Art Initiative

The Albright-Knox’s Public Art Initiative is an innovative partnership between the museum and the County of Erie established in 2013 to enhance our shared sense of place and cultural identity in the urban and suburban landscapes of Western New York. The City of Buffalo joined the partnership in 2014.

The goal of the Initiative is to create spaces of dialogue where diverse communities have the ability to socially engage, actively respond, and cooperatively produce great public art that is capable of empowering individuals, creating stronger neighborhoods, and establishing Western New York as a critical cultural center.

The Public Art Initiative integrates a wide range of artwork into publicly accessible spaces and engages the diversity of the region’s artistic energies and cultural points of view. Through this initiative, the Albright-Knox seeks to expand public interaction with artists and artworks. The initiative promotes education about the arts through works in the Albright-Knox’s Public Art Collection, related programming, and creative partnerships.

The Public Art Collection includes works by those artists committed to visual innovation and community engagement. The Public Art Initiative presents artists from around the region, nation, and world working in varied forms of media, from traditional to forward-thinking interactions, sculpture to performance, and the permanent to the ephemeral.
- Albright-Knox Art Gallery (online Jan. 2017)

Albright-Knox Public Art Initiative Blankets Buffalo Buildings in Color
Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Other recent AK Public Art Initiative projects include
  • Roberley Bell’s Locus Amoenus installation at the Tifft Nature Preserve;

  • Kaarina Kaikkonen’s installation We Share A Dream, currently on view at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport;

  • Shayne Dark’s 2015 exhibition Natural Conditions and residency at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens;

  • a billboard- and sticker-based iteration of Matthew Hoffman’s You Are Beautiful project, made possible in part through a partnership with Lamar Advertising; and Charles Clough’s collaboratively produced Hamburg Arena Painting, which is installed in the newly constructed wing of the Hamburg Public Library.
The Public Art Initiative has also distributed 30,000 art kits to students throughout Erie County.

The Public Art Initiative is supported by the County of Erie and the City of Buffalo. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
- Albright-Knox Art Gallery (online Jan. 2017)

Partial reprint

How to Build a Rust Belt Art Boom

By Mark Byrnes
CITYLAB August 9, 2018


As the director of the Helsinki Art Museum, which is owned and operated by city government, Janne Sirén was required to provide art for the streets and parks of the Finnish capital. So when he moved to Buffalo, New York, in 2013 to become the director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, he asked to meet with their public art curator.

They didn’t have one. Most U.S. museums don’t.

Sirén quickly changed that, hiring Aaron Ott, who had previously worked on art projects for various Chicago-area institutions, as the first-ever curator for the Albright-Knox’s public art initiative. The 156-year-old museum is now five years into an ambitious program that’s been injecting life into the Western New York region’s parks, neighborhoods, buildings, and other infrastructure through paint, plastic, steel, cloth, and whatever else their international cast of commissioned artists want to work with.



Aaron Ott, the first-ever curator of public art at Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery, talks about leading an uncommon cultural initiative across Western New York.

There were a couple pieces that we launched all at once. In late August and early September of 2014 we placed a couple of things that were concurrent with each other. We did Matthew Hoffman’s You Are Beautiful project, which included 44 billboards placed throughout Erie and Niagara counties as well as a sticker campaign. We also had a temporary, performance-based mural with a Providence group called Tape Art where people from the public would come and meet the artists and build it with us on the facade of the Central Library downtown.

Then we placed Casey Riordan Millard’s Shark Girl at Canalside. The day we set that one, somebody was sitting on it and taking a selfie before I could even put in the signage!


There were certainly times where I was surprised by the public in ways that have been great learning experiences for me. Foremost was the Freedom Wall we did last year, which was a project I conceived and crafted with one artist, Chuck Tingley, in mind. But when we started holding public meetings we really got a lot of pushback about the selection of that one artist as a denial of opportunities for other local artists, especially artists of color. That was a great way to recognize the way in which a lot of these projects necessitate more community conversation than I had originally allowed.

We were able to make amendments to it based on public feedback and add other artists, and it ultimately became a love fest. I remember the day Chuck started painting, I asked him how he was doing and he said that strangers were coming up to him in tears and telling him about how much of an impact the project already had on them. These kinds of projects affect people.

When we were installing Amanda Browder’s pieces around the city, another local artist, Max Collins, was part of our group helping us install.

It depends on the project and the location. The Welcome Wall on the East Side was a concept brought to us by partners in the neighborhood who wanted to celebrate its diversity. They asked if we could work with artists who dealt with text and language in order to welcome people to the neighborhood. You want to find artists that can handle such a task and be comfortable in that environment, so we selected Ernel Martinez and Keir Johnston, two African American artists from Philadelphia whose work is steeped in community activism and the kind of dialogue that becomes evident in their work.

They worked on parachute cloth, which is a 5-by-5 canvas that you canticle up into wallpaper in order to make a huge mural and you can paint them on a table or on the ground before you have to get up 40 feet to install a final piece. We had these painted at the Central Library downtown and at Broadway Market on the East Side, and brought in an audience to physically touch and produce the work in ways they never could have done before. Then the artists finished it on the wall. Down the street, we had a Polish artist, Wojciech Kołacz, (a.k.a. “Otecki”) to create Work and Play. It was a great opportunity to tailor that piece to the flavor of the neighborhood. Buffalo is home to the second-largest Polish population in the U.S., and the East Side was historically home to a lot of the Polish immigrants in the city. That legacy is still visible.


There hasn’t necessarily been a lot of contemporary public art in Buffalo—at least not in a sustainable sense—prior to this initiative. So there are a lot of artists out here who see this as an opportunity to be active in their own community. Max Collins was certainly doing that here before I arrived, as were a number of others, but as people begin to recognize our work they’re requesting more of it and by name.

QUESTION: For a piece like Jessie and Katey’s Noodle in the Northern Lights, what’s the museum’s role when the mural is starting to deteriorate? Is there a protocol in place for preservation?

Any mural is temporary, we call them “long-term temporary” because we do hope that they last and we use materials made to last for a minimum of 20 years.


That wall faces a busy street but it should still last for quite some time. We used Sherwin-Williams right out of the bucket for that piece, using colors that weren’t mixed so we could match them more easily.

The Shea’s 710 Main Theater was our funding partner on that one. They helped produce it, so we asked them to help us maintain it for a period of five years. A car actually ran into the wall a couple of months ago and punctured the cinder block, so 710 patched it up— they had to, it’s their building—and we had the buckets of paint in our basement here at the museum, so that wasn’t hard.

After a work has lived its expected lifespan, it’s the owner’s responsibility. So in the case of this one it’s on 710 to determine whether or not to repaint it to its original glory. They have a list of all the paint we used, so they could do that on their own or paint a new one.


We generally like to see those murals stay up for 10 years but I’m only asking people to sign five-year contracts for now since it would be disingenuous for us to come in and ask someone to sign a 10-year contract just as we’re getting started. We’re creating partnerships where the people across the table trust us and we trust them and we work together to maintain those pieces during their lifespan. There are works out there that may be more permanent. Jim Hodges’s Look and See [a large sculpture made of perforated stainless steel], which we just moved from our courtyard to the Richardson Olmsted Campus, is indestructible but it will still be in conservation for its lifespan. The paint will fade, it’ll get touched up, and then be good as new. We first installed that piece in 2006, it’s in our collection, so we have a responsibility to that one. Something like the 710 mural is co-produced and ultimately the property owner’s responsibility.





Photos and their arrangement © 2014 Chuck LaChiusa
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