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Detail from Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez's Welcome Wall, 2017, at 751 Fillmore Avenue

Detail from Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez's Welcome Wall, 2017, at 751 Fillmore Avenue. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

AK Public Art Spotlight: Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez's Welcome Wall

July 31, 2017

Buffalo's Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood has been a critical crossroads for myriad immigrant populations throughout the city's history. Beginning in the 19th century, it has served as a home for Polish immigrants and their descendants, African Americans looking to escape the still-segregated South after World War II, and the diverse array of new immigrants from Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere that are in large part defining the resurgence of Buffalo today.

Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez's Welcome Wall, 2017, at 751 Fillmore Avenue. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez's Welcome Wall, 2017, at 751 Fillmore Avenue

Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez's Welcome Wall, 2017, at 751 Fillmore Avenue. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

The Albright-Knox's Public Art Initiative, in partnership with Broadway Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Services (BFNHS) and other community stakeholders, invited Philadelphia-based artists Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez to develop a project that would speak to the rich history and vibrant present of this site. Their mural incorporates the word “welcome” in the 13 languages BFNHS outreach identified as representative of this diverse neighborhood: Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, English, Farsi, French, German, Polish, Seneca, Spanish, Somali, Urdu, and Vietnamese. In declaring “you are welcome here,” Welcome Wall demonstrates the ways in which we are and can be kind to one another and how common acts of kindness and sharing can create spaces of togetherness and healing.

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