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Detail from Stephen Powers’s Emotional Wayfinding, 2018

One of Stephen Powers’s Emotional Wayfinding billboards at Elmwood Avenue and Mohawk Street in Buffalo. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Location: Throughout Erie County (View Map)

Emotional Wayfinding is an expansive and responsive new project by the New York–based artist Stephen Powers. With subject matter gathered from conversations with Western New Yorkers, the project will take the form of several billboards and more than 100 metal signs—some screen-printed and others hand-painted—in the shape of average “No Parking” or “One Way” street signs, which will be placed in a variety of locations throughout Erie County in the summer of 2018.

Detail from Stephen Powers’s Emotional Wayfinding, 2018

Two of Stephen Powers’s Emotional Wayfinding billboards at Elmwood Avenue and Mohawk Street in Buffalo. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Detail from Stephen Powers’s Emotional Wayfinding, 2018

Two of Stephen Powers’s Emotional Wayfinding billboards at Elmwood Avenue and Mohawk Street in Buffalo. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

One of Stephen Powers’s Emotional Wayfinding billboards at 490 Bailey Avenue in Buffalo. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

One of Stephen Powers’s Emotional Wayfinding billboards at 3879 Broadway in Cheektowaga. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Over the summer, the museum distributed a tear-away postcard in various locations throughout the region, prompting Western New Yorkers to share their thoughts on what they like and dislike about Buffalo. The artist gathered these responses and is using them to develop signage that will be displayed in 29 towns and villages throughout Erie County, as well as in the City of Buffalo. 

The project continues the artist’s passion for creating public artwork based on shared stories and everyday experiences that result in unusually dramatic and even heartwarming presentations. At turns sentimental and fervent, the overall gesture of Emotional Wayfinding will inundate our landscape with playfully disruptive signs meant to reorient our relationships to our shared environment and with each other. The work will remain on view for the next several years.

About the Artist

Stephen Powers was born and raised in Philadelphia where he began graffiti writing in 1984 under the name ESPO (alternatively cited as "Exterior Surface Painting Outreach," or as an auditory acronym for Steve POwers). By 2000, Powers gave up graffiti to become a full-time studio artist. His work has been shown at the prestigious Venice and Liverpool Biennials, as well as numerous shows at New York City's Deitch Gallery. In 2005 he organized The Dreamland Artists Club, a project in which professional artists helped Coney Island merchants by repainting their signs. In 2007, Powers organized his first solo museum exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The show, which included many sign and guidepost artworks, attracted attention in New York and Philadelphia. In December of that year, ESPO appeared on the cover of the art magazine Juxtapoz. “In 10 years time,” they wrote, “Stephen 'ESPO' Powers's name will reside next to Crumb, Robert Williams, Basquiat, McGee, and Warhol as those who truly changed the way art is defined and displayed.” Visit the Artist's Website

Project Sponsors

Emotional Wayfinding, 2018, is supported by LAMAR Outdoor Advertising. Additional support has been provided by the sponsors of the Summer of AK.

Initiative Sponsors

The Public Art Initiative was established and is supported by leadership funding from the County of Erie and the City of Buffalo.

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