Buffalo, NY – The Cobblestone District Business Group has partnered with the Albright-Knox’s Public Art Initiative and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) to produce a series of new murals at the NFTA’s DL&W terminal. Artists will begin working this week on what will become a destination-making public art project that will further enhance downtown, especially the neighboring Cobblestone businesses and the site of the annual Cobblestone Live festival.
The South Park Avenue side of the NFTA train depot (DL&W) presents a unique opportunity for public art, with a large, low wall that will naturally welcome a series of thirteen painted mural panels. One panel will act as a didactic space and the remaining twelve panels will each be painted by a different artist, ranging from local to national. The work will be completed over the course of two summers, with six panels being completed this summer and six next summer.
The selection of artists for this year is Obsidian Bellis (American, born 1993), Jason Bramer (American, born 1974), Lauren McKenzie, aka Lady Noel (American, born 1988), Ellen Rutt (American, born 1989), James Moffitt, aka Yames (American, born 1987), and Bradd Young, aka SALUT (American, born 1994). This selection of artists includes three regional artists, three female artists, and three Black artists within the group of six. The additional artists will be selected and announced next year.
“We are thrilled to be part of this exciting public art project,” said NFTA Executive Director Kim Minkel. “These murals will enhance the neighborhood and promote interest in the DL&W by adding vibrancy and community pride. It is amazing how art can uplift us all.”
“The Cobblestone Commons is truly an expression of what it means to be part of a ‘community,’” said Cory Muscato, owner of Lockhouse Distillery and member of the Cobblestone District Business Group. “The idea to collaborate to create public art in this space was born out of the annual Cobblestone Live Music & Arts Festival, held each summer for the past three years along the same strip of South Park Avenue. The businesses in our neighborhood share a strong sense of cooperation and seek to further distinguish our district beyond the many street festivals, sporting events, and concerts that have made it a destination for hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. I am very proud to see so many businesses come together with the Albright-Knox and NFTA to give birth to such a meaningful and large-scale mural for the City of Buffalo and its communities.”
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 with, actively respond to, 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.
This project was made possible by the NFTA, Ferguson Electric, Labatt USA, Buffalo Iron Works, Lockhouse Distillery, Pegula Sports and Entertainment, Port X Logistics, Savarino Companies, Abbey Mecca, CPL: Architecture.Engineering.Planning, ECIDA, RP Oak Hill Building Company, Inc., Gilbane Building Company, and Julia Spitz. Additional support has been provided by C2 Paint and Red Disk.
About the Artists
Obsidian Bellis is an artist and DIY organizer born and raised on the East Side of Buffalo. After traveling and living in other places on the East Coast and in the Midwest, Bellis now resides on Buffalo’s West Side. Bellis sees her creative drive as a method to bring something new and novel into existence. Finding inspiration from such wide-ranging sources as magical illustrations found in fifteenth to nineteenth–century Coptic prayer scroll amulets and Ethiopian illuminated manuscripts to mythology to Afrofuturism, Bellis’s signature style is a mixture of illustrative and mystical forms often incorporating spectacular natural elements with fantastical figures.
Jason Brammer is a Chicago-based visual artist known for his murals, site-specific installations, distinctive paintings, and mixed-media hand-painted assemblages. Brammer’s murals also veer into fantastic worlds but utilize a more formal trompe l'oeil style that pierces otherwise solid forms and allows viewers to envision a portal to another place. He has received commissions from prominent clients such as LinkedIn, Hulu, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Shedd Aquarium, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the band My Morning Jacket.
Brammer’s art has also been exhibited in numerous prestigious venues, including the Hangaram Design Museum in Seoul, South Korea; 751 D-Park in Beijing, China; the Union League Club of Chicago; La Luz De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles; Linda Warren Projects in Chicago; Rockford Art Museum in Illinois; Governors State University in Chicago; SCOPE Miami Beach; and Museo Internazionale Italia Arte in Turin, Italy.
Lauren McKenzie, aka Lady Noel
Cleveland-based artist Lauren McKenzie creates a vast variety of work that focuses on diversity and bridging the black and white halves of her identity. Originally from West Palm Beach, Florida, the artist spends most of her time either in her studio or working on murals in her community that create conversations around identity, race, and womanhood. Using an array of materials and hues to highlight the beauty of people of color in her life, most of her work features portraits of either individuals she personally knows or are derived from her own imagination as though from a melting pot of faces. McKenzie was the first Black woman to paint a mural in the City of Cleveland.
Ellen Rutt is a Detroit-based interdisciplinary artist whose work utilizes an abstract lexicon of layered shapes and primary colors that results in improvisational and evocative installations. She facilitates conversations between materiality and movement, between place and process. Her site-specific installations, mixed-media paintings, and textiles examine notions of belonging and exclusion that expose a divide between nature and culture in the American experience.
Rutt graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan. She has exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art Grand Rapids, East Hawaii Museum of Contemporary Art, and pt. 2 Gallery in Los Angeles. She has completed murals and installations in locations around the world including France, New York, San Francisco, Canada, and Hawaii, among others. She has been featured in Juxtapoz, Forbes, W, alive, LOAM, and was recently named one of twenty-four changemakers in 2020 by Hour Detroit Magazine.
James “Yames” Moffitt
James “Yames” Moffitt is a Buffalo native and co-founder of Pine Apple Company, an artist collective and gallery located in Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood. Having formally trained at the Pratt Institute, Yames is a multidisciplinary graphic artist who specializes in hand-painted signs, typography, illustration, murals, and more. You can find his work on businesses throughout Buffalo, including Hydraulic Hearth, Sato Brewpub, Larkin Square, and the National Grid Terminal B on Niagara Street. Though this will be Yames’s first mural with the Public Art Initiative, he has assisted on numerous other projects for the Initiative.
SALUT is the visual-arts moniker of the Rochester-based artist Bradd Young. Young studied graphic design and studio art in Virginia where he began doing pop-up exhibitions that would eventually lead him to open a studio in Western New York post-graduation. It was then that Young began to develop a color pallet of soft pastels and a style merging his loves of cartoonish surrealism and fine art.
Young has displayed work in Virginia and at several venues in both Western New York and New York City. In 2018, he was the only local muralist featured in the eleventh annual WALL\THERAPY project in Rochester. In February 2019, Young was celebrated as one of the exciting talented artists at the Memorial Art Gallery’s MAG social. In spring 2019, he designed several labels for Trophy Brewery Company in North Carolina. In 2020, he was selected by Memorial Art Gallery to design the posters, cards, and pamphlets for the promotion of the museum’s annual fundraiser, An Artists’ Affair at the MAG.
Young is a featured artist of the Rochester-based gallery UUU Art Collective, which acts as a venue to both curate upcoming young artists and musicians and promote community activism. Currently, SALUT paintings are displayed throughout businesses in the downtown Rochester area.