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Buffalo Foundation Celebrates the “Spirit of Buffalo”

By Rebecca Bratek:
The Buffalo Renaissance Foundation, a non-profit, businessmen’s organization founded in 1981 that is committed to bettering the City of Buffalo, has announced its newest project–a Sculptural Art Initiative entitled the “Spirit of Buffalo.” This initiative will bring five outdoor art pieces to various locations across the city and surrounding areas over the next five years.
“The Renaissance Foundation wanted to do something in the area of the arts,” said Jake Schneider, president of the Buffalo Renaissance Foundation. “We really recognized that there hadn’t been any 3-dimensional art pieces placed anywhere in the downtown since the eighties. And we’ve noticed in other cities that there is a lot of it.”
The plan is to bring five outdoor sculpture pieces to downtown Buffalo and the surrounding areas, mixing contemporary pieces with more traditional ones. This mixture will showcase the “spirit” of Buffalo: the contemporary pieces will explore the future and new initiatives committed to bettering the city, while the more traditional pieces will celebrate and commemorate Buffalo’s rich history, according to Schneider.
Valeria-Cray-Dihaan-Buffalo.jpgThe first sculpture is already on its way to being completed and will be placed on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus sometime this year and hopefully as early as this August. The “Spirit of Life Tree” is a contemporary piece by local artist Valeria Cray-Dihaan that celebrates the healthcare work being done at the campus.
“This is an artist’s dream come true, doing an outdoor piece,” Cray-Dihaan said. “[The piece will] make a good statement in the medical corridor. This is an area [filled] with people getting sick; you have the cancer research center over there, the heart clinic over there–there’s a lot going on. And I know this is going to be a blessing; I call it my ‘healing’ piece.  When people walk past it, they’ll feel good about themselves.”
The “Spirit of Life Tree” will stand at eight feet high and eight to ten feet wide and is made of Corten metal. This metal is special because it ages and gets stronger with time–a piece that will last a lifetime.
The piece will be placed at the corner of Ellicott and High Streets, right across from the entrance to Buffalo General Hospital, as a part of the new Ellicott Park project. This project is the renewal and redevelopment of Ellicott Street all the way from Tupper stretching the length of the medical campus. The sculpture will be the centerpiece for the new green space and park in front of the hospital.
sculpt-Buff-NY.jpgThe Buffalo Renaissance Foundation hopes that if this first installation of a public art piece is successful, it can continue with its plans of five sculptures within the next five years and possibly expanding to a total of 15 pieces in the future. Talks are already underway, speculating the construction of a more traditional piece at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site on Delaware Avenue that commemorates the spot where the 26th president took his oath of office.
The foundation also plans to utilize local artists in the realization of these public art pieces, honoring the rich culture of the city and keeping the project tied to the theme of the “spirit” of Buffalo.
A smart phone “app” is also in the works–when people visit an installation, they will be able to learn about the artist, the piece of art, the property partners, and where they can find other pieces in the series by visiting the foundation’s website.
“I think in keeping with the theme, we want to showcase the ‘spirit’ of Buffalo,” Schneider said. “I think it will be a chance for Buffalonians and visitors to Buffalo to better understand our history and our future potential.”
For more information on Valeria Cray-Dihaan and her work, visit here. For more information on the Buffalo Renaissance Foundation and its Sculptural Art Initiative, visit

All images: Katie Schneider Photography

From left to right, it’s Hiram Lee-Cray, Valeria’s son who has been doing all the welding for the project; Valeria, the artist; and Chris P. Beyer, who is the owner of Denler Sheet Metal Inc. where the assembly of the piece is being done.

Written by Sarah Maurer

Sarah Maurer

I moved to Buffalo to attend Canisius College in 2007 and began writing for Buffalo Rising as a journalism intern in 2010. Working with Newell and meeting numerous entrepreneurs, activists and everyday folks who were working to make their city better made a huge impact on my decision to stay here. After witnessing all the positive development and grassroots initiatives happening in neighborhoods throughout the city, I was inspired to pursue a term of service in AmeriCorps and a career in Buffalo's non-profit sector. I currently work in the housing department at the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY and am excited to be a part of their ongoing efforts to revitalize the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood. I also volunteer as the project coordinator for Artfarms Buffalo. I continue to write for Buffalo Rising because I love having the opportunity to stay connected to those working toward positive changes for the Queen City.

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