There is an exciting energy reverberating on Grant Street in Buffalo, NY. New voices are being heard.
Grant Street Global Voices is a Young Audiences initiative in collaboration with Buffalo State, its Community Academic Center (CAC), and Grant Street business owners. The project honors the voices of the young people from this burgeoning immigrant and refugee community. Its overarching goal is to use art to welcome their stories, and to build a sense of community among the young people. Teaching artists Augustina Droze, Ismail & Company, Ellen Melamed and Buffalo State Arts Ed students worked closely with students from Lafayette and 45 to gather the stories of their families and capture it in words and art. This has been turned into a mural that is being hung this week. It is a work of art that the entire neighborhood can enjoy and call its own.
Students were given the opportunity to ask their parents for stories of their lives and what it meant to come to Buffalo. These stories became the basis for visual art and storytelling to create a public mural. Lorigo’s Meating Place is the home of the mural. Young people will see their stories come to life in their own neighborhood. Imagine for a moment that you are a child, and every day you walk by a work of art that you helped bring to fruition. Feel for a moment the pride you would have in your community, the sense of acceptance of your history, and the empowerment of knowing your story matters. This is public art at its finest.
If you haven’t been to Lorigo’s Meating Place, Sweetness 7, or any of the other wonderful stores opening up on Grant Street, you are missing the revitalization of this authentic and unique stretch of Buffalo.
The official unveiling will occur once school is back in session so that Buffalo State students who documented this video http://youtu.be/CGO9C2Q8ips and worked in the classroom, and students at CAC, 45 and Lafayette, may participate. The young voices of our immigrant and refugee communities will be present to celebrate this new voice they have gained. They are the next generation of Buffalo. Young Audiences of Western New York is delighted to have had its hand in crafting this beautiful connection between arts, education and community-based public art
Buffalo, NY is no stranger to immigrants. In the early 1800s, when Buffalo was still part of the wild wild west, a vague outpost where American Indians and rogue settlers chose to live, it was immigrants that helped build it up. First the British and then (after a brief war) the Dutch, then Italian, Polish, Irish, and German along with many African Americans contributed to making our city.
Today, Buffalo is still the home of immigrants– and a growing number of refugees. Residing mainly in what’s known as the “west side,” immigrants and refugees from Burma (Myanmar), Bhutan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan, have chosen to or have been selected to move here. This exciting new population has struggled, as all immigrants have, to make Buffalo their home; to claim ownership and begin creating their futures here.
When you next visit Grant Street, remember where Buffalo came from, and take pride in the vibrant future that is blossoming before our eyes.
Grant Street Global Voices is possible thanks to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town grant award. They funded 80 Our Town grant awards totaling $4.995 million and included 44 states and the District of Columbia. Additional funds came from the Baird Foundation, Buffalo Public Schools, Buffalo State’s Community Academic Center, Cameron & Jane Baird Foundation, City of Buffalo, Council member David Rivera, Lorigo’s Meating Place, New York State Council for the Arts and the Rupp Family Foundation.
^ G&L Flooring Center on Grant Street was one of the commercial storefronts where artwork from the students was displayed, that would eventually reflect the design of the mural. Owner of G&L, Paul Murphy, stated that the response to the artwork in his windows has been overwhelming, and he’s even attracted new customers since the work was installed. “It was the little things that brought Grant Street down,” Paul told Buffalo Rising. “Now it’s the little things that’s brining the street back.”