Every city could use a Rob Lynch. Scratch that. Every city could use a hundred Rob Lynchs. When taking a close look at Niagara Falls, you will find that there are some real diehard evangelists, much the same as we have right here in Buffalo. Lynch happens to be one of those evangelists. For years he has been screaming from the rooftops, “Come visit our city, you will love it here once you know where to look!”
You see, Lynch is a Buffalo musician, artist (Buffalo Arts Studio) and teacher at Niagara Falls High School. Ever since I have known him, he has been doing everything in his power to raise up Western New York, by using his power as an artist and teacher. Anyone who knows Lynch will also tell you that he’s an all around good guy, and in these parts that goes a long way.
Just last week I sat next to a guy during lunch who had just bought a house in Niagara Falls (he bought it because the house had been featured on Buffalo Rising in fact). Within a couple of minutes time, he asked me if I knew Rob Lynch. When I answered “yes”, the conversation shifted to all of the things that Lynch was doing to better the NF community. That is how effective one person can be in any small to mid-sized city.
Each year Lynch conducts a project with his Advanced Placement Art class in Niagara Falls, and each year the results are mesmerizing and inspiring. I first wrote about Lynch’s class project last year, when the class designed and created a troop of “big head” masks that were then paraded throughout the city. As we all know, art and culture is one of the main ingredients that binds cities together.
It’s funny to think how similar Buffalo and Niagara Falls actually are… and I’m not just talking about proximity. Much the way a large faction of Buffalonians have never seen Lake Erie, Lynch discovered that many of his students had never seen Niagara Falls, despite living within a stone’s throw to the natural wonder. Because of that, one of Lynch’s teaching missions is to immerse his students and their artwork into the urban fabric of their surroundings.
“We had an amazing year in Advanced Placement Art at Niagara Falls High School,” Lynch told me. “A high point was Skyping with world famous artist Wayne White, who inspired this project. Living in Niagara Falls and teaching at Niagara Falls High School I’ve always been amazed of the divide that exists between the students and the best parts of the city…many of them have never been to the Falls… perhaps some of that was caused by a half century of being cut off from the park by the Robert Moses, but thankfully that is changing. This was the first trip to the Cave of the Winds for a few of these students… that enthusiastic dancing is real! What a beautiful and positive experience for all of us. Positive creative momentum. The heads were built out of cardboard and hot glue, and are caricatures of our classmates. We knew many masks wouldn’t stand up the the relentless beating from the Hurricane Deck, and that was part of the fun!”
The ancillary benefit to a project of this nature, is that it has helped to open up my own eyes to the artistic beauty of Niagara Falls. By infusing these colorful characters into what could be considered a monotonous backdrop (yes even staring at a closeup video of The Cave of The Winds can drag a bit), the combined artistic and natural imagery was a delight to watch. So much so that I want to make a trip to NF myself, to stand where the “big head” characters were dancing.
In just one video, Lynch promoted his city, opened the eyes of his students, created wonderful art, and put a smile on my face. I would have to say that that is an effective class project.