Yesterday I had the fortunate experience to meet a couple of new Buffalonians who opened up a fresh business in the Five Points neighborhood. Qean and Nicola Ballard moved to this city from Shreveport, Louisiana not too long ago in order to reconnect with Nicola’s family. It turns out that Nicola’s father once worked for General Motors in Buffalo, and 27 years ago (when Nicola was 12 years old) the company relocated a good chunk of employees to Shreveport, Louisiana. “There’s an entire Buffalo community living in Shreveport, because of General Motors,” Nicola told me. “But the rest of my family all lives in Buffalo – I’m the eldest of eight kids… and they all live here. So we decided to move back here even though it’s been so long. Qean is originally from Detroit, but we met in Louisiana.”
Upon returning home, Qean and Nicola figured that it was time to get busy. Nicola, being a fine artist, and Quen, being a street artist, first went with the galleries, and then the festivals, and onto the pop-ups (Queen City Pop-Up), before finally landing at Five Points. Now the couple has plenty of space to conduct whatever sorts of business that they want, from screen printing to public broadcasting. “On Saturday, May 7, we’re hosting an in-store event called Brutal Frugality,” said Nicola. “We’re going to have a punk band (Betty Red – see inset) playing on a stage in the front window, with art exhibits and artists everywhere. We want to take our message to the streets, that we’re here to promote the artists and the arts. We want to get to know the neighborhood… we want to meet the artists of Buffalo… we want to support the art community. This summer we are going to have free chalk set out for the kids, so that they can chalk up the sidewalks. We also want to have patio chairs and tables, to invite artists to come and create.”
Rudeboyz Artworks is a patchwork of original graffiti style artwork, tied in with some superhero/anime original artworks, and custom airbrush creations. There are other artisan products in the shop, ranging from glam jewelry to handmade (black and white) traditional rag dolls. One of the shop’s featured sellers, Phenomenal Expressions, is about to bounce over to Queen City Pop-Up, which will make room for another seller/artisan to occupy some space. “Artists come and go,” Nicola shared with me. “We want this place to be for artisans from all over the city to exhibit. We have even been lending space behind the counter to a couple of 13 year old neighborhood kids who come in here and paint. It keeps them from getting into trouble – we also pay them to hand out flyers. That’s also where Qean’s art studio is located – more of his work is featured here in the shop [pointing], although I do have a couple of my own works.”
There’s an entire Buffalo community living in Shreveport, because of General Motors.
Aside from fine painting, Nicola also pre-records a radio program in the shop. She has set aside space for an audio podcast studio, where she interviews creative types from all over the world (the gig started in Shreveport). The radio show for artists and artisans airs on Sundays at 7pm – www.khamradio.com. Currently the CMBR Radio Show has 10,000 followers.
Before leaving Rudeboyz Artworks, I left one of my ‘Salvation Armani’ charcoal grey suit jackets behind for Qean to create a custom airbrush piece on the back. “I can do any design that you want,” he told me. “On any fabric or material.” I can’t wait to pick up the creation in one week’s time.
Nicola and Qean have a good thing going, but it’s going to take a collaborative effort between like-minded artists for this business to truly shine. Right now, the couple is extremely open minded about partnering up with others, to make Rudeboyz Artworks a diverse representation of Buffalo culture. They are off to a good start with some punk, anime, superhero, and urban flair. I can’t wait to see how it all comes together in months ahead, as more people get to know this dynamic duo.
Rudeboyz Artworks | 527 West Utica Street | Buffalo, NY | (716) 704-5180 | Facebook | Screen print, airbrush, heat press, hand painted