Bailey Avenue’s newest public art piece, designed and painted with the help of the surrounding community, has transformed the exterior of a vacant building at the corner of Bailey and Stockbridge Avenue. The mural is a product of the Bailey Fights Blight initiative – a community-based effort spearheaded by the Bailey Avenue Business Association (BABA) and the University District Community Development Association (UDCDA) – and was funded by a grant from the Arts Services Initiative of WNY (ASIWNY).
“Started in the Fall of 2014, Bailey Fights Blight is a community-based project that seeks to board up and secure blighted and vacant storefronts along Bailey Avenue, while incorporating public art as a way to beautify the neighborhood, re-imagine vacant or underutilized properties and help redevelop the commercial corridor,” writes Darren Cotton, UDCDA’s Director of Community Development & Planning. “The project has brought over 200 volunteers from the community, area schools and universities, and businesses to board vacant and blighted buildings, prep and prime walls for murals, weed and mulch tree pits, clear out storm drains, and maintain vacant lots.”
Artist Nick Miller engaged area business owners, students and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods to participate in the design process. He challenged them to utilize construction paper, scissors, glue and their own creativity to design a mural that would be unique to their community. Members of the Stockbridge Avenue Block Club contributed the theme ‘stocks are rising’, which became the inspiration for the final image.
The mural features a rising gold and copper line against a bright green backdrop, and it wraps around three sides of the building. As the line rounds around each corner, it continues to rise, communicating an uplifting feeling to those who see it.
In addition to helping design the mural, the community was also invited by the artist to help paint it. Over two dozen volunteers showed up for community painting days throughout the summer, including business owners, neighborhood residents, Tool Library members, and Americorps volunteers. By making the process inclusive and community-driven, the artist and the project organizers created a piece that truly reflects the neighborhood that it rests in and an experience that will resonate with those who participated.
“Communities become great when they’re built for and by the people who use them,” said Ibrahim Cisse, President of BABA. “Bailey Fights Blight is demonstrating that residents armed with nothing more than paintbrushes and rollers can transform their communities for the better.”
This mural is the latest in a series of community development initiatives that are unfolding on the Bailey Corridor. Earlier this summer, Buffalo Promise Neighborhood launched the Uptown Fresh Healthy Lifestyle Market, which incorporates traditional farmers market vendors with social service providers who can assist visitors with needs related to education, health insurance, housing concerns, legal matters, and employment opportunities. In the midst of several new businesses opening along the corridor, UDCDA was awarded a $300,000 grant from the Better Buffalo Fund to assist Bailey Avenue business owners with renovations and façade improvements.
“All too often, the focus is on big ticket development projects across the city,” said Roseann Scibilia, executive director of UDCDA. “Yet it is these small, incremental improvements made over the course of years that can lead to significant improvements in quality of life for existing residents and businesses.”