North Buffalo has been thrown a dizzying artistic pitch. LA artist Bunnie Reiss (below photo – front and center) has brought her spellbinding touch to Buffalo, via a new work of public art titled “Magic Buffalo”. The murals are part of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s #AKPublicArt initiative, which was made possible thanks to underwriting by the New Era Cap Foundation, with support from the City of Buffalo, Councilmember Joel Feroleto, and Joe’s Deli Buffalo NY.
A couple of nights ago, while having a glass of wine at Bellini’s (behind Kleinhans Music Hall), I struck up a conversation with a women at the bar. She mentioned that she recently moved to North Buffalo, off Hertel, and I asked her if she had seen the new mural being painted. She looked at me sideways and was speechless (and she’s a talker). The women, still stunned that I had brought up the mural, told me that it had literally changed her life. She grew up in the country, in a very conservative family. She said that her father had no time for art, so that meant that no one in the family was ever exposed to it. She never paid attention to art her entire life, and the few times she did, she would literally scoff at it and say that someone was wasting their time when they could be participating in more productive activities.
The story goes, that she was walking into a business on Hertel when she noticed that someone was painting a mural. She laughed and commented to her husband that this person was about to ruin a perfectly good building. Later in the day, after spending hours on the street, she walked by the building again and froze. She said that it was the most beautiful thing that she had ever seen, and couldn’t take her eyes away from it. Standing there, she suddenly realized that everything in her world had changed. She was confused, she was unsure, but she was happy. She and her husband looked up at the work of art, and she said that she felt that another bird needed to be painted up top, further up on the right [pointing]. Her husband replied that he was pretty sure that the mural was not finished, and that more birds were on their way.
As the woman relayed this story to me, she couldn’t help but be animated and beaming the whole time. She wondered what her father would say to her. She thought about the rest of her family, and how she had just experienced a life-changing moment that had already opened other doors that she never would have considered walking through, or even peeking through the keyhole for that matter. At the end of our conversation, we hugged. It wasn’t a normal quick “thanks” hug, it was an awakening hug. It was a powerful hug.
One of the first birthday presents that I ever received (close to the time when I was born) was a gift from my grandfather – a lifetime membership to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. I never really knew my grandfather because he passed away a couple of years later. But I have carried that card in my pocket my entire life. Because of that card, and being born into a family that loves art, I have always been open to all sorts of art. Even though I can’t even draw a stick figure, I can’t pass by a work of art without rubbernecking. Art has always filled my world, and my grandfather has aways been with me because of his insightful gesture. Art is in my house, on my garage, on my t-shirts… it’s all around me. I can’t imagine a life without art. That’s why this woman’s sudden, miraculous reaction to Bunnie Reiss’s “Magic Buffalo” was so incredibly fascinating and exhilarating.
Thankfully, this new “Magic Buffalo” that we are seeing all around us, is starting to change perceptions of what a city can be – even if it’s one person who gets caught up in the magic that so many of us came to appreciate so long ago. Personally, I will never forget this woman’s story, and every time I look at this breathtaking work of art in North Buffalo, I will think about her and all of the new doors that she is walking through every day, with fresh eyes, and without judgement.
Photos by the AK | Lead image by Bunnie Reiss | Colvin image by MADDTAT2