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The Power of Community Building Through Public Art

Once a blank wall, now full of color. The mood of an entire block on Seneca Street on the West Side of Buffalo has partially transformed. The community started to cheer as the project came to an end, and everyone smiled as they looked at the final result. 

Located in the old First Ward of Buffalo, Team Razor Wire is spreading positivity through community building, with their original and bright murals. Each mural is designed alongside the community, to ensure that they feel part of the project taking place within the respective neighborhood. While only working together for a year and a half, Christopher M. Kameck and Nicholas C. Miller have already completed several projects together

“On the first day we’re like, ‘We have no idea what the design is, we don’t even know who’s going to be the designer… you might be the designer!” said Miller. “We work out designs with craft paper, and draw… and then we slowly talk about concepts, and then kind of build off that and allow people to be apart of the process from the very beginning. That allows them to feel the entire time like they are involved, instead of simply standing by.” Miller said. 

The artists’ workspace includes three offices, a small gallery, and a warehouse with a wood-working room, all where they manufacture their ideas, demos, and installation pieces. On top of creating murals, the pair have professionally hung and packaged artwork for galleries, designers, and private clients for their business Buffalo Art Services. Team Razor Wire has a strong connection to Buffalo, as Kameck’s family grew up in the old First Ward – creating a personal tie to the neighborhood which they work in. They have a large amount of support from the community and just recently painted a mural on an old abandoned building down the street from their studio. Since it used to be a huge industrial district, with the constant freight of trains and boats coming through, the mural represented the working class of the neighborhood and was titled, The Worker

Team Razor Wire tries to adapt each mural to the specific community it will be located in. The local community will even come out to help paint the murals. Team Razor Wire is also trying to build more relationships with local artists. A current project with local artist Edreys Wajed is going to be painted on two buildings on either side of Bailey Avenue and E. Amherst Street, so that they will be facing each other. This piece has turned into an activism project to build a safer community. Originally there was no push button to cross the street here even though it is a crosswalk for daycare and a school. “The main thing is to try to use these murals to slow down traffic a little and make people think about the intersection instead of just whipping through the intersection,” Kameck said. They also want to paint the crosswalks connecting the two sides of the street to tie the two murals together. However the City of Buffalo has strict rules on using art to paint crosswalks, something which local art advocates are fighting to change.  

Although he used to have more of a bent on realism, Miller has been focusing on geometric patterns for his most recent murals. “This focus is just kind of like an intense look at wrapping and changing form and using light and gradients and line work to completely alter architecture.

“So it’s an exploration into light and pattern – using it to alter your reality in a way,” Miller said. “We did this mural last year and it was just so enjoyable. We got such a great response about what kind of energy people got from it because I wasn’t trying to tell a story. It was just this form… and everybody had different responses.”

At the end of every project Miller and Kameck create the “The Golden Lounge,” a celebration out in front of the completed project where everything is painted gold, reflecting the touch of gold in each of their projects. They have gold pyramids to decorate the space and a record player, playing the music that inspired the project. They lay down a carpet, some chairs, and “the golden trunk,” to bring a living room vibe right in front of the mural, spurring conversation. They describe this as the “power of the pyramids” because the pyramid attracts the sun and the energy within it. “It’s just a way to add even more positive energy into it. That’s a big part of doing this – just like interacting with the community and enjoying the city we live in,” Miller said. Kameck added, “We want more people to come out, so they view and engage… and see how it affects them. We let them know about our process, and what it means to us for them to come out.”

Kameck and Miller are looking to hold a “Fund Razor” as they have done in the past for specific projects. The purpose of this event would be to show the community what they have been working on recently, while building a network for future projects. They are trying to build more partnerships with sponsors so that they can sustain projects, which will benefit the community. “It fuels the neighborhoods – public art brings people there and they feel better about their space, so we’re trying to find people who want to fund public art more than just grants,” Miller said.

Upcoming events include a celebration for Bailey Fights Blight that will take place in September. Kameck and Miller are also working with the owner of Project 308 Gallery, Natalie Brown, to bring a mural to Oliver Street, which she has been raising funds for.

It’s important that we all support these types of public art initiatives any way that we can. Kameck and Miller are doing so much for the community. Hopefully the community understands the importance of this, so that we can continue to be graced with amazing murals in our city.

For more information go to www.facebook.com/teamrazorwire.

As you’re driving around Buffalo, keep a lookout for these projects that Team Razor Wire have been a driving force in:

1.  Bailey Fights Blight (2 Murals in Progress with Edreys Wajed) the corner of Bailey Ave. and E. Amherst St., 3148 Bailey Ave

2.  The Mothership,  571 E. Delavan Ave.

3.  Electric Avenue (In Blue), UB Anderson Gallery, 1 Martha Jackson Place

4.  Cube Illusion, Phoenix Rising Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, 500 Seneca

5.  Wash 18, The Wash Project, 471 Massachusetts Ave.

6.  Advantageous Geometry #6 – Movin’ on Up, Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave.

7.  Advantageous Geometry #5 – Tower of Power, 45 Jewett Ave.

8.  Advantageous Geometry #4 – Mobile Mural Wall (Allentown Scavenger Hunt) Stored at our Studio 162 Kentucky St.

9.  Advantageous Geometry #3 – Stocks are Rising, 3203 Bailey Ave.

10.  Advantageous Geometry #2 – Black Iron Bystro, 3648 South Park Ave.

11.  Advantageous Geometry #1 – Echo Art Fair, 1001 E. Delavan Ave.

12.  Fighting Peacock of Burma, The Wash Project, 471 Massachusetts Ave.

13.  The Worker Mural, The Old First Ward

They also have a couple murals inside of The Black Iron Bystro in Blasdell:

1.  A wheat pasted image from the Bethlehem Steel Plant burning down

2.  A mural on the ceiling

For more photo’s on Team Razor Wire’s projects visit Nick Miller’s website at nicholascmiller.com.

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