Last summer, street artist Vinny Alejandro reached out to me, to talk about the lack of legit places in Buffalo to paint large pieces. He told me that he had been traveling from city to city, and the street art scenes were exploding. He had just returned from Rochester, a city that has a thriving street art culture. Stemming from our conversation, I posted a diatribe about Buffalo’s lack of urban street art, as in street art festivals, embracing visiting street artists from other cities, etc.
Incredibly, the conversation with Alejandro got us so fired up that we decided to take the issue to the streets, literally. When I first heard that a paintball facility was opening on the East Side, I called Alejandro, and suddenly the concept of Paint vs Paint was born. Also, click here to see the artistic results from the two-day affair.
Around that same time, I reached out to Delaware District councilmember Joel Feroleto, to see if there were any urban street art opportunities in North Buffalo. Feroleto has been championing the mural scene in his district, which coincided with Albright Knox’s charge to elevate the large scale mural movement in Buffalo. A couple days later, I met up with Feroleto and Alejandro to walk Hertel Alley between Traymore and Colvin (lead image) – the alleyway extends a number of city blocks, running parallel to Hertel. When Alejandro first scoped out the alley, he almost fell over. “This is exactly what other cities are doing,” he said. “These walls are all prime for art, and we need to incorporate a festival aspect.” Feroleto agreed, and told us that he would start talking to the building owners, and the business owners.
Fast forward 9 months, and the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival is born. The event, sponsored by the Hertel Business Association, will take place over the course of two days – Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2. Alejandro is taking the lead on this festival, and told me, “It’s going to be an explosion of street art, in an alley that could use some attention – it’s not very welcoming, but after the event, people are going to want to see how vibrant it has become. We have street artists coming in from Rochester, LA, and even Nebraska – there will be 20 artists painting throughout the weekend. This is the type of event that put Philadelphia and Miami on the map for an art genre that has not existed in Buffalo until now.”
“This will transform the Hertel Alley into a destination and have a positive impact for all of North Buffalo,” said Feroleto. “Public art on Hertel has been embraced by the neighborhood and has a positive economic impact on the business. It is also getting national recognition, as the ‘Hertel Walls’ have been mentioned as a place to visit Buffalo in national publications such as the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.”
Alejandro also made mention of the street art scene that is underway on Chandler Street (The Channel on Chandler) which is being headed up by street artist Mark Madden. He said that, so far, this makes it a trifecta, and a big win for the burgeoning street art movement. I spoke to Madden who relayed that he is overwhelmed with the response to the Chandler Street art scene, and commented that the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival will help to amplify the artistic pageantry that is already underway in Buffalo. “I can’t wait for the Hertel festival,” said Madden. “I already spoke to the woman who owns the hair salon that is in my designated building. I told her that I would create a work of art that reflects her business, and now she’s super excited.”
“This is a genre of art that has somehow managed to escape Buffalo,” noted Alejandro. “It’s the type of art that gives off a ‘big city vibe’. It’s great to see a public figure like Feroleto and developer Rocco Termini embracing it, because it gives legit opportunities for artists to paint who would otherwise have to go to other cities.”
Stay tuned to the inaugural Hertel Alley Street Art Festival on Facebook.