Over the years, I’ve been following the work of musician and teacher Rob Lynch, who has not only painted some outrageous murals, he’s also created some spectacular videos with the help of students from his Advanced Placement Art class at Niagara Falls High School. The result of those works are not only uplifting, they are mesmerizing (see here). The video performances allow the students to express their artistic freedoms in a way that is both empowering and long-lasting (thanks to the permanence of the videos, which are online).
A Wayne White influenced parade down Old Falls Street and toward Niagara Falls State Park.
Lynch’s most recent project came about as a way to bring attention to the planet’s endangered species. The students came up with the idea, and Lynch ran with it. Together, they created dramatic masks that represented the animals, and then took to the streets of Niagara Falls, for an organic parade. The artists were joined by marching musicians from the high school, which added a greater sense of fun and enthusiasm to the project.
“The cardboard heads are based on the work of influential Los Angeles Wayne White, who not only gives his blessing but has taken the time to Skype with us from his home in LA , with his multiple Emmys in the background,” said Lynch. “Wayne is remarkable for many things in the art world, but many people remember him as a set designer, puppeteer, and actor on Pee Wee’s Playhouse. He also created some iconic music videos, including Peter Gabriel’s Big Time and Smashing Pumpkins’ Tonight, Tonight.”
“Each year a certain theme emerges for the project,” Lynch continued. “This year we had a student in class with a remarkable love for animals who was very concerned about endangered and threatened species. The parade was influenced by the great 12/8 Path Band of Buffalo… fun, loose and festive. I reached out to the 12/8 Path band about doing a pop up style David Bowie parade with the various Bowie heads we made when he passed. I imagined we would parade around the Falls, to surprise the tourists. But we had to put the parade idea on hold due to schedule conflicts. I have been making videos to document our creations the past few years, and like the idea of spotlighting some local treasure as a location. We have made videos at the Cave of the Winds, The Aquarium of Niagara, and the Castellani Art Museum, each of the last few years.
“Old Falls Street has become a really nice spot for tourists, with lots of fun, free activities for families. There was an event called the Live NF Makers Market scheduled on that day, and I was asked if my students wanted to participate. Just like that, a parade was born. Live NF is a group of citizens who actively create and promote positive events in Niagara Falls. They are a reflection of a new positive view of the potential of Niagara Falls, looking forward instead of backward. They created the Makers market and host many other community events.
“I reached out to my friends in the Niagara Falls High School Music and Theater departments and we got to work. The thing that was truly wonderful is how many students turned up to participate. This event took place on a Saturday morning, the day after Prom! All of the students had a great time, the tourists loved it, and everyone went home with some great memories. A couple who were “Just Married” even had their wedding photos taken with us!”
An important aside for the effort was to draw attention to Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls, which looks great in the video! But more than anything, it comes down to the disappearing animals that include:
- Cross River Gorilla. Status: Critically endangered.
- Boreal Caribou. Status: Endangered.
- Golden Lion Tamarin. Status: Endangered.
- Maned Sloth. Status: Vulnerable.
- Milne Edwards Sportive Lemur. Status: Endangered.
- Asian Crested Ibis. Status: Endangered.
- Red-Cheeked Gibbon. Status: Endangered.
- Jaguar. Status: Near threatened.
Who would have ever thought, that in our lifetime, we would manage to ravage the planet to the point of causing the extinction, and near extinction, of so many animals, insects, fish, bugs, and plants? Hopefully these types of efforts made by Lynch and his students can help to draw attention to the crisis at hand, as the clock is ticking.