While Buffalo’s mural scene has taken off in recent years, it’s still got a ways to go in other public art departments. It’s not that there aren’t a number of quality sculptures around town… it’s just that there should be more of a push to see additional works dotting the landscape.
As a call to action, the fine folks over at Essex Welding at Essex Art Center, including Tyler Griffis and Phil Cunningham, have whipped together a sculpture of epic proportions.
This unusual sculpture is the result of a family friend by the name of “Big Mike” who collected numerous outdated pay phones (and also provided the design concept for the tower). And what do you do with old coin phones other than scrap them? Well, if you’re part of the Griffis team, you create art.
“Many of the phones are from famous Buffalo hang out places where I used to service them, such as The Continental, Merlin’s, Pink Flamingo, House of Quinn, and 67 West*,” said Big Mike. “The totally chrome one in the top row was from an all-mirror bar that used to be on Allen Street. One of the last ones that is in the tower that I removed was from Anacone’s on Bailey – the place was famous for ALL types of bands… and the best roast beef! Mark Anacone was one of my best customers, and kept the phone as clean as a whistle. It really saddened me when ha called and said he was throwing in the towel because of crime in the neighborhood… and I should remove the phone. The name of the sculpture is ‘DON’T DROP A DIME ON ME’ – the sculptural dime element (the platform) has not been welded in yet because of time restraints, but will one day be added.”
Tyler and his crew took the pay phones and created a towering monolith. Standing on either side of the monolith are two metal figures made out of quarter inch armature stack round rod, similar to the process that was used when Griffis Studios constructed this remarkable buffalo sculpture.
It was James “Macky” Moberly, owner of Essex Street Pub, that placed a call to action, to place the epic sculpture outside of his enterprise at 530 Rhode Island Street, right around the corner from Griffis Studios. Now, this wonderful work of art stands front and center, on a spot that was once a planter. It’s the perfect setting for the work of art – highly visible on a the corner of Rhode Island and Essex.
*Other establishments that housed these phones include The ICON, Colter Bay, Essex Pub, Topic Café, River Ranch, Crash Club, Kelly’s Tavern, and Chippewa Hotel.