For the most part, public murals are bright and cheery, serving to bring beauty to the streets and smiles to faces. In the case of reentry service provider Peaceprints of WNY, the organization has enlisted local artist Lily Wai Brennan to move forward with her winning design concept – A Bright Future – that she submitted via an Open Call for Artists*.
Buffalo’s first criminal justice-themed mural will be painted on the side of Peaceprints’ Bissonette House (a temporary residence for men returning to the community from incarceration) on Grider Street. The mural is intended to give hope to those who are reacclimating to society. It is also a timely mural in that it marks the 15 year anniversary of the death of Sister Karen Klimczak – an event that rocked the peaceful foundations of WNY. The mural is inspired by her mission to find ways to create reentry services, instead of simply watching senseless societal recidivism. Sister Karen believed that “hope is not a way out, but a way through.”
Much like Peaceprints, the mural symbolizes how hope opens paths toward prosperity.
The mural shows a group of incarcerated – on their way to freedom – individuals who come from all walks of life, including different ethnicities, genders, and ages. These people are walking away from the prison bars and out into the sunlight, while looking upwards into the skies, where a dove is seen flying overhead. The dove symbolizes Peaceprints of WNY. Erie County Court is front and center in the skyline.
In describing her motivation for her winning submission, Brennan said, “By working on this project, not only am I helping an organization that supports this vulnerable group of people, but I am in turn lending my own voice to aid this community. My mural design, A Bright Future, offers a message to inspire hope for individuals held in and returning from incarceration and encourages our community to join Peaceprints in the fight for equity.”
“At the end of the day, the only way we can abolish our current system of mass incarceration and achieve Sr. Karen’s vision is by changing hearts and minds,” stated Cindi McEachon, Chief Executive Officer of Peaceprints of WNY. “Central to that effort is helping the community see returning people as individuals rather than statistics. With subjects of all ages and ethnicities, Lily Wai Brennan’s piece includes people who remind us not of abstract concepts, but of people we love: our son, mother, uncle, or grandfather. I can’t think of a better way to honor Sister Karen’s legacy than for our community to come together as a group to create such powerful, thought-provoking art that realizes the impact of our justice system and emboldens her vision.”
Although the more detailed work will be performed by Brennan herself, all members of the community are invited to come together and join Peaceprints staff, clients, and volunteers to assist in painting the mural.
*The Open Call for Artists process was assisted by graduates of the Leadership Buffalo class of 2020