One of Buffalo’s long-standing murals is getting a refresher. The lion mural, which has stood watching over Delaware Avenue for the last 25 years, is being lovingly restored by Chico Cravotta.
What is especially interesting is that it was Cravotta who originally painted the mural 25 years ago when he was 25 years old. Cravotta recently approached building owner Scott Croce about repairing the work – the two chipped in together to pay for the paint and the lift, while Cravotta donated his time.
“When I first painted the mural it was on the side of Manny’s Restaurant,” Cravota told me. “I kept all of my original drawings, news clips, and photos… I even have my original sketch that I had in my pocket while painting this time. When I first painted the mural, I did it on a single row of scaffolding, wheeling it back and forth – it took me about 7 weeks to complete. This time around I had a lift, so it’s taken about a week. I’m just about finished. I have to add a couple of small details.”
If the lion in the mural looks familiar, it’s because it’s based off one of the lion sculptures found at the McKinley Monument at Niagara Square. Cravota first presented the sketch to the owners of Manny’s back in 1996.
“It’s perfect timing,” said Cravota. “It’s 25 years almost to the day. I think that this updated mural is better than the original – I made some changes that always bothered me. I also used satin paint that has a little glean, so that it pops. And where it once had a small ‘Manny’s’ painted, I am painting the word ‘Grace,’ which is a word that I love – it’s also my daughter’s middle name.”
During our conversation, Cravota and I laughed that this mural might be considered “The Grandfather of all Buffalo murals.” 25 years ago there were some beautiful old painted signs around the city, but murals were few and far between. Now, this gleaming lion mural, set against weathered patina and exposed brickwork, has come to life once again.”
“I had the original drawing in my pocket to guide me,” Cravota told me. “The same one that I first presented to the owners of Manny’s. It’s incredible to think that it’s been 25 years… this has been an emotional experience for me.”