Arts / News

Public Art project to feature murals of civil rights leaders

Isaiah Small

(Buffalo N.Y.) – The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is working on a new project to create a series of murals that would highlight the contributions of local and national civil rights leaders.

The project is a part of the gallery’s Public Art Initiative, which will feature 29 portraits of civil rights leaders from the past and present.

The murals will be painted on a wall on the corner of Michigan Avenue and East Ferry Street, in an area known as the African American Heritage Corridor.  

Aaron Ott, curator of public art for Albright-Knox, appeared on the Buffalo Review March 6 to discuss the project.


Ott said the first and perhaps most challenging step is to determine who will adorn the murals. He said, a public meeting with members of the community has produced over 130 names to choose from, of which 60 are local leaders.

“We wanted to have a conversation with our local community about what it meant to them and that has been really enlightening so far, especially with respect to the local names,” said Ott.

He said they want to choose civil rights leaders who resonate with people in the community personally, which may include leaders of this generation like the founders of Black Lives Matter.

“You have these people who are active right now, who are going to be our current generation and next generation leaders for the movement and we really wanted to highlight that this is an ongoing movement,” said Ott.

Albright-Knox has been working with SUNY Buffalo State students in the Museum Studies program to conduct research for the project.

The next meetings are scheduled for March 22 and April 3, to determine who will be included on the murals.

“Hopefully we will be able to program the wall, bring in some musicians, poets and authors and really make the programming around the activity of painting the wall something a little more responsive that communities need,” said Ott.

The Public Art Initiative is funded impart by the county legislature, the city of Buffalo and through donations.

Ott said it is hoped the murals could be complete by mid May.


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