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Albright-Knox announces three public art projects for Buffalo buildings

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s public art program is in full bloom, with three new projects set to be announced Thursday in spaces throughout the city.

Each of the projects is aimed at connecting parts of the city that don’t often come into contact with one another:

A sprawling mural designed to mirror Buffalo’s ongoing renaissance now adorns the south side of the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology at 1221 Main St. A multi-panel mural featuring illustrations of Buffalo landmarks will soon appear on the long facade of an industrial building at 74 Jewett Ave. And a series of snaking sculptures based on intestinal bacteria will rise from the floor of the Metro Rail station now under construction at Allen and Main Street.

The trio of projects follows the unveiling of an installation of sculptures by Roberley Bell at the Tifft Nature Preserve and the completion of an eye-popping mural on the side of Shea’s 710 Main Theatre by Baltimore-based artists Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn.

The new mural at the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology, which provides after-school arts education for high school students and job training for adults, was completed over the past two weeks by students at the center. They worked with New York City-based artist Alice Mizrachi to design and paint a mural that reflects Buffalo’s ongoing revival and nods to the Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th century.

It features a dark-skinned boy with his eyes closed and face streaked with tears beside a light-skinned girl, whose green hair flows across the building to form a kind of rolling landscape. The message of unity across cultures, which BCAT Director Amber Dixon said emerged directly from the artist’s discussions with students, is clear.

The mural is the first in the Albright-Knox and BCAT’s newly launched “Public Art Public School Voices” project, which will result in more student-based murals throughout Western New York over the next five years.

“The idea of the mural being done right now is pretty significant because BCAT’s been opened two and a half years and we know we’re making an impact on the community,” Dixon said. “Now we have a physical manifestation of that impact.”

Across town at Koch Metal Spinning on Jewett Avenue, a large warehouse that sits in the shadow of the Tri-Main Center on Main Street, artist Daniel Galas is preparing to complete about a dozen highly stylized illustrations of historic Buffalo buildings.

Galas focuses his attention on structures near his studio in the Tri-Main, many of which will be featured in the new piece. They include the Buffalo Zoo, Highland Lodge No. 835, the Kensington Water Tower, Pierce-Arrow Showroom and St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church.

According to the Albright-Knox, the Jewett Avenue building “presents a series of sections that the artist will use as a framing device, setting up a cadence that takes the viewer on a visual journey back and forth along Buffalo’s Main Street divide.”

Finally, the gallery’s plan for the Metro Rail station currently under construction on the ground level of the rising University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will feature a new sculpture by Shasti O’Leary Soudant called “Gut Flora.”

The piece makes use of several snaking, 11-foot-tall sculptures based on the bacteria that naturally live in human intestines. The inspiration for the piece came from Soudant’s understanding of the city as an interconnected system with many similarities to the human body.

“If you’re look at the city as a body, its transportation pathways are basically the veins and digestive systems of that body,” Soudant said. “A city is an entity. It has a personality. It is energized and it is affected exactly the same way as human bodies.”

“Gut Flora” will be the first newly commissioned work of public art for a Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority station since the subway system was completed in the mid-1980s.