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Public art project to feature portraits of black civil rights leaders

Large-scale portraits of more than two dozen black civil rights leaders and community figures from Western New York and beyond will soon greet visitors to the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor.

Buffalo artist Chuck Tingley, whose murals adorn public spaces and businesses throughout the region, will create 29 portraits in his trademark illustrative style on a 300-foot concrete wall at the intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue.

The project is the latest effort to emerge from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's public art program.

Though final contracts have not been signed, it was approved in principle last week by the board of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which owns the wall that runs along the southern edge of its Cold Springs bus depot.

The subjects of the portraits will be chosen after a series of public meetings and discussions with neighborhood organizations, residents and leaders of Buffalo's black community. The first public meeting is scheduled for Feb. 16 at 5:30 p.m. in the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, 450 Masten Ave.

Albright-Knox public art curator Aaron Ott said the project has the potential to serve as an eye-catching gateway to the history corridor and may spur more such projects related to the neighborhood and its cultural history.

The wall where Tingley's murals will appear:

"I think we're all going to be proud of this piece when it's finished, but my hope is that it's the beginning of something," Ott said. "There's been a lot of enthusiasm for it."

The project follows Mark Goldman's Ferry Street Corridor project of 2014-15, which featured temporary historic photographs of Buffalo's East Side posted along the concrete wall.


A photo posted by Chuck Tingley (@chuck.tingley) on

"We're not breaking new ground, per se, but our hope is that we can go a lot bigger and make a heavier impact and get people to stop and treat it as an educational space," Ott said.

"We're extremely pleased to be collaborating once again with Albright-Knox on a public art initiative," said NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer. "It's strategically placed at the entrance to the African American heritage corridor. I think it's a good opportunity for us to collaborate on a project that's very important to the East Side."


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