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City of Buffalo, restaurant owner respond to vandalism of Hertel Alley street art

The inaugural Hertel Alley Street Art Festival was the site of creativity, artistic expression and dazzling colors on the first two days of June, as 20 artists volunteered their time to beautify Hertel Alley, a three-block strip immediately south of Hertel Avenue, near Colvin.

One week later, a portion of the Hertel Alley canvas was defiled by a thick blue line of spray paint, with the message "716 Locals Only" scrawled across one mural. The security cameras at Hertel Hardware, whose backdoor opens onto the alley, caught a glimpse of the culprit after 10:30 p.m. June 9, but the person has not been identified.

Delaware District Councilmember Joel Feroleto, who organized the art festival with the help of the Hertel Business Association, was troubled by the ugly turn of events.

"The vandalism is frustrating," Feroleto explained. "People came together to volunteer their time to use resources to beautify the alley. [The vandal] made a wonderful thing into such an issue."

Eighteen of the 20 artists that were selected for the festival were from Buffalo, organizers confirmed. Feroleto noted that many artists affected have returned to paint over the vandalism, and the event organizers aren't letting this setback deter them from returning the festival next spring.

Feroleto noted that several businesses - Hertel Hardware, White Dog Vintage and La Tavola - mentioned how the festival impacted them specifically.

Commenting on an unexpected influx of customers June 1, La Tavola co-owner Vic Cali asked a host to casually ask customers where they were coming from before eating at his restaurant. An informal tally counted 16 that day, with people coming from Williamsville and East Aurora to check out the artistic venture.

"I grew up in that neighborhood - and my wife grew up on Wellington - and when we walked over there [to see the art], we had no idea the alleyway was that long," Cali said. "I thought it was just where everyone kept their dumpsters and recycling bins. [The vandalism] is horrible."

For a broader understanding of the Hertel public art, a website called HertelWalls.com - a joint effort of Feroleto and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery - was unveiled recently to delve into the stories behind the murals.

Email: btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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