Explore the abundant energy that over 130 public murals, and their artists, bring to the Western New York community.

by Katie Johnson

More than just large scale paintings, murals tell social, cultural and political stories of a region

The Impact of Colors

You don’t have to be aesthete to know or feel the power that lies in colors. When looking for a spark of joy, it seems all the places you may turn to or items you might wear are marked with lively, vibrant and vivid hues. Humans have even been said to radiate a color energy, an aura that only those tapped in enough can see. Imagine what painting a wall can do for a room, let alone an exterior wall of a city?

Widely no longer considered counterculture or graffiti, street art has become a welcome source of pride, artistry and outdoor engagement throughout America as well as the City of Good Neighbors—each artist and painting offering their own insights into our city, along with beautifying our streets. 

“Nature is inherently kind of creative. Always changing itself, reinventing itself and adapting … I think that there is a lot of beauty in that.”

A Mural Artist’s Muse

Oftentimes before there is a mural, there is its artist, looking for a spark of creativity—each one creating a work of art that is specifically “them” and unique. “I’m drawn to flower elements in my artwork . . . symbols of optimism,” says Cassandra Ott, Buffalo Artist and Designer behind the Garden Walk mural on Elmwood Avenue. “Nature is inherently kind of creative. Always changing itself, reinventing itself and adapting. You know, I think that there is a lot of beauty in that. Play it up so that we can appreciate the world around us, whether that is a literal interpretation or something that is more kind of whimsical and dreamy.”

For Artist and Muralist Casey Milbrand, the creator of the Lookin’ Good mural on Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo, inspiration knows no category. “The funny thing is, I’m inspired by really random shit. It might be a pair of socks I got, you know that have a certain color pattern.” Sharing his design process for the mural, “The Lookin’ Good was different because I wanted people to be able to see it from a distance, so when you’re turning the corner on Colvin you see this rainbow climbing down the building, but you don’t see the whole thing. I really pushed myself to have the simplest design possible but colorful to kind of wake people up a little bit. Then North Park Theater is up the street, so I really liked this kind of retro, 70’s vibe.”

While for Fine Artist, Madonna Pannell, her mural planning is more intuitive. “Actually I painted a tiny painting of it first,” she explained of her infamous Harriet Tubman piece in Niagara Falls. “I wanted to see how I would mix the colors. For most mural artists, they are going to be using spray paint or some kind of acrylic, but I primarily only worked in acrylic paint and a little bit oil paint. I wanted to get this idea flushed out in acrylic paint first, so I did it on a really tiny canvas and sized it to what I knew what my mural space was going to be. From there we projected it onto the wall at night, of course, and I just did the outline of my idea and then started the painting process.”

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