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Albright-Knox public art series dedicates latest creation on Niagara Street

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery's AK Public Art Initiative, which has added color and flair to many Buffalo-area neighborhoods, has welcomed its latest addition. This one is in Buffalo's Niagara Street Corridor and celebrates the Latino and Hispanic heritage of the neighborhood.

The mural, designed by Philadelphia-based artist Betsy Casañas, covers two sides of a building at the corner of Niagara and Jersey Streets and features several women and men in traditional outfits as well as flowers and other objects to celebrate Latino and Hispanic heritage.

To create her artwork, Casañas used parachute cloth which was painted in segments and then assembled and adhered to the building.

"It's always exciting to see how people react when they don't really know the process," she said. "Most of this mural is done completely on fabric. We do it in pieces, it looks like a huge puzzle and once things start going up, people go like 'whoa.'"

This new addition to the AK Public Art Initiative is the first to be supported in part by money from the Rich Family Foundation, which donated $1 million to the gallery for community projects and outreach. M&T Bank, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library and New Era Cap Foundation also contributed to the project.

Casimiro Rodriguez, president of the Hispanic Heritage Council, spoke of gentrification in the neighborhood and stated while people of many backgrounds live in the Niagara Street Corridor, it's important to remember its longtime Latino and Hispanic heritage.

"It articulates, and the interpretation of it, is the pride of the people that live here," he said. 

Casañas also expressed an appreciation on behalf of her team for honoring the neighborhood's cultural history.

"It's extremely important that when we are in Latino communities that are slowly becoming gentrified that we are an active part of making sure that our stories are being told by us," she said. 

"We've come from far, far places and decided to have roots here."

Casañas expressed a fondness for Buffalo and hinted she'll be heading back next summer. 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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