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Arts & Culture

Buffalo celebrates 'Ulysses' author James Joyce with downtown mural

A 36-foot mural of Ulysses author James Joyce was unveiled Monday afternoon on Franklin Street in downtown Buffalo. It comes just in time for Bloomsday, a celebration of the Irish writer’s life that takes place every June 16.


The mural is part of a fundraising effort by the University of Buffalo (UB), which holds the world’s largest collection of Joyce’s works, and plans to create a museum to feature them on its south campus next year.

New York Consul General of Ireland Ciaran Madden spoke at the mural unveiling, and highlighted the importance of creating accessibility to Joyce’s works like Ulysses.

“We're always struggling to bridge generational gaps among the Irish community in United States," Madden said. "Some people gravitate towards their heritage. For others, we have to work to point them in the direction of it. That's a challenge at all times. This book was published 99 and a half years ago, it's still being read, it's still being celebrated. So it's bridged generational gaps a few times before. And now we're putting our shoulder to the wheel behind it. Hopefully, we can do so with more ease and more effect than we have done.”


Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the publishing of Ulysses. Madden hopes the attention towards Joyce’s works will lead to new readers.


“Is it a collection for specialists, for the academics all around the world who know their joys intimately? Or is a collection for everyone?" asked Madden. "And I think we need to move somewhere further along the spectrum to being available and open to all. And showing this hopefully in downtown Buffalo will begin that because the first people to see it are the people of the city who look and say, 'Why is that up there?'”


The mural is based on an archival photograph from UB's James Joyce collection and was designed by UB Libraries web manager and lead designer Kristopher Miller. 

Madden said even if Ulysses hasn’t been read by most, aspects of it still exist in our vernacular.

“Phrases like 'love loves to love love' or 'history is a nightmare from which I'm trying to awake.' But one is always stuck my head. Anytime I go swimming in the Irish Sea, which is cold by Irish standards, maybe not to all you tough Western New Yorkers. Someone will always mumble the quote from Ulysses about the snot green sea... scrotum tightening sea," Madden laughed. "So when the kids in Buffalo start mumbling that before they jump into Lake Erie, we'll know our work here is done.”

A specific fundraising goal for the Joyce museum hasn't been announced.



Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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