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Erie County: Newest public art offering brings colorful greeting to international audience

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Thu, Oct 8th 2015 03:40 pm

Clothing inspires, empowers Karina Kaikkonen's creative, colorful "We Share a Dream" at BNIA

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined Wednesday by Albright-Knox Art Gallery Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director Dr. Janne Sirén, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Executive Director Kimberley A. Minkel, NFTA officials, artist Karina Kaikkonen and arts enthusiasts at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga to unveil the latest installation in the Public Art Initiative, a flight-inspired creation using colorful shirts donated by Western New Yorkers and joined together to form a huge, encompassing wing span across the airport's central terminal.

"This installation brings very personal items into the public space, joining them together in a symbol of our common goals and underscoring our desire to be together to effect positive, vibrant change in our community. Everyone has a favorite shirt, and many residents took the time to donate their own special shirt or that of a loved one specifically to be a part of this project," Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said. "This project truly brings people together and emphasizes our connectedness through the clothing we wear and its meaning in our lives. My thanks go to Director Sirén, Public Art Curator Aaron Ott and our partners at the NFTA for cooperating on this public art installation and presenting it on an international stage here at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport."

The installation used roughly 2,000 shirts that were donated to the AK Public Art Initiative and collected at Buffalo and Erie County Public Library branches throughout Erie County. The shirts are attached at the sleeves, or "hands," suggesting human connection even in absence.

The artist, Kaikkonen, is internationally renowned for her use of clothing to alter perception of shared lives and shared spaces. Her projects are cooperative in nature, as she seeks donated clothes from public sources and works with teams of volunteers to create the final piece.

This large work, titled "We Share a Dream," is mounted above the main ticketing area in the publically accessible lobby of the airport. The curved wings of the walls, flanking the security entrance in the middle, offer a substantial and dramatic site for the presentation of Kaikkonen's multicolored work.

"We would like to send an immense 'Thank you' to the Western New Yorkers who have become a part of this project," Sirén said. "Your individual stories have been stitched together, hand in hand, to create this inspiring work of art, which echoes our great county and its residents. As we see Buffalo rising into the future, this striking installation will be a beacon, highlighting the extent to which Buffalo is spreading its wings."

Minkel added, "We are delighted to have 'We Share a Dream' grace our walls. As clothing is meant to do, the colorful array of shirts offers a warm embrace to the millions of visitors who travel through our airport."

Established in 2013, the Public Art Initiative is an innovative partnership between Erie County and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, with the City of Buffalo joining the partnership in 2014. The goal of the initiative is to create spaces of dialogue where diverse communities have the ability to engage socially, actively respond, and cooperatively produce great public art that is capable of empowering individuals, creating stronger neighborhoods and establishing Western New York as a critical cultural center.

Most recently, the AK Public Art Initiative brought artist Jenny Kendler's "Milkweed Dispersal Balloons" and "Rewilding New York" projects to Erie County, along with artist Shayne Dark's "Natural Conditions" installation at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens and artist Jaume Plensa's "Silent Poets" installation at Canalside. Artist Casey Riordan Millard's hugely popular "Shark Girl" sculpture at Canalside brings a toothsome smile and numerous visitors to the site, while other installations in the Public Art Initiative have included Tape Art's 2014 installation of "Buffalo Caverns," a massive, temporary mural-style drawing made with painter's tape on the exterior walls of the Central Library in downtown Buffalo; artist Matthew Hoffman's "You Are Beautiful" billboard campaign throughout Erie County in a unique partnership with Lamar Advertising; and artist Charles Clough's collaboratively produced "Arena Painting," which is installed in the newly constructed wing of the Hamburg Public Library.

The Public Art Initiative also has distributed 30,000 art kits to students throughout Erie County.

 

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz is joined by Albright-Knox Art Gallery and NFTA officials to announce the installation of "We Share a Dream" at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The expansive artwork, the creation of artist Karina Kaikkonen, incorporates shirts donated from thousands of Erie County residents and will bring a colorful greeting to all airport visitors.

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