In April 2020, the Albright-Knox’s Public Art Initiative asked 16 local artists to respond to the initial lockdown requirements of the pandemic. To build community spirit, the museum sent artmaking materials to these artists at their home studios, and they worked to produce a 16-piece collaborative mural. The piece, now located at 43 W. Chippewa St., “speaks to individual and collective experiences of the pandemic.”
The initiative assembled small kits containing mural supplies from the museum’s inventory, including precut sections of a material called Polytab and UV-resistant acrylic paints. Polytab can be adhered to a wall using a clear acrylic gel, creating a resilient mural. The initiative has previously used this method in the creation of Betsy Casañas’s mural “Patria, Será Porque Quisiera Que Vueles, Que Sigue Siendo Tuyo Mi Vuelo (Homeland, Perhaps It Is Because I Wish to See You Fly, That My Flight Continues to Be Yours)” in 2017 on Niagara Street; and “Welcome Wall,” in 2017, by Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez on Fillmore Avenue.
The artists participating in “Works, from Home” include Obsidian Bellis, Julia Bottoms, Tricia Butski, Fotini Galanes, Jay P Hawkins, Ashley Johnson, Jon Mirro, MJ Myers, Sarah Myers, Karle Norman, Omniprism, Chris Piontkowski, Jennifer Ryan, Jason Seeley, Rachel Shelton and Adam Weekley.
“When thinking about the collection of the Albright-Knox, we’re reminded that many of the museum’s cherished artworks were created in times of turmoil, upheaval or challenge,” said Aaron Ott, curator of public art. “Artists often have an uncanny ability to channel an era, a cultural zeitgeist, and visionary truths in times like these. Many artists have found such times of turbulence catalysts to their artistic practice. In response to COVID-19, we hope to continue this creative tradition and use our own resources to help local artists produce timely work.”
The Albright-Knox’s Public Art Initiative is a partnership between the museum and the County of Erie, established in 2013 to enhance a shared sense of place and cultural identity in the urban and suburban landscapes of Western New York. The City of Buffalo joined the partnership in 2014. The goal “is to create spaces of dialogue where diverse communities have the ability to socially engage with, actively respond to, 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.”
This project was made possible by the generosity of The Phyllis L. Goldman Memorial Endowment Fund. The Public Art Initiative was established and is supported by leadership funding from the County of Erie and the City of Buffalo.