Public art in Buffalo has become much more visibly public in recent years. Additions to the Albright-Knox campus, new murals in Allentown, utility boxes used as canvases in the Elmwood Village and Hertel neighborhoods and the infamous Shark Girl at Canalside have made Buffalo a much more visually-stimulating place. And the addition of a public art curator to the staff of the Albright promises much more to come.
Start your public art itinerary at the Elmwood Avenue entrance of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Here you’ll find artist Nancy Rubin’s provocative assemblage of aluminum canoes rising like a machine age tree on the gallery’s front lawn. Make your way around the left side of the gallery for a view of the Jaume Plensa’s “Laura,” a gorgeous marble bust that stands 20 feet tall, before continuing on to the rear of the gallery for a look at Jason Middlebrook’s “Underlife” and Liam Gillick’s “Stacked Revision Structure.”
From here, head to the Elmwood Village and a look at “Birds Excited Into Flight” by legendary local sculptor Larry Griffis. Located at the intersection of Bidwell, Chapin and Lincoln Parkways, “Birds” has been a part of the Buffalo landscape since 1981.
Walk along Bidwell Parkway to Elmwood Avenue where you’ll find a colorful mural by local painters Augustina Droze and Bruce Adams in the parking lot of ECVA Optical. A celebration of the vitality and diversity of the Elmwood Village neighborhood this mural is all primary colors and bold strokes. Diagonally across Elmwood you’ll also find a box attached to a utility pole featuring an artist’s rendering of a “buffalove” bison. This is one of many such creations scattered throughout the EV.
For a more traditional take on public art, head back along Bidwell until you come to Colonial Circle at the corner of Richmond Avenue. Here sits Civil War hero General Daniel Davidson Bidwell astride his mount. General Bidwell was killed at Cedar Creek, Virginia on Oct. 19, 1864. This impressive equestrian statue is a fitting tribute to his sacrifice on behalf of the Union.
Moving south on Richmond Avenue, continue to Allen Street and the corner of College. Buffalo author, activist and entrepreneur Mark Goldman has commissioned a gallery of street art by local and national artists on the buildings of this corner of the Allentown neighborhood. Peruse the art and then stop in for a cold one at Allen Street Hardware Cafe, the much-loved pub run by the Goldman family.
Next, head down to the waterfront for two very different public art experiences. At Canalside have the selfie stick ready for a portrait with “Shark Girl,” created by artist Casey Riordan Millard. Sweetly surreal and the subject of countless social media posts, Shark Girl has been something of a sensation since it was installed on Buffalo’s waterfront in summer 2014. Shark Girl is perched on a bridge overlooking hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment at Buffalo’s waterfront. Before leaving Canalside, visit one of Buffalo’s newest public art projects, “Silent Poets” by Jaume Plensa, which sit atop two pedestals. And if you happen to find yourself at Canalside after dark, take a walk along the boardwalk and check out the spectacular light show that illuminates the Connecting Terminal grain elevator on the far side of the Buffalo River from dusk to 11 p.m.
Finally, in the nearby Cobblestone District, at the rear of 95 Perry Street at the corner of Mississippi, you’ll find “Go!,” a five-story grid of color and geometry. It’s a breathtaking installation and well worth a visit.
— Ed Healy