716 Transformers: The Socially Conscious Creatives

By Nancy J. Parisi

Published on | Last Updated

Buffalo-born artists Edreys Wajed, and Alexa Joan Wajed – a multi-talented married couple – create artwork in a number of media: paintings, sculpture, public art murals, jewelry, and T-shirts and hoodies with Black-positive messages. She is also a chef and culinary educator. He is also a hip-hop artist and music producer. They opened an online shop, Eat Off Art, in 2019 with a name meant to disperse the cliché of the starving artist as they support their family (they have two equally creative sons) via art-making. Edreys and Alexa also produce a monthly Eat Off Art podcast that showcases local artists of color. Edreys’s work is featured in the prominent public art project that launched in 2017 and remains on view indefinitely: The Freedom Wall at the corner of Michigan Avenue and East Ferry Street at the northern gateway into Buffalo’s Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor. Both are committed to making art that makes a difference and being change agents. “We are community-made,” Alexa says. “We have been able to step on the shoulders of those who came before us whether it’s in the arts, food, community service, or social justice.” “They did their best work to inspire the next generation,” Edreys adds, “and we were watching. We pick up pieces and say, ‘What we gonna do with this?’ and that’s where we are right now. We’re at the point where we are trying to lead with advocacy for artists, for justice, for all parties. And we leave evidence throughout of our experiences. And we transform through our art. We want people to walk in and leave different than how they entered. The public art that’s out there, that’s transformative. That’s place-making. We want to inspire those who are afraid to take risks.”

716 Tips

Edreys: “Visit the Freedom Wall. It’s a great place to take someone from out of town and not because I’m a part of it. It features dignitaries like Eva Doyle who calls it, ‘an outdoor gallery,’ and I subscribe to that. You don’t need a ticket, or pass a receptionist, or have to worry about how you’re dressed to see it. It’s tangible, and accessible all times of the day. That 300-foot, 28-paneled wall does wonders.”

Alexa: “What’s integral to us is food, and that’s part of why we are Eat Off Art. You’ve got to go to Ethiopian at West Side Bazaar, and there are so many good Thai restaurants that we have in Buffalo — we go to Rin Thai Bistro in Williamsville, one of our favorites.”

Nancy J. Parisi headshot

Nancy J. Parisi

Nancy is a social documentation photographer based in Buffalo, NY.