The first public creation from the group of artists Michele Agosto helped co-found into the Los Artistas del Barrio Buffalo: A Latino/a/x Hispanic Arts Collaborative was a mural: A lyrical portrait of Roberto Clemente, the late Puerto Rican baseball hero and Pittsburgh Pirates player, on the side of a brick building on Niagara Street at the Hudson intersection.
“That is our biggest claim to fame. That was 100 percent collaborative and a community effort funded by local organizations,” said Agosto, who is also director of arts for Buffalo Public Schools. She was one four painters who worked on the 2021 painting of Clemente with an airplane contrail morphing into a halo over his head. “He died actually trying to help people in Nicaragua after an earthquake,” she said. “He was delivering aid and the plane crashed. He died very young, doing a very humane and selfless thing and so Puerto Ricans just adore him.”
In the seven years since Agosto joined three other local Hispanic artists to form Los Artistas del Barrio Buffalo, the group of Puerto Rican and Caribbean artists has continued to use grants to put on community projects. It has also grown to 14 with a mission that also expanded — from launching gallery shows to sponsoring community programming.
Find the details about latest Los Artistas projects at their website. With grant funding support, their public happenings have ranged from kite making at the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in August and exhibitions at the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center in Niagara Falls, Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, to the Clemente mural.
While much of their work is on display and featured during Hispanic Heritage Month, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, there are many more opportunities to view gallery shows and attend workshops in the months ahead. Agosto welcomes the publicity that the Month affords. “Hispanic Heritage Month is awesome,” she said. “We are essential. We are a growing population. It’s an avenue to celebrate that.”
Agosto has been delighted by how Los Artistas has become a forum to elevate art and ideas from the Hispanic community in Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
“It just tells you there are endless opportunities,” she said. “Once we share the work that we do, there’s a positivity, enthusiasm and excitement that really is pretty contagious. It brings a lot of joy to people and I’m all about joy.”
The 14 Los Artistas members are painters, mixed media artists, ceramists, a graffiti artist and muralist, poets, photographers and performers. They include a circus aerialist, dancers, an actor and singer, a Latin jazz band with a guitarist, bongo player and keyboardist.
“We’ve created a platform for artists that identify as Latino, Latina, Latinx to share their artwork with our community … and just develop an appreciation for Latino artists and give them a platform to share their work,” said Agosto. “At the end of the day, it’s just about making connections, learning about one another, how we can help each other and how we can do this through the universal platform of the arts.”
Check out this one-minute video from a Los Artistas exhibit at the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center in Niagara Falls last year: Niagara Arts & Cultural Center (Facebook)