Vibrant mural captures the essence of Cobblestone District

Perry St. public artwork

Mark Sommers

Bright colors and a variety of industrial forms come alive in a grid-like, five-story mural being unveiled Tuesday in the Cobblestone District.

The Pop- and Bauhaus-influenced mural, called “Go!,” was designed by Augustina Droze and Bruce Adams. The mural, Buffalo’s newest public art, is located on a six-story building at 95 Perry St., at the corner of Mississippi Street, near Helium Comedy Club.

“We viewed this as an opportunity to do something grand and highly visible on the biggest canvas I’ll likely ever have,” said Adams, a figurative painter who teamed up with Droze once before to do a mural on Elmwood Avenue, near Bidwell Parkway.

“I love it. It’s simple but eye-catching, and I think it’s iconic for the city,” said Droze, one of the area’s most accomplished muralists. “I think this mural captures the essence of that part of the city.”

Droze also has created murals behind McKinley High School, on Grant Street, inside Bethune Lofts and on a building in Clarence Hollow.

Arts Services Initiative initially issued a request for proposals for the mural, and assembled a panel of local figures in the arts to review submissions. The prospectus called for the mural to relate to the waterfront and the Cobblestone District.

Droze and Adams met these specifications, in part, through representations of large, green-colored cylinder-shaped machinery, boat masts and red silos glistening from the water’s reflection.

The two panels that reach the building’s fifth story show an excited-looking woman with her mouth open, and the word “Go!” appearing in the next panel. The image was inspired by a famous 1932 Russian Constructivist poster in which a woman exhorts workers to unite.

Adams said it was re-created using a local woman “with the idea of someone shouting something positive from the top of the building. There was a positivity to the whole idea that I think represents what everyone thinks Buffalo is going through.”

The artist Piet Mondrian, known in the early 20th century for working with big and small shapes using primary colors, was another influence.

“We basically used his color palette of primary red, blue and yellow, but we added green partly because we wanted to acknowledge the new greenspaces down on the waterfront,” Adams said, adding that Mondrian probably wouldn’t have approved because “he hated green.”

The building and the design each presented significant challenges.

Preparing the brick building – one of the keys to ensuring the long life of a mural – required a week of caulking and working primer into the cracks.

Another challenge was maintaining the continuity of straight lines and arches as the images morphed from one panel to another.

“It turned out to be a difficult challenge continuing the arches fluidly from segment to segment,” Adams said. “To get very long, straight lines was also not easy to do, because the width of the lift we were on was roughly the width of one of those squares. If you’re off an inch, by the time you reach the end it’s 10 inches.”

The weather was also a frequent impediment. The artists suffered through 90-degree weather during the first week in May, then finger-numbing weather the next. They endured hot temperatures Sunday when they finished applying varnish.

“It was a great project, but I’m happy it’s over,” Droze said. “We got baked all day from the heat. It was a bit scary on the boom lift. And in the beginning it was very cold, but much of the rest of the time it was extremely hot.”

Droze said she enjoyed her time with Adams, noting she could get a bit loopy at times. “We spent so much time together that I sang the entire soundtrack to ‘The Little Mermaid’ to him,” Droze laughed. “You never get to know someone as well as when you spend nine hours a day with them in a tiny boom lift.”

The mural is the third work of public art in the district. Hi-Temp Fabrication, which operates an art gallery on one floor at 79 Perry St., has a mural on its south wall by Carly Jean Parrish. The lobby at 26 Mississippi has a spray-painted mural of the Edward Cotter, done by the artist OGRE, visible through a glass wall.

Savarino Properies also commissioned Griffis Studios to make metal benches and wayfarer signage nearby.

Adams said he appreciated the commitment of developer Samuel Savarino and his daughter Julia Spitz to public art in the Cobblestone District.

“They were amazingly supportive and encouraging,” he said. “They put this out there because they wanted to do something that was good for the community. They have a belief that these small gestures, collectively, improve a neighborhood, and they get the fact that artists and art play an important part in that.”

Savarino, who owns the Perry Street building with Chris Jacobs, said he is proud of the end result. “It adds to the vibrancy and beauty of our neighborhood,” he said.

Shasti O’Leary-Soudant, the other finalist, was later asked to create a three-dimensional piece of art inside the three-story atrium at 500 Seneca St., the former F.N. Burt Box Factory that Savarino is developing.