The museum's Public Art Initiative, in collaboration with the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor and neighborhood stakeholders, envisioned this mural as a way to celebrate our nation’s historic and ongoing struggles for political and social equality, including the formative and lasting contributions of local leaders to this cause. With support from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), the large concrete wall surrounding the NFTA’s Cold Spring Bus Maintenance Depot has been transformed into portraits of twenty-eight notable civil rights leaders from America’s past and present.
The list of subjects was generated from multiple public meetings with community members that yielded hundreds of suggestions, featuring a mix of local and national leaders. The success of this mural stems from those candid and inspiring meetings, and the final work is designed to reflect a broad and boundless conversation. A guidance committee composed of local historians, community activists, and artists, including Karima Amin, Max Anderson, Dr. Cynthia Conides, Hiram Cray, Eva Doyle, and Dr. Henry Taylor helped determine a consensus list. In selecting and ordering the final 28 subjects, the group aimed to shape a unique story about civil and human rights work in American history, with an eye toward contextualizing national work and local impact.
Vital contributions from community meetings also helped determine the team of artists that painted these portraits over the summer of 2017: John Baker (born 1964), Julia Bottoms (born 1988), Chuck Tingley (born 1983), and Edreys Wajed (born 1974). Each artist is a native of Buffalo, currently lives and works in the region, and holds a degree from SUNY Buffalo State.