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Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez

American, born 1979, and American, born Belize, 1975

Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez's Welcome Wall, 2017, at 751 Fillmore Avenue. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Welcome Wall,

Public Artwork Details

Currently on View


Acrylic on Polytab


Commissioned by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Public Art Initiative, 2017

751 Fillmore Avenue (Get Directions)

Formerly the location of the Copacabana Jazz Club, 751 Fillmore Avenue has sat vacant for over a decade near the intersection of Broadway and Fillmore on Buffalo’s East Side. In 2016, the building’s new owners in partnership with the Broadway Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Services (BFNHS) and Fillmore District Common Council Member David Franczyk conceived of the idea for a mural that would incorporate the word “welcome” in the 13 languages BFNHS outreach identified as representative of this diverse neighborhood: Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, English, Farsi, French, German, Polish, Seneca, Spanish, Somali, Urdu, and Vietnamese. At the invitation of the BFNHS and a number of stakeholders in the neighborhood, the Albright-Knox Public Art Initiative and additional community representatives identified Philadelphia-based artists Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez to help make this vision a reality.

Community members join artist Keir Johnston in painting the mural at Broadway Market. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Community members join artist Keir Johnston in painting the mural at Broadway Market. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Johnston and Martinez solicited community participation in both the design and execution of this mural through a series of public meetings and public paint days. The artists created the work using sheets of Polytab, a nonwoven material also known as “parachute cloth,” which was then patched together like wallpaper to create a seamless installation. The flexibility of the material made it possible to work on the mural indoors and allowed Johnston and Martinez to bring the artmaking process out into the community. Each section of Polytab was marked in advance by the artists with an outline of the design, a kind of “paint-by-numbers” format that allowed individuals of all skill levels to come together and participate on the project simultaneously.

About Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez

For more than 20 years, Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez have been creating murals that creatively bring awareness to pressing social issues for participants and the broader public of passersby alike. Johnston and Martinez are founding members of Amber Art and Design in Philadelphia, an organization of like-minded artists committed to creating spaces for dialogue capable of effecting measurable and positive change for historically underserved communities. Focusing on collaboration and communication, these artists produce work that is informed and in part physically created by those communities where the work will reside.

Project Sponsors

This mural has been sponsored in part by Broadway-Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Services. 

Public Art Initiative mural projects are generously underwritten by the New Era Cap Foundation.

Initiative Sponsors

The Public Art Initiative was established and is supported by leadership funding from the County of Erie and the City of Buffalo.

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