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BNMC garage gets artistic upgrade

Visitors admire "Beautiful Health Fphacze" by James J. Cooper III. Photo: David J. Hill

By DAVID J. HILL

Published August 8, 2013

“The idea was completely fascinating to me—public art on a garage.”
Joanna Angie, founder
Buffalo Arts Studio

A parking garage on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) just got a lot nicer to look at with the addition of two colorful, large-scale murals created by a team of artists that includes a UB alumnus.

Both murals measure 20 feet by 50 feet and were installed on the parking garage at Michigan Avenue and Goodrich Street, known as the MiGo garage.

Buffalo area artists William Y. Cooper, a 1975 UB BFA graduate, and James J. Cooper III (no relation) teamed up with Brooklyn artist Jennifer Fuentes to create “Nexus,” the mural on the Goodrich side of the garage. The title is a metaphor for the Buffalo Niagara region’s role in promoting cutting-edge science and medicine.

The mural on the High Street side of the garage is titled “Beautiful Health Fphacze,” and was painted by James Cooper.

BNMC Inc. provided the funding for both murals, which each took approximately one week to install. The pieces and their creators were honored at a celebration on Aug. 7 at the parking ramp.

“We all know that art adds significantly to the quality of life, and in its own unique way, art celebrates the same achievements of vision and creativity as the scientific research and entrepreneurial activity on the campus,” said Jim Biltekoff, vice-chair of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Board of Directors.

“Nexus"

"Nexus," by William Y. Cooper, James J. Cooper III and Jennifer Fuentes, is on the Goodrich Street side of the garage. Photo: David J. Hill

BNMC director Ruth Bryant envisioned the project a few years ago after seeing a presentation for designs for the MiGo parking ramp. “In asking if there was some way to soften the façade, one of the architects, an alum of our UB School of Architecture and Planning, mentioned a mural on the side of a garage in Philadelphia and I thought, ‘Why not Buffalo’? Today is the culmination of a two-year project,” Bryant said.

An ad-hoc committee met for several months beginning in June 2011 to identify local artists and asked them to submit proposals that reflected the vision and mission of the medical campus. “The idea was completely fascinating to me—public art on a garage,” said Joanna Angie, founder and former director of Buffalo Arts Studio.

The artists selected presented their ideas to a screening committee that included Robert Shibley, dean of UB’s School of Architecture and Planning; Beth Tauke, associate dean of the architecture school and associate professor in the Department of Architecture; and Bill Joyce, BNMC board chair.

The Tri-Main Center and 11 East Utica art studio in Buffalo gave the artists space to work on the murals, and the Langston Hughes Institute Center, also in Buffalo, provided space to store the works, which were created in panels.

James Cooper thanked everyone who helped along the way. “This was a wonderful journey for us,” he said.

Janne Siren, the new director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery who relocated here from Finland, also spoke at the unveiling ceremony, noting that “cities can change if art is integrated into public spaces.”

State Sen. Tim Kennedy said the works reflect the potential the Buffalo Niagara region holds. “This is just another part of the ongoing, continuous forward motion that we see here at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. With the focus on economic development and job creation that’s happening right now at the BNMC, unquestionably, the sky is the limit for us here in Buffalo and Western New York,” he said.