Campus News

‘Progress Pride Paths’ celebrates UB’s history, diversity

Staff from Facilities Operations recently installed "Progress Pride Paths," the first project in the new Contemplative Sites series of public art displays. It can be seen on Knox Quad on the North Campus. Photos: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki


Published August 17, 2021

“This bold art elevates identity intersectionality and challenges us to recognize privilege and equity at the same time we celebrate all that is beautiful about queerness. ”
Benjamin Fabian, president
LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association

The vivid, bold colors you see painted on the sidewalk in Knox Quad will be the first in a series of new public art projects on campus, this one displaying UB’s pride and support for the LGBTQ community.

Known by its working title “Rainbow Art,” but formally renamed “Progress Pride Paths,” the installation is part of the new Contemplative Sites project launched by the Office of the Provost. The goal is to showcase art that celebrates both the history and diversity of UB in spaces that provide for contemplation on issues that resonate with the campus community.

“The Public Art Committee has been working very hard to add to our collection each year,” says Kelly Hayes McAlonie, director of campus planning and chair of UB’s Public Art Committee. “We see this as a vital ingredient in developing a sense of place on campus for our students, faculty and staff.

“I am thrilled to see the Rainbow Art project is serving to launch this important initiative,” she says.

Public art for the Contemplative Sites project will be temporary, with this inaugural work on display throughout the 2021-22 academic year from Aug. 23 through July 1, 2022. The UB community will be invited during the fall semester to suggest thematic ideas for new artwork to be installed next summer.

Themes and artists will be selected each year by a small committee that includes McAlonie and Despina Stratigakos, vice provost for inclusive excellence, before final approval is granted by the university’s Public Art and Capital Planning committees.

Besides Knox Quad, three other potential sites for the public art project have been identified: the sidewalk outside Greiner Hall on the North Campus; Arts Quad, next to the Center for the Arts on the North Campus; and Abbott Quad on the South Campus

“The physical and visual landscapes that we experience every day send strong signals about who belongs to and is welcome in our university spaces,” Stratigakos says.

“Through its monumentality, this dynamic project makes a big and bold statement about LGBTQ+ inclusion at UB,” she says of the inaugural artwork.

Progress Pride Paths was done in partnership with the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association and installed by the landscaping service staff and masonry team from Facilities Operations.

It includes quadrangular shapes of 11 different colors painted along 883 square feet of the V-shaped sidewalk enclosed by Knox Hall, Bell Hall and the Student Union. A ribbon-cutting is planned for noon on Sept. 8, says Benjamin Fabian, assistant director for student support, Student Conduct and Advocacy, and president of the LGBTQ FSA.

The artwork will replace the rainbow crosswalk installed in 2019 along Mary Talbert Way between the Student Union and the UB Commons. The colors on the crosswalk will be power washed away.

Progress Pride Paths is a “contemporized iteration” of the celebrated crosswalk, Fabian says, and the symbolism of its bold, visual affirmations of diversity cannot be underscored enough.

“While a six-color rainbow has usually been recognized as representative of our community, the integration of light blue, pink and white for trans people, and black and brown for people of color is a nod to the expansive experiences of queer people,” Fabian notes.

“This bold art elevates identity intersectionality and challenges us to recognize privilege and equity at the same time we celebrate all that is beautiful about queerness.”

Its designer, Sean Brodfuehrer, an architectural planner in Campus Planning, drew inspiration from researching the history and evolution of the Progress Pride Flag.

“The theme of inclusion was ever present as new concepts were woven together into the original design,” Brodfuehrer explains. “So, when I was asked to expand on the original six-color design from the crosswalk to include those in the Progress Flag, I wanted to explore the idea of weaving. Similar to how a rainbow is an infinite transition between colors, I wanted the colors to weave and overlap together.”

Brodfuehrer also drew from his background in architecture and urban design, where everything needs to be contextualized to a specific site.

“This specific location being lower than the promenade has the unique opportunity of being viewed from above, as well as on foot,” he says. “So even a large design can be viewed holistically as a pedestrian but still fit in with the grandness of the campus. I wanted to capitalize on this so viewing it from above felt as appropriate as walking through it.”