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People Inc. and WNY Urban Arts Collective Begin Jefferson Avenue Mural Project

Local Art Initiative Becomes a Blueprint for Using Art to Beautify Neighborhoods

September 17, 2020: People Inc. and the WNY Urban Arts Collective (UAC) announced the official start of the Jefferson Apartments Art Mural Project. This important community effort will represent the rich history of Jefferson Avenue through artwork from several local artists who were recently commissioned for the project. The mural artwork will be displayed on the newly-constructed Jefferson Avenue Apartments, located at 1140 and 1166 Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, NY. The ground floor of both buildings will contain a total of 16,500 square feet of commercial space, which will include retail shops and house a People Inc. recruitment office.  

The formal process to bring about this art project began the summer of 2019, as a collaboration between People Inc. and the WNY Urban Arts Collective. Together, with people from around the community, they formed the Jefferson Apartments Art Mural Committee. In November of last year, the community came together to select the mural themes that will now grace the side of each of the new People Inc. affordable apartment buildings on Jefferson Avenue.

At the beginning of 2020, the committee turned over those artistic themes and ideas to the WNY Urban Arts Collective. In February, there was also a community-wide call for artists and artwork. Unfortunately, the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic and recent racial tensions reached a tipping point. During this time, the committee and amazing artists stayed committed to creating artwork that would be reflective of the ideas and our community’s history.

“This initiative will become a blueprint for using art to beautify the community, instill pride and convey ownership, in an attempt to uplift others,” said Rhonda Frederick, People Inc. president and CEO. “It has been so impressive to see the beautiful artwork progress that has been made to encourage inclusion, equity and acceptance within our community.”

The goals of the project are to create collection of murals that set the transformative platform for fine arts within community neighborhoods. The artwork of Jefferson Avenue will be indicative of relatable images that create urban art galleries to beautify these neighborhoods. 

John Baker stated, “Years from now, when this project is history, the community of artists involved will be part of the story for future generations.”

Thanks to the dedication, input and time given by the community, the selections were made and the following artists will create the murals (and possibly art renderings):

John Baker (art director/coordinator/contributing artist), President The WNY Urban Arts Collective.

Kobie Barber (artist) - Warp Speed: Children working on the “warp speed” equations to create reality out of theory. Trying to highlight/focus on bringing math and sciences back to the intercity – Knowledge equals Power.

Markenzy Julius Cesar (contributing artist): Born in Haiti, he has lived in the United States since 1987. In 1993, he moved to Buffalo, NY, to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts from SUNY College at Buffalo. Cesar came to feel a connection with Western New York and has built a life with his family in the region.

James Cooper III (artist) - Elements of Jefferson: Cultural representation of Jefferson Avenue legacy, the first host of the Juneteenth Festival. This includes images of historic landmarks and colors meant to convey a vibrant energetic mood of liveliness.

Gino Morrow (artist) - Jefferson Jubilee: People, Families, Children, Concerts, Parades/ Marchers, Festivals and a reflection of many experiences. Meaningful and impactful – creative interpretation of the celebrations of life culture and beauty. As a Buffalo native, he reflects upon his childhood and Juneteenth activities.

Mark G. Pearce (artist) - Strong Solo: A powerful tenor saxophone soliloquy captures the ear of the listener. Symbolic of Buffalo's vibrant jazz legacy, it is a tribute to Buffalo's great musical heritage.

Phyllis Thompson (artist) - Ancestor Watching Over: Depicts an ancestor seated at a table gazing back at all who look at her. The shapes, patterns and colors that surround her are influenced from family quilts and wallpaper. The spirit of elders and ancestors is always present as they guide, protect and watch over the community.

Princessa Williams (contributing artist): Her diversity as an artist, paint instructor, photographer and jewelry designer, the Buffalo, NY native’s artwork is compelling symbolism of black empowerment and abstract designs.

Well known for its development of group homes for people with developmental disabilities and affordable senior housing, People Inc. continues to serve the community by bringing various audiences together for a unique housing model. The Jefferson Avenue Apartments house 89 total apartments (71 one-bedroom and 18 two-bedroom). Some apartments have been specifically designed for people who have mobility and vision challenges or who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing; the remaining apartments are handicapped adaptable.

People Inc., a multispecialty non-profit health and human services agency, provides programs and services to more than 10,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, special needs, their families and older adults throughout Western New York and the Greater Rochester region. Since 1970, People Inc. has assisted people to achieve greater degrees of independence and productivity. With nearly 4,000 employees, People Inc. is one of the region’s largest employers. To learn more, visit, follow People Inc. on Facebook or Twitter @PeopleIncNews.

Western New York 1219 North Forest Road | P.O. Box 9033 | Williamsville, New York 14231 | Phone: 716.817.7400 | Toll Free NY 1.888.7PEOPLE | Fax: 716.634.3889

Rochester 1860 Buffalo Road | Rochester, NY 14624 | Phone 585.441.9300 | Fax 585.441.9398

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