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Mural Project begins in Gowanda

2020 was the initial year for the Gowanda Mural Project. The photo gallery belows shows the mural work that was done. Below the gallery is an article about the creation of the Gowanda Mural Project's progress through the year.

[clicking on any thumbnail photo will pop up a larger version.] 

Shown right: The first mural done by the Gowanda Mural Project was done on the exterior wall of Alison's, a hair salon on West Main at North Water Street in Gowanda. This location is right on the main square in the Business District.

An exterior wall at the Palm Gardens Motel and Sports Bar features a humming bird and two butterflies. The mural faces Bader Street near the intersection with Buffalo Street in Gowanda.

A slightly different project took place at Hager's Alley, a passageway from West Main Street to the parking lots behind the North-side businesses. The walls of the alley were divideded into 8 areas ranging in size from 4'x4' to 8'x12'. Each artist taking on one of these areas created a work of their own design. Pictured to the right and below.

Photos below: The back parking lot at the Gowanda Shop'N Save has concrete jersey barriers to separate their lot from the Cattaraugus Creek flowing just past the back row of parking. A special Kids Edition of the mural project gave local children a chance to get in on the artistic project.

Dec. 28, 2020

Before Gowanda heads off into a new year, it’s worth taking a moment to look at one final signature event of 2020, The Gowanda Mural Project.

From early in 2020, a group of community volunteers formed the Gowanda Community Clean Up Group. Eventually numbering more that 100, members of the group were often seen cleaning up the Gowanda downtown area and local parks. It was not long before their attention turned to the Aldrich Street bridge.

The bridge is one of the primary spans crossing the Cattaraugus Creek in Gowanda. At the South end of the bridge there is an access road leading down to the water. This has made it a favorite place for the fishermen who can often be found along the creek during trout season. The area has also had long history as a “party spot’ For decades the concrete bridge support at that end of the bridge has been a site for an abundance of graffiti, often of an ’adult’ nature.  At least once in the past, the writing been blotted over with spots of white paint. When the Gowanda Community Clean Up Group set their sights on the problem, the solution got an upgrade. With such a large group, it was inevitable that there would be a number of artistic individuals there. They moved beyond just whiting out the markings. They covered them over with a large painting of a steelhead trout dubbed ‘Francine’.

One of the artists involved in that work was Gowanda High School art teacher, Heather Rydzik. That initial artwork sparked the idea of beautifying other spots in the village with murals. On June 10, 2020, a Facebook group called Gowanda Mural Project was formed by Rydzik. Together with Krissy Bartholomew Smith and Amelia Dye Jarzynski, the group would bring together other local artists, of various skill levels, to paint murals at selected sites in Gowanda. Before the painting projects got underway, there was an initial chalk art display done on the sidewalk in front of Jesse’s Gifts and More, which is in part run by Jarzynski.

The first mural to be done was started on June 20 on the East exterior wall of a hair salon run by Alison Connolly. The building, being right on the main square in downtown Gowanda, provides a great view of the simple floral design to traffic entering the Business District from the bridge in the center of Gowanda.

In mid-July, a Community Paint Project event was created for July 25th. Individuals were invited to sign up for one of three time slots to work on a mural planned for an outside wall of the Palm Gardens building. A second phase of the paint project would be scheduled for August 8. In the end a floral scene with giant butterflies and a large hummingbird was created. The mural was complete on August 19.

That was followed up with the Gowanda Mural Project Kids Edition beginning the next day. This time attention was turned to the jersey barriers separating the back of the Shop’N Save parking lot from the Cattaraugus Creek. Again with a sign-up ahead of time, three time slots with five groups of six children per slot were scheduled. For the first phase of this project just solid colors were painted. Due to the large response and efficiency of the painters, the third time slot had to be cancelled that day. Eventually, some hills and stick figures would be added with many of the design ideas coming from local children. That project was completed in mid-October.

One other area was worked on during the Summer and Fall of 2020, the Hager’s Alley Murals. An alleyway runs between Main Street and the large parking lot behind the North-side stores next to Hager’s Flowers and  Gifts. On July 30 Erin Tyler began organizing the project where artists could sign up to do a mural on one of eight sections of alley wall ranging from 4 foot square to 12 feel by 8 feet. Each artist would design their own creation. That created a very diverse collection of works.

One interesting story belongs to Leann Marie, a 2006 graduate of Gowanda High School. She traveled across the country to take part in the Gowanda Mural Project. In her own words, “Living in California now, I rarely get to bring my own son home to visit”. Leann and her family stayed with one of the mural project group members during her stay in town. Her design is a large monochromatic piece in the shape of New York State and the Gowanda school colors of blue and white. It includes many of the images the artist remembered from growing up in Gowanda and her school experience.

The Gowanda Mural Project gained a great deal of popularity as it progressed and many building owners have come forward hoping to be included. In reply to one such request in the Facebook group, Heather Rydzik gave the following reply, “I'm glad to hear you are interested in a mural on your building!! Our mural line-up for the mural project is full for 2021, we already have about a dozen locations on our what's next list. We're happy to add your building to our list, just know that we probably won't get to it for - it's crazy to say but 4 or 5 years”.

More on the Gowanda Project Group can be found on Facebook. In the group, going forward, you can find information on the Gowanda mural scene as well as notices when public participation events are scheduled. The “About” section of the group states, “Gowanda is home to many artists and art lovers”. It seem that this is one project that will be a vibrant part of the Gowanda experience for a long time to come.

There is also a July 2020 article from the Dunkirk Observer on the Gowanda Mural Project in the GowandaOnline archive section. You can find that article [HERE].

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