Buffalo AKG Art Museum partners with public housing residents on giant mural

On September 15, 2023, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum formally unveiled a new mural on the southeast façade of Lyndon B. Johnson Apartments (LBJ) at 167 Humboldt Parkway, a Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) public housing development that primarily houses elderly and disabled residents. The mural by Canadian artist Aaron Li-Hill is both the tallest to date by the Buffalo AKG’s groundbreaking Public Art Initiative and the first project it has produced in collaboration with the BMHA and its residents.  

Every aspect of the project from its inception—including the selection of the artist and the development of the content of the artwork—was completed in cooperation with the residents of LBJ.

“Since the project’s inception nearly two years ago, the residents of LBJ Apartments have welcomed us into their home and worked with us every step of the way,” Janne Sirén, Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director of the Buffalo AKG, said. “It has been an honor to facilitate the creation of Aaron Li-Hill’s stunning artwork, which depicts the people in LBJ’s remarkable and close-knit community. It is my sincere hope that this project marks the beginning of a long-term partnership between the Buffalo AKG, BMHA, and residents of public housing throughout Buffalo.” 

Beginning in 2021, an interdepartmental team from the Buffalo AKG attended six Resident Council meetings and regularly visited the development in order to gauge interest, develop a holistic understanding of the residents’ goals and aspirations, and finally create a shared vision for the mural. Li-Hill and local photographer Patrick Cray joined the staff team to coordinate artmaking activities and capture photographs of the residents and other members of the community.

“We are so grateful to the AKG for initiating this first-of-its-kind partnership with the housing authority. The public art staff took the time to have multiple meetings with our residents, and took care to allow the process to be resident-driven,” BMHA Executive Director Gillian D. Brown said. “We are honored to work with an artist like Mr. Li-Hill, and we look forward to continued collaboration with the AKG on projects to increase access and exposure to their resources by our residents.” 

Li-Hill’s design for the mural, which was informed by these conversations and photographs, was approved by the residents in April 2023. 

“This mural represents the beauty that results from true engagement with the neighborhoods and communities that make up this incredible city,” said Aaron Ott, Curator of Public Art at the Buffalo AKG. “From the beginning, everything was on the table. We empowered the residents of LBJ to lead this process, and they have been helpful, conscientious, committed partners throughout. I am deeply grateful to Aaron Li-Hill for his vision, his humility, and his commitment to the community.”  

About the Buffalo AKG Art Museum 

Founded in 1862, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (formerly the Albright- Knox Art Gallery) is the sixth oldest public art institution in the United States. For more than 160 years, the Buffalo AKG has collected, conserved, and exhibited the art of its time, often working directly with living artists. This tradition has given rise to one of the world’s most extraordinary collections of modern and contemporary art. 

In summer 2023, following the completion of the most significant campus development and expansion project in its history, the Buffalo AKG opened anew to the public. The project is funded by a $230 million capital campaign, the largest such campaign for a cultural institution in the history of Western New York, including $195 million raised for construction and $35 million in additional operating endowment funds. 

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