Eat Off Art co-Founder Edreys Wajed was commissioned to create a portrait to Buffalo Sabres Captain Kyle Okposo who played his 1000th hockey career game. Kyle was joined by his family at center ring to receive his honor, what a milestone… and to be able to share that with your family… a Blessing!
— Sabres Captain Kyle Okposo played his 1000th game this week we’re delighted that this commissioned portrait made it to the ice and may hopefully later find a cherished place in his home.
In the most simple explanation, it is our stance that once an artist completes a public work, it then rests in the admiration, ownership and protection of the community in which it’s situated. Ownership meaning, a prideful and purposeful sense of welcoming the art into their space, as it becomes a part of the culture and context of their neighborhood. Protection meaning, with the embrace of the community in ownership and warm reception to the public art, that there is unwritten suggestion and practice for visitors and immediate community members alike to respect the property and space that the art occupies.
In 2018, a mural on Bailey and Amherst that I had the opportunity of collaborating with fellow artists on was defaced by racist propaganda. Before the artists and mural funders were aware, the community took immediate action to begin tending to the art and its restoration. The mural was eventually professionally restored, as is proper protocol in such a situation, and the point of this example is that the community had enough pride in the piece to find it fit to “protect and care” for it, which extends beyond the duty of the artist initially delivering their art services to the project.
The following images of “Good Trouble,” a mural that was envisioned and funded by Councilman Mitch Nowakowski and Rebecca Castaneda of the Fillmore District and Howard Johnson, Erie County Legislator, reflect the success of how community becomes action oriented to protect and oversee public works. The mural of the late John Lewis was completed in 2021. After Buffalo sustained a heavy weather battering between December 2022 and January of 2023, a nearby tree had fallen, imposing upon the mural and walkway which the community frequents. Thanks to Tommy Gallagher, Buffalo resident and a mural enthusiast, the situation was brought to our attention via social media on Instagram.
Upon receiving messaging from Tommy, we contacted Rebecca and she was resourcefully swift in removing the tree, debris and such, restoring the area with a passable walkway and making the art visible again. This is an example of a community caring for and taking ownership of public art. Such an act does not signify any threat to the artist or strip them of copyright or ownership per se, nor should situations where community seeks out the art for memorable photo selfies and the likes. As professionals, artists must indeed protect their intellectual rights and copyrights to what they create, however, we believe there’s a thin line that can be overstepped, by either artist or community. Crediting artists after any use or application of the public art that they created should be standard. In situations where the community “uses” images of the art for personal/business gains, the relationship becomes sketchy, in the least. Just as well, when public art becomes a leveraging tool for an artist, putting themselves and personal gain before the interests or welfare of the community, a soft agreement is somewhat breached, fracturing the “public” in Public Art.
Eat Off Art will continue to do our best in making sure that lines of communication between institute, artist and community remain healthy, productive and forward-thinking for a wide sweeping sense of harmony and togetherness.
Before we begin each day and when we end each day we always say “Thank you”. Despite the difficulties, tragedies and challenges of 2022 – there was so much to be Thankful for.
Alexa & Edreys had the opportunity to exhibit their individual and collaborative works for the first time on their anniversary, October 7, 2022. Celebrating 22 years of marriage with friends and family all around. Thank you to Buffalo Big Print, for opening your space to our founders and given them light to turn and move towards.
Buffalo Big Print has so many product and service offerings for your artistic and art needs. The artwork was added to coasters and ornaments and make the perfect gift. Thanks goes out to the team for adding that extra something special to the exhibit.
Of course creative procrastination was in order, however, Alexa & Edreys gave themselves grace and did what they could! It was a great show with new works and new collaborations!
Allowing grace and being kind to yourself, allows you to show up as your authentic self.
Edreys Wajed, co-founder of Eat Off Art had the honor of designing the new mural located on the wall of the William-Emslie Wall next to the newly installed M&T Bank ATM. The mural was installed by the Eat Off Art team.
The portraits in this mural are meant to serve as a representation, a small glimpse and snapshot of the Black community. On the right side, the elder, a mother; grandmother and senior citizen, holds a proud posture and glowing expression. She is looking into the future. Part of that future and its success rests partly in the hands of the youth. The young man on the left, gestures his lower hand towards the elder, suggesting an accepting of responsibility, with love and respect. The expression on his face is to symbolize joy and a feeling of true freedom, with his right arm lifted, hand open, to receive blessings.
The patchwork of colors in the background were inspired by a birds-eye view of the surrounding streets, symbolizing neighborhoods and the diverse communities that the YMCA and M&T Bank continue to bring together, serve and support.
To elaborate on the color selection:
Black – Power and Elegance
Green – Growth and Balance
Yellow – Joy and Opportunity
Orange – Creativity and Adventurous
Purple – Royalty and Imagination
Blue – Freedom and Self Expression
Quote from M&T Bank on the new mural at William-Emslie YMCA
Edreys Wajed’s new mural captures the spirit of what M&T Bank and the William Emslie Family YMCA are working to accomplish every day – to bring people together and make a difference in their lives. It provides a stunning depiction of the diversity and resiliency of East Buffalo, offering a hopeful message that connects people across generations and cultural identities.
Our team at M&T Bank hopes this mural will remind people what exists behind this painted wall – support and resources to help build healthy minds, bodies, and spirits, as well as educational tools to help families achieve financial empowerment in a historically underserved area of Western New York. Last year, we opened a branch inside the William Emslie Family YMCA to provide greater access to financial guidance. Collaborating with the Y, our goal is to help address issues that have persisted for decades – and break those cycles, providing support that uplifts our community and helps people achieve their financial goals.
This is the second collaboration between M&T Bank and Edreys Wajed, who has demonstrated a unique ability to tell compelling stories through his art. His portrayal of Buffalo-born jazz legend Grover Washington, Jr. was painted on the exterior of M&T’s Kensington branch in 2020. With this latest mural, he sought to provide an artistic glimpse into Buffalo’s Black community and the intergenerational connections that exist within it.
Quote from YMCA on the new mural at William-Emslie YMCA
Together with our great partners at M&T Bank, the YMCA Buffalo Niagara wishes to thank Buffalo-based artist, educator, and entrepreneur Edreys Wajed for his work on this important project. He managed to capture the resilience exhibited by the East Buffalo community in this brilliant work of art and provide visitors to the William-Emslie Family YMCA with a sense of pride and hope for the future.
The imagery symbolizes the critical role the older generation plays in the lives of our youth. It also displays the responsibility that the young people who use our facility tell us they feel about carrying on the legacy of their elders and building a better future for themselves.
The partnership between the William-Emslie Family YMCA and M&T Bank is meant to bring much-needed educational resources to this neighborhood, helping families of East Buffalo manage their personal and financial health and well-being. We are proud of what this location is doing for the community and are thrilled to be a canvas for this latest addition to Buffalo’s extensive and impressive collection of murals.
The William-Emslie YMCA is located at 585 William Street, Buffalo, New York 14206
Actually, we tied with Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs…
What do you think? Are we the Best Power Couple here in Buffalo.
Edreys & Alexa Joan Wajed
Artists. Creatives. Entrepreneurs. There are so many ways to describe Edreys and Alexa Joan Wajed. She is a chef, adjunct professor, project manager, jewelry designer, and artist. He, too, is a renowned artist whose work has been exhibited all over town and in perpetuity on the Freedom Wall and other public artworks, including the Good Trouble mural depicting the late John Lewis and Love Black (last year’s winner of best new mural). Together, their business is Eat Off Art, which offers creative problem-solving and consulting, along with art prints, clothing, jewelry, and more.
Commissioned in 2020 by the Albright-Knox Art Galley Public Art Initiative in response to the social unrest centered around the murder of unarmed Black citizens, Love Black (by Edreys Wajed and James “YAMES” Moffitt) is plea a for humanity, compassion, and change. After the racially-motivated May 14 shooting in Buffalo, Wajed shared, “It is important to note that my good friend and fellow artist Yames, who is white and doesn’t share the weight and burden of the collective Black experience, made it his duty to contribute to this dialogue-inspiring public art. This conversation suggested by the mural is now more necessary than ever, in order for healing to begin.”