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Would statues, public art projects help Orleans County celebrate 200th?

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 November 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers
BUFFALO – This sculpture of a bison is displayed in downtown Buffalo. It has been there for 40 years.

It was a gift to Buffalo in 1975 from its sister city, Kanazawa, in Japan as part of the bicentennial celebration for the United States the following year.

“Bison” was created by artist Cecilia Evans Taylor.

Orleans County has a big birthday around the corner. The county will turn 200 in 2024 (or it may be 2025, depending on source). I haven’t heard any rumblings about the county’s bicentennial. I don’t think the officials have given it much thought. It’s still nearly a decade away.

This painted buffalo on Franklin Street was turned into artwork by Gustavo Glorioso as part of the “Herd About Buffalo” project, when 154 buffalo roamed Buffalo streets in 2000. The project was a benefit for the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. This one was sponsored by Buffalo Optical and called “Eye Love Buffalo.”

I think a public art project would generate excitement on the county’s 200th anniversary. I think painting fiber-glass mules would make sense because the mules were iconic animals during the Erie Canal’s heyday when mule-drawn packet boats were a frequent sight.

We could try to have at least one in each town, but hopefully there could be more. Maybe the mule public art project could happen before the 200th, and proceeds from that effort could be used to fund a bigger signature site for the county’s bicentennial.

A statue of George Washington stands in front of Old County Hall, home to Erie County government on 92 Franklin St. in Buffalo.

The statue was paid for by the Erie County Masonic Foundation as a bicentennial gift on the 200th anniversary of the country’s founding. The base of the statue includes the name of the sculptor, J. Turkalj and notes it was built in 1976.

The statue includes an inscription “1776 * 1976” with the words: “Presented to the people of the County of Erie by the free and accepted Masons of forty-nine lodges in the three Erie districts and various affiliated Masonic organizations as our contribution to the bicentennial anniversary of the United States.”

I saw the statue last Saturday while in Buffalo. There are many statues and public works of art in downtown Buffalo. I think these pieces enliven the landscape, help promote the city and build community pride.

I think Orleans County would benefit with similar projects. The George Washington statue was part of a celebration of the U.S. bicentennial.

Orleans County officially formed when we split off from Genesee County. Orleans should celebrate its bicentennial with a signature project.

I’ve been promoting the idea of a statue and heritage site for the quarrymen who worked in the Medina sandstone quarries in Orleans County for nearly a century. They helped unearth and carve the stone for some of the grandest buildings in the region and state.

Their work continues to stand out more than a century later with many of our churches, chapels and finest homes.

Many descendants of the quarrymen continue to live in the county. The quarry workers did dangerous jobs in perhaps the county’s greatest industry ever. So maybe a signature site in their honor would be ideal for the 200th anniversary of the county. Personally, I’d like to see it happen before the 200th birthday in 2024 (or 2025). The site could be a draw for the county. Why wait?

The statue of Washington notes he was the first president of the United States from 1789-1797, and also served as First Master in the Alexandria Lodge No. 22, Alexandria, Virginia, from 1788-1789.

There are other bicentennial sites and statues around Buffalo.

Poland gave this statue of General Kazimerz Pulaski to the people of the United States in honor of the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Pulaski stands outside the Ellicott Square Building in downtown Buffalo.

The statue declares Pulaski as “Hero of Poland and the United States of America.” Pulaski saved the life of George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. Pulaski would serve as a general in the Continental Army. He died of wounds suffered in the Battle of Savannah. He is one of only seven people to be awarded honorary United States citizenship.

Sculptor Kazimierz Danilewicz created the statue of Pulaski, which shows him standing erect with his hands resting on his sword.