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Public Art on Perry Street

John McKendry and Carley Jean Parrish examine photos that inform Parrish's sculptural mural at 79 Perry Street. The unveiling is November 5.

A huge artwork recalling the elegant old original Michigan Avenue lift bridge over the Buffalo River will be unveiled Saturday (November 5) on the west end of John McKendry’s Hi-Temp Fabrication building at 79 Perry Street.

The mural, based on archival photos of the old bridge, is by artist Carley Jean Parrish. It is part painted on canvas (the river), part printed on a woven nylon mesh fabric (the bridge), and part relief metal sculptural elements (boats on the river).

The name of the work is Many Small Ships and it is meant to recall the way things were in Buffalo in the old days, and for that matter still are, according to the artist. “The way we do things in Buffalo,” she said. “Not by big projects, but many small ones. The energy of many small, local groups.” (There seemed to be a tacit reference here to the current redevelopment of the waterfront, the now happily discarded idea of a Bass Pro megastore as the centerpiece.)

The present Michigan Avenue lift bridge was built around 1960, a year or so after the previous bridge was fatally damaged one tempestuous winter night when a ship, unmoored by the storm, drifted into it. Most unfortunately, just when the bridge watchman—who might or might not have been able to do anything to prevent the calamity—had repaired to the nearby Swannie House tavern for some liquid fortification against the bitter night.

The unveiling will take place 7-9pm. The mural is on the back end of the Perry Street building, above a parking lot off Illinois Street, across the street from the First Niagara arena parking lot. The overall dimensions of the piece are 30 feet across by 60 feet high.

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