Do you like to travel? If so, then I have a proposal for you; imagine a trip that would take you to view artists from Cuba, Rome, Mexico, Nassau, Amsterdam, and even Madrid, all without ever boarding a single plane. You won’t even need a translator! Now, those readers fortunate enough to live in slightly more affluent parts of the world might feel a bit incredulous at this, but those of us located in or near the vast, sparse expanses between America’s great metropolises might be onto me. This creative tour is all possible in one small corner of the USA: Upstate New York.
When most people hear the term, “New York” they think (quite understandably) of one of the most recognizable places on the planet, but, sitting quietly in the shadow cast by the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty you’ll find… all the rest of us! I come to you today from Rochester, New York, the third most populous city in the Empire State and by my own admission not the most interesting place to grow up.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, this city is not without its charms. It gave birth to Susan B. Anthony and was home to Frederick Douglass and George Eastman but nowadays increasing emigration and a growing skills gap plague the region. Rochester and other upstate cities like Syracuse and Buffalo struggle to remain attractive to firms and investors as well as young talent needed to revitalize them. For a region so desperately in need of therapy, it was only natural to call a doctor (prepare yourselves because the puns only get worse from here).
Enter Dr. Ian Wilson, an assistant professor of Imaging Sciences at the University of Rochester and the man responsible for one of the Flower City’s most popular creative movements. In 2011, Wilson brought his background in graffiti and his formal imaging expertise together to found the WALL/THERAPY project, a movement that brings graffiti artists from around the world to celebrate and beautify the New York you haven’t seen.
Now in its fourth consecutive year, WALL/THERAPY has produced some truly stunning pieces and drastically changed this once dull cityscape and simultaneously put it on the map as a home for the best of the best muralists and street artists to show their stuff. I see some of these on my walk to and from work every day and they never cease to remind me that creativity appears anywhere and everywhere. I hope that those of you reading this piece right now can draw from it, much as I drew from WALL/THERAPY, a reminder that in the most unlikely places we often find the most gratifying surprises, at least for those lucky or curious enough to look. Now as you, dear reader, are clearly possessed of your own insatiable curiosity I leave you with a couple more pieces of “therapy” to satiate you until next time. Until then.
Contribution by Creative Maker, James Goebel