NOW Digital Residency: Buffalo Wing Trail
As part of this month’s Buffalo Wing Trail Digital Residency, we’re profiling prominent personalities in Buffalo. See all of the profiles here.
What do you do in your industry?
I am an artist, designer, entrepreneur and soon-to-be architect. What I do creatively really depends on the day. My art runs the gamut from architectural illustrations to heart-shaped bicycle sculptures, and from large-scale wheat pastes to outdoor works like the Greetings from Buffalo mural that I completed last year. You can see examples of all of my projects at The Pop In, a colourful pop-up event space that I created on Buffalo’s West Side.
What’s one skill you wish you had possessed at the very start of your career?
If I were to go back to the beginning, I wish I had focused less on having a “career” and more on having unique life experiences. After graduating in 2008 with my Masters of Architecture from IIT in Chicago, I worked as an architect on an archaeological dig of an ancient Greek city called Aphrodisias in Turkey. It’s still one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
I decided that I would focus less on seeking a “job” and more on seeking experiences like the dig in Turkey. I dove into creating my art, and it has opened more doors than anything else I’ve done.
If you wanted to impress one of your peers who had never been to Buffalo, where would you take them?
If I wanted to impress someone who has never been to Buffalo, I would first take them to see our Art Deco City Hall. It’s one of Buffalo’s most beautiful buildings and one of my favourite places in the world. Before I take guests to the observation deck on top, I like to show them the Common Council Chamber. This semi-circular room is one of the most unique spaces that I have ever been in. Once you make your way past the wooden doors, there is an impressive stained glass ceiling depicting a sunburst that always stops me in my tracks.
And when you finally reach the top of the observation deck, there is a 360-degree view of the entire city. From there you can point out all of Buffalo’s famous architecture, from our infamous grain silos to architectural relics like Central Terminal on the East Side. You can also see the mist from Niagara Falls, and if it’s really clear, the skyline of Toronto.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
On any given Saturday you will find me grabbing a mocha and walking my dog along the Olmsted parkways that lead to Delaware Park. A landscape legend, Fredrick Law Olmsted designed amazing places like Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Central Park in Manhattan. And most folks don’t know this, but in Buffalo, he designed his first-ever urban park system that unfurls across our entire city. I have to say – my dog is a huge fan.
Describe the very first time you tasted Buffalo wings.
One thing you should know about Buffalo is that we never say “Buffalo wings” – they’re just called “wings.” Looking back, they are so engrained in our lives that I honestly couldn’t tell you about my first experience tasting one. What I can tell you is that my favourite place for wings in Buffalo is Gabriel’s Gate in Allentown. When you lift the signature wooden bowl, the smell of hot sauce burns your nose. It’s amazing!
Where do you go in Buffalo when you need time to be creative or just focus on what you love?
My therapy when I need to get some ideas out of my brain is to grab a bowl of pho at Pho 99 on Bailey Avenue. Slurping down that magical soup really helps me decompress. I think it’s the smell of the broth and the act of ripping the Thai basil leaves that helps slow my brain down.
Of course, this relaxation goes entirely out the window when I order my Vietnamese iced coffee – I start sketching like a maniac when that caffeine buzz kicks in!
Name a local mover-and-shaker who inspires you.
Someone who inspires me is Win Min Thant. Win is a community educator with Buffalo State College. Win is originally from Burma and moved to Buffalo back in 2007 in pursuit of a new life. Her community-focused spirit and upbeat attitude she carries into the many organizations she’s a part of is infectious. Anyone who knows her would tell you that she genuinely loves being a part of “the city of good neighbours.” We are lucky she chose to make Buffalo her new home!
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