In Buffalo’s Five Points neighborhood stands an eye-catching piece of public art. Made up of a multitude of faces—some recognizable, others less so—the mural pays tribute to a diverse group of locals ranging from educators to business owners. But despite their varied backgrounds, these faces all have one thing in common: they were identified as people who are making a positive impact in the community.
Agents of Change, is a collaboration between Lafayette International High School, Torn Space Theater, Just Buffalo Literary Center, and artist Max Collins. The project came about when the co-founder of Torn Space and Lafayette High School teacher, Melissa Meola, tasked her students with answering a simple question:
“Is the world getting better or worse?”
Most reacted by saying that things were getting worse. But when encouraged to remove themselves from the realities of living through a pandemic and take a longer view of history, many came to a different conclusion: maybe things were improving–maybe the contributions of some individuals were making the world a better place. With this new perspective, the students turned their focus to figures who have shaped the way they view the world and have actively helped move the East and West Sides of Buffalo forward.
With support from Rich Family Foundation, the installation was unveiled in 2021 and serves as the culmination of the students’ research and interviews. But more than just art, the black-and-white portraits are a testament to the impact we each can make. As one student put it, “I learned how to be brave no matter what you are going through, because there are so many people that need your attention.”
Viewed in this light, each portrait serves as a reminder to the students and the community that there is, and will continue to be, good in the world.