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New murals showcase "champions of change" in Niagara Falls

Posted at 11:32 PM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 23:32:54-04

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — The walls of Depot Avenue and Main Street are getting a face lift thanks to the Niagara Falls Heritage Area's mural project. Ten new murals are going up around Depot Avenue and Main Street.

The Heritage Area's project director said the murals showcase "champions of change."

Madonna Pannell was born and raised in Niagara Falls. She spent the past few days painting a mural of Harriet Tubman.

"I kind of wanted to blow her up and really just show her face, and have the scene in the background of people escaping and then the bridge over there," Pannell said.

The city once served as the last stop on the Underground Railroad before the freedom that awaited in Canada. Another mural pays homage to that, with arrows from various cities all pointing towards Niagara Falls. Saladin Allah, a visitor experience specialist at the Niagara Falls Underground Heritage Center, said the best part is that the whole community has been involved.

"We held three community meetings, and in those meetings we explained what this project was and then we also gave them the opportunity to share their input on what they would like to see on these murals," he said.

Brian Archie, who lives around the corner from the murals, had to stop walking to take a picture of the Harriet Tubman mural.

"Paint doesn't change anything, but it also means for me that, you know, folks are paying attention," he said. "And if we put a little life back into the place, maybe life will begin to sprout itself back up."

Archie is correct. Life is sprouting up in other places. The project director said the grant it received from the State Department of Health included money for sidewalk and street repairs, as well as landscaping projects. It's a vision for the area larger than the walls that hold the murals.

"I came across the definition of a mural, and it's a sign of life," said Pannell.