Crossroads of Creativity Transforms Buffalo’s Rail Trail into Celebration of Art, Wellness, and Community

The Crossroads of the North Buffalo Rail Trail and Minnesota Linear Park were alive with activity this Saturday with the Second Annual Crossroads of Creativity. Crossroads of Creativity is a one day pop-up event that transforms the physical crossroads of these two public spaces into an interactive art, education, and play space for all ages. Crossroads of Creativity aims to highlight the public asset that connects North Buffalo with University Heights and encourages participants to reimagine the space as a place to create art, run, walk, bike, play field games, read a book, have a cookout, or simply enjoy nature.

Born out of decades of work by residents to reinvest in these underappreciated and underutilized communities assets, Crossroads of Creativity is meant to continue the conversation on how these spaces will be shaped and evolve by and for the communities they serve.

“As a lifelong Buffalonian, I never knew these spaces existed or how close they were to work and home. At last year’s event, I realized the simple pleasures of a nature trail and linear park in the middle of the city.” – Roseann Scibilia, Executive Director, University District Community Development Association

UDCDA Staff worked closely with an undergraduate Urban Design class in UB’s School of Architecture and Planning to explore preliminary ideas for a Rail Trail extension. Illustration Credit: Vanhnida Chanthavong, UB S+A/P

The event got underway at noon with a press conference at the Crossroads announcing a $50,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds administered by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and awarded to the UDCDA. The funding will be used to support a year long community engagement and planning process identifying opportunities to extend the North Buffalo Rail Trail across Main Street and connect to an existing 1-mile long cycle track at Kensington Avenue and William Gaiter Parkway. The funding will also support native plantings, interpretative signage, material support for community cleanups along the existing rail trail, along with pop-up bike and pedestrian events.

“Safe, comfortable spaces for families and friends to ride are pivotal to encouraging more people to bike and improving the health, social connectivity, and economy of our city,” said Justin Booth, Executive Director of GObike Buffalo.“We’re excited for the potential connection and expansion of our multi-use trail network and thank the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation for their continued support of building a better bicycle network in the Western New York.”

“NFTA Metro is pleased to support pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, like the beautiful North Buffalo Rail Trail,” said Tom George, Director of Public Transit, NFTA-Metro. “These projects help people stay physically active, connect with their community, and safely access public transportation, we are thrilled to be part of such an important initiative.”

“Like the Land Conservancy’s efforts at the DL&W corridor near downtown Buffalo, the UDCDA’s efforts to extend the North Buffalo Rail Trail will connect people and neighborhoods together, and make Buffalo a better place to live. Engaging the neighboring communities in planning this work is incredibly important, and I am excited to see so much progress already made.” Jajean Rose-Burney, Deputy Executive Director, Western New York Land Conservancy.

Thanks to artist Andrea Pawarski’s fractal design, community members of all ages were able to participate in the painting of the mural during the Crossroads event.

A highlight of the event was the addition of a new mural on the side of one of the site’s stone abutments, the remnants of a long demolished rail bridge. Andrea Pawarski, a Studio Artist at Buffalo Arts Studio, led community members through a participatory painting activity to help create the design behind the mural titled ‘Unity Through Community’. Andrea’s statement on the mural:

“The mural is intended to show unification of the surrounding communities. Working together and sharing the park space has begun to revive its purpose and beauty. The mural represents love and unity of all people that use the park. The hands include all skin tones in a geometric stylized perspective. We hope that this mural will not only create a heart warming back drop for families, friends, and people to share a connected moment with, but we also hope it sparks inspiration for the artwork that can continue to emerge and spread positivity on the wall to come.”

UDCDA Senior Director Phyllis Caver gets community members moving and grooving through her patented ‘Hustle for Health’ urban lining dancing program.

Additional activities throughout the day included kids aerobics from Exercise Like the Animals, rock painting led by Sweet Buffalo Rocks, Hustle for Health Urban Line Dancing led by the UDCDA Senior Director Phyllis Caver, Can You Hear Me Now? teen musical performances, Hands-on CPR from the American Heart Association, bug motel construction and native plantings from Grassroots Gardens of WNY, and a Wellness Walk connecting the Crossroads event and Capen Garden Walk thanks to the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo.

Partners for the day included: GObike Buffalo, Sweet Buffalo Rocks, Buffalo Arts Studio, Exercise Like the Animals, Hustle for Health, Gloria J. Parks Community Center Senior Program, University District Community Development Association Housing Department, Reddy Bikeshare, University Heights Collaborative, the Tool Library, Grassroots Garden of WNY, University at Buffalo Community Relations, Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council, Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo, Chase Lobley and his dinosaurs, the American Heart Association, On Q Graphic Design, and Carnivorous Food Truck.

A special thank you to our sponsors who made this event possible: Kavinoky Cook, LLP., University at Buffalo Office of Government and Community Relations, Dash’s Market, Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo, United Insurance, Pi Synergies, Arts Services Initiative of WNY, and individual donors Roseann Scibilia, Dale Stephens, and Nicholas J. Marino, Esq.