For many families, taking a post-feast digestion walk is as much a part of the Thanksgiving tradition as the feast itself. And it can provide a blessed little buffer, should you need some space from a sibling’s political goading or a nebby aunt prying into your personal life.
If you’ve got relatives or friends visiting from out of town, you can use the walk to impress them with the scores of vibrant murals in Rochester, most of which have been installed in the past 10 years by artists associated with WallTherapy and ROC Paint Division, and individual artists such as Shawn Dunwoody and Dellarious.
Murals are everywhere in Rochester, from the Charlotte neighborhood to Pittsford, and from the Susan B. neighborhood to North Winton Village. And that’s just the concentration of murals — public art is certainly present in more of the ‘burbs, too.
Here, we spotlight four different street art strolls, each composed of clusters of murals in walkable distance with one another. So dress in comfortable layers and walking shoes, get out, and take in some fresh air and art. The murals can be the perfect backdrops for your holiday selfies and groupies, but remember to tag the artists!
GREENLEAF, OFF ATLANTIC AVENUE
A one-block street in the industrial stretch between the Neighborhood of the Arts and North Winton Village became a street art hub when WallTherapy brought a handful of local, national, and international artists to town in 2013. The organization added more murals by different artists in 2014, 2015, and 2017. And this year, WallTherapy quietly put up two new murals on Greenleaf over the Labor Day holiday.
Visible on the corner of Greenleaf and Atlantic Ave., one of the newer paintings is titled “Mother,” by California-based artist Maxx242. It’s a larger-than-life head of a woman crowned with a ram’s horns, gazing from the wall, every beautiful detail in grayscale except the vivid blue that he painted her eyes, the roses that adorn her, and a spider perched on one of the curved horns. The mural is a tribute to his mother and the strength of women in general, he says.
About midway down the long warehouse on Greenleaf is the other new mural, “Cosmos,” by Richmond, Virginia-based artist Nico Cathcart, depicting a human skull crowned by a burst of flora with various pollinators winging around the blossoms. It’s part of an ongoing “Symbiotic Series” she’s been painting across the nation, using memento mori imagery to allude to the human hand in climate change and its impact on the natural environment.
Those artists are WallTherapy alumni who painted the town before, in various locations. The other murals on the Greenleaf Street warehouse range from portraits to landscapes and text-based murals, including “Pebbles,” an image of an aging superhero dumping rocks from his boot by Swedish artist Andreas Englund; Montreal-based artist Omen’s “Reclining Woman,” Italian artist Pixel Pancho’s sweet image of a boy embracing a defunct robot.
And around the corner, on the same building: a gorgeous, gruesomely-lettered piece by the late Rochester artist BONES and another by NYC-based artist Faust, whose giant, stark calligraphic phrase, “All That Matters,” is a personal piece about loss in his own life. But the phrase encapsulates just about everything we’re thinking about over the holiday.
Walking westward on Atlantic, there are more impressive murals on Crouch Street and two more on the building closest to the railroad overpass. For a map, see WallTheapy’s site.
WALK THE EL CAMINO TRAIL
The El Camino Trail is a nature-and-art walkway that runs parallel to North Clinton Avenue and crosses the 104 expressway. While you’re traversing that overpass, you won’t notice the roadway below. Instead you’ll be staring at the ground underfoot, which is painted to resemble a highly Instagrammable, extremely long and colorful woven rug, which Baltimore-based artists Jessie & Katey painted for WallTherapy in 2013.
But that’s the middle of the art trail. If you enter the trail at North Clinton and Darrow Street and travel north, you’ll immediately encounter the first few murals in a string of art WallTherapy commissioned in 2013 that celebrates traditional graffiti — appropriate, since North Clinton is the stomping grounds of Rochester’s oldest graffiti crew, FUA Krew.
Included in this set are old school NYC graffiti artists SMITH (with a dragon piece), Lady Pink (with the mythic-looking “Lady of the Leaf”), as well as a piece by Nairobi, Kenya-based artist WiseTwo. Visible from the trail, on Hollenbeck Street, you’ll find Irish artist Conor Harrington’s painted fight scene. Further north, a celebration of Mexican culture in “La Lucha Siempre” by Rochester artist Range FUA, and a goldfish by Brazilian artist Binho, among others.
THE WEST MAIN STREET TREK
Another street art cluster is in the historic district that was home to suffragist Susan B. Anthony and one of many Rochester homes of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, which were located off West Main Street on Madison and King Streets, respectively. In walking distance to that stretch of West Main are several murals put up over the years by WallTherapy and Roc Paint Division.
Both of those groups supported the creation of the “Black Lives Matter” mural painted a few short blocks southwest of Main Street in the Cornhill neighborhood, on the side of The Flying Squirrel Community Space on Clarissa Street by youth artists Nzinga Muhammad, Kaori-Mei Stephens, and Etana Browne in 2017. The mural was vandalized in November when someone scrawled white supremacist language over it, but it was quickly restored by the artists. The work depicts young women of color as well as signage upholding the BLM movement and fostering community.
At Troup Street Park, the original WallTherapy mural, “Believe,” painted by local and South African artists in 2011, stands. This piece was made when WallTherapy was still a daydream of founder, Dr. Ian Wilson, the year before he brought dozens of artists from around the world to paint in Rochester.
At the eastern most end of West Main Street, travel south on Exchange Street for a couple of blocks and, you’ll find Rochester artist Sarach C. Rutherford’s “Stories of Strength,” completed in Oct. 2020 in honor of domestic violence survivors in partnership with Willow Domestic Violence Center and Truth Collective.
The huge mural is located on a wall of the Times Square Building, and depicts a figure holding a sapling, framed by one arched window, while another window frames a natural scene, with birds taking wing and flying free. Words of encouragement are painted in the window frames, and the whole work is a surreal trompe l’oeil.
It’s worth taking a small detour a few blocks off West Main onto State Street to visit “I Am Speaking,” the monumental portrait of the late U.S. Rep. and civil rights activist John Lewis, painted in Nov. 2020 by Darius Dennis, Jared Diaz, Ephraim Gebre, and Dan Harrington.
Further west along West Main Street, you can spot murals: a cycling suffragist by Rochester artist Manta across from 1872 Cafe, an eagle and ship at sea by Chinese artist DALeast at West Main and King Streets, and another work by Sarah C. Rutherford: a monumental portrait of adoptive, foster, and biological mother Trelawney McCoy for Rutherford’s “Her Voice Carries” series of murals that she installed all over Rochester and beyond in the past several years.
A few blocks north of West Main, at King and Silver Streets, you can find Baltimore Ernest Shaw Jr’s “Jimi” Hendrix portrait as well as Brooklyn-based artist Alice Mizrachi’s colorful group of figures titled “Together We Stand in Peace.” And a bit further west is California-born artist Faring Purth’s “Etty,” a giant mural under a train overpass of a girl with a pocket full of starlings.
THE ROCHESTER PUBLIC MARKET
Just about every nook and cranny of the Rochester Public Market and surrounding area are chock full of murals. On the main stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue that runs directly behind the north border of the market (behind Cure and Flour City Bread Co.), you’ll find murals installed by WallTherapy including Spanish artist Liquen’s detained American eagle, German artist Case’s mermaid and swimmer, and Rochester artist Thievin’ Stephen’s intricately rendered, be-shirted bull, titled “Stock Lives.”
Inside of the market are works by South African artist Faith47, Rochester artist Aerosol Kingdom (nee Mr. Prvrt), and Athesia Benjamin’s “Black Lives Built This Country,” among others.
In the vicinity are works by Shawn Dunwoody as well as the partially-deteriorated remnants of murals installed in 2011 by WallTherapy artists Freddy Sam, Faith47, DALeast, and others.
Just a short trek eastward from the market on East Main Street, you’ll find work by Arizona-based artist La Morena, and Rochester artists Salut and Magnus Apollo on a building on Minges Alley. Head even further east to the Fedder Industrial Complex to check out a wealth of work including portraits of women by Canadian artists Jarus and Omen, Rochester artists Joe Guy Allard and Matthew Roberts, NYC-based artist Vince Ballentine, and others.
And this weekend, if you visit the market to pick up your produce or seasonal wreaths, be sure to check out the new studio and retail space of artist Mike Dellaria, AKA Dellarious, who is known for his cheerful and cheerleading wheatpastes of heroes past and present on walls, expressways underpasses, and utility boxes around town. His new spot’s debut to the public will take place this weekend, Saturday, November 27, as well as Sunday, November 28, during the first Holidays at the Market event.
Rebecca Rafferty is CITY’s life editor and can be reached at [email protected]