The murals are hoped to spruce up the forlorn facades on a once bustling commercial strip that has fallen on hard times.
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — “We’re expecting rain in the afternoon so I’m just trying my best to work smarter versus harder,” said Tyshaun Tyson, as he began taping lines on a boarded-up window at the long-abandoned Jenns Department Store at 1708 Main Street in Niagara Falls.
Tyson is the lead artist on a community project by the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area to create four murals in just over a week.
As the skies darkened above, he said the goal of completing the project by Friday remained in sight if the weather held out.
Main Street in Niagara Falls was once a bustling commercial strip anchored for almost 80 years by Jenss, a five-story department store that closed its doors in 1995.
In the ensuing years, this moribund section of Main Street became known for having far more boarded-up storefronts than occupied ones, a case which remains today.
And though, from time to time there have been hopeful announcements regarding the redevelopment of the area, such efforts have yet to materialize.
According to Tyson, many of those who have stopped by to watch him work (and in some cases voluntarily pick up a brush and help him paint) have reminded him of that, and their desire to see things improve.
“Murals are a way for artists to tell a story, as well as for a community to tell its story,” said Tyson. “They allow the artist to then tell the story of the community.”
Some of what he’s heard, during his casual conversations with curious onlookers, has actually inspired the words being placed on the murals.
Tyson hopes the artistry now adorning some of the forlorn facades will brighten the current streetscape, and improve its prospects for the future.
I’m Okay With That
The irony, however, is that if this section of Main Street returns to its once prosperous state, then the first thing that will disappear are the boards now covering the windows of all the vacant buildings.
“That means my work will coming down, yes,” said Tyson.
“But it would be worth it to have these murals come down if it means seeing those businesses and buildings come back to life. In my mindset, these are temporary, and so I wouldn’t mind at all because it’s worth it to add some kind of visual appeal to the area in hopes that something bigger will come in the future. It would be a necessary sacrifice in my opinion.”
Click on the video player above to watch our story from reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Dooley O’ Rourke.