NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Sara Zak has been painting all her life.
“This is the first time I feel like I’m kind of calling myself an artist wholeheartedly. Even though I’ve been doing it for so long, I’m determined that this or this plus teaching is the way I wanna make my living,” Zak said.
Sara is working on her first mural. It’s part of the Niagara Falls Mural Project, a community-based project. Sara’s mural ties environmental justice and social justice together.
“It’s so prevalent in our discourse right now and it is communities of color that bear the brunt of all the industrial excess and our climate catastrophe,” said Zak.
Sara was inspired by a conversation about Love Canal, the site of an ongoing environmental disaster in Niagara Falls caused by toxic chemicals.
“I wanted to make sure that that was represented and make sure that industrial heritage … it still affects us, you know,” Sara said.
While she works, Sara peeks at pictures she took of the children who live in the community nearby. Then she paints them on the wall.
“This is a matter of recognizing our past mistakes and trying to do better for our future and hopefully do better for these sweet, sweet faces,” Zak said.
Saladin Allah is the project coordinator of the mural project. He says Sara’s mural also speaks to the importance of relationships between elders and youth.
“Our youth are our ambassadors and our link to the future and it’s important that they’re nurtured, respected, loved and protected and the best way to do that is to make sure that they’re connected to our elders in the community,” said Saladin Allah, project manager.
But painting a mural comes with challenges, including the weather. Sara had to wrap up this day early due to the rain.
“I am a little frustrated right now because I’m in the middle of a problem as opposed to having resolved the problem or not started working on it,” she said.
Over the next few weeks, Sara tried her best to work on the mural, but the weather kept getting in the way. After many obstacles, she decided to finish it in the spring.
You can find out more about the Niagara Falls Mural project by clicking here.