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Canisius College sesquicentennial Mural -150 years

The Griffin News article: Buffalo native and local artist paints Sesquicentennial mural in Old Main

Canisius is celebrating 150 years of educating individuals and had local artist Edreys Wajed paint a mural in honor of that. Students can pass by the finished mural in Old Main. 

In celebrating 150 years at Canisius, student Edreys Wajed painted a mural to represent the success of those 150 years. 

If you walked through Old Main the first week of classes, you definitely saw Edreys Wajed, headphones on, paintbrush in hand, completing the Sesquicentennial Art mural on the wall heading to Tim Horton’s. The mural is a celebration of the college’s 150th year and incorporates several Canisius-specific motifs like service, spirituality and Ignatian tradition.

Wajed, a Buffalo State College alumni and Buffalo native, is a creative jack-of-all-trades in the community. He’s received acclaim as a visual artist, poet and musical entertainer, but the projects on his website include jewelry, design, playwriting and speaking.

He found out about the mural opportunity when the Sesquicentennial Art Subcommittee put out a request for qualification in June, seeking mural design proposals to complement the 150th celebration at Canisius. “Working with Yvonne Widenor and Richard D. Reitsma throughout the mural’s progression has been pleasurable and appreciative,” he said.

The process for designing any mural often begins with research. Wajed was familiar with Canisius before working on the mural, chiefly because his wife Alexa J. Givens graduated from the college. “I also have very fond memories of being on the campus, playing sports and [participating in] other educational enrichments during a free summer program that I used to attend many years ago,” he said. 

After researching the history of Canisius and its values and consulting the Art Subcommittee, Wajed pulled together images and motifs to create the mural with pen and ink, then incorporated digital drawing, which he said allows an artist to work more cleanly and make changes faster. He began physically working on the mural on Jan. 7 and finished final touches on Jan. 19.

Wajed’s artist resume is filled with a variety of projects and accolades, ranging from “1999: Buffalo Music Awards winner for ‘Best Hip Hop Artist’” to “2008: Featured Artist video on “I Like It” – 300k+ views in 4 days” to “2019: Trailblazers Award – Canisius College.” He’s had several installations, exhibits and speaking engagements, has been commissioned for art several times around the city and in the literary community and has had five solo exhibits in the past three years. He’s also created a jewelry line based on the wax casting method that he learned from his father, Amon Ra Ptah, and has published hip hop music under the name Billy Drease Williams. One may think it would get exhausting to express oneself so constantly — but it’s something that truly represents him. but it’s the most important part of Wajed. 

“The many things that I’ve done over the years, it’s always been really important for me to tend to the creative part of myself because that is where I feel most lively and authentic,” he said. “If I’m not able to be in a position to live as my most authentic and curious self, I’m rather unhappy and unpleasant. It’s in my nature to create and make. It’s just the way that I’m wired.”

Life as an artist is not without its sacrifices, though. Wajed said that he and his wife live differently than others, and cites Givens for keeping him grounded and understanding that their lifestyle requires constant adjustment. He said that he readjusted what his definition of success and luxury are. “Luxury is time,” he said. “Luxury doesn’t have to be an expensive car, for a dependable car becomes a ‘luxury’ when living as an artist.”

When asked what the best advice would be for a college student pursuing a creative life, Wajed has two words. “Begin today,” he said. “The sooner you begin to declare that living as a creative is your goal, you make wiser decisions in regards to the moves you make earlier on, like determining more definitively the things you want versus the things you need.”

Author: Amanda

More Public Art and Mural work around WNY by Edreys:

Grover Washington, Jr. – 3037 Bailey Avenue (M&T Branch Bailey & Kensington)

Love Black – 712 Main Street (Say Yes Building Main at Tupper)

John “Spider” Martin – 825 Depot Ave W, Niagara Falls, NY 14305

The Freedom Wall – Michigan @ E. Ferry

Bailey Fights Blight – Bailey Avenue at E. Amherst

Get in Line – Upton Hall, Buffalo State College

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