Zoo News

Jul 09, 2020

Buffalo Artist James Cooper III to Produce New Mural Honoring John E. Brent

The Albright-Knox’s Public Art Initiative recently announced a new mural by Buffalo-based artist James Cooper III, depicting John E. Brent, Buffalo’s first African American architect, will be installed at the Buffalo Zoo.

Cooper produces colorful and evocative abstract works for traditional and public settings. Most recognizably in our landscape, he worked with William Cooper (no relation) to produce two large fifty-foot by twenty-foot murals installed at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus near the intersection of High Street and Michigan Avenue. Cooper has also worked with John Baker and other local artists to produce murals for the Buffalo Sabres and the City of Buffalo.

For this project, Cooper collaborated with Christine Parker, a local historian and authority on the life and legacy of John Brent. Parker curated an exhibition at the Burchfield Penney, Through These Gates: Buffalo’s First African American Architect, John E. Brent, October 9, 2015 – March 27, 2016, detailing Brent’s contributions to our region. In addition to his architectural work, Brent was an active leader in the African American community, serving as the first President of the Buffalo Branch of the NAACP.

Among Brent’s most significant architectural designs is the Michigan Avenue branch of the Y.M.C.A. (1928), which was his first large commission. He posthumously received recognition in Buffalo for the gates and landscape architecture he produced for the Buffalo Zoological Gardens. The cast iron gates, numbers three and four, created in 1935 and anchored in concrete piers with Onondaga limestone veneers, provide welcoming entrances to zoo paths. The structures were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

Cooper has utilized the scholarship and materials provided by Parker to create a mural celebrating Brent’s accomplishments, with the finished piece being installed at the Buffalo Zoo adjacent to Brent’s iron gates.

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