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Honoring History Through Art

Retelling the Stories of Our Past, One Pattern at A Time

 

“So much of our future lies in preserving our past.” – Peter Westbrook

 

Art has been known for centuries as a way to preserve cultures and serve as a collective memory of society. It can influence people in a way that words alone cannot and stamps an impression in our mind that carries a thread from the past into the future. This sentiment so perfectly sums up the shared experience of a recent collaboration between world-renowned cancer research and treatment center, Roswell Park, and local wallpaper company, Red Disk.


Roswell sought to build a new Community Engagement & Outreach Center focused on improving health outcomes through cancer awareness and education. Roswell Park’s plan for the center, located at 907 Michigan Avenue, was to preserve and expand upon the original structure — a 1,300 sq. ft. home built in 1878. Inspired by the possibilities of creatively reusing the original structure, Roswell Park chose to preserve the home and expand upon it to create this new community space.

 


Familiar with the wallpaper company’s work, Roswell Park enlisted Red Disk to fulfill its vision for a custom design that honored the neighborhood’s past and celebrated its historic Black culture. Working with the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, Roswell Park identified eight culturally significant sites to be featured — and the Red Disk team went to work. The result was a special-edition design that highlighted key historical sites through custom illustrations by Buffalo artist Karen Matchette. The exclusive design was then handcrafted into wallpaper by the talented artisans at Red Disk to bring the story of historic Michigan Avenue into the future lives of all who are touched by the work of Roswell’s team.

 

Roswell Park commissioned Young + Wright Architectural to design a new, larger space, expanding both the physical footprint of the property and its sculptural significance. Inside, the handmade wallpaper flanks the building on both ends, beginning with the entrance lobby with its rich black and metallic gold colorway paired with wood doors, classic white subway tile, and penny round mosaic tile floors. On the opposite end of the building, a calming, sage green version of the paper graces the feature wall of the multi-purpose room whose A-frame structure boasts a vaulted ceiling and is a welcoming contrast to the modern design features and floor-to-ceiling windows on the opposite side of the room.

 

The work between Red Disk and Roswell is not only a unique story about intentional design and historic preservation but also about the thread of history that art carries through time. The Roswell Park Community Engagement & Outreach group touches the lives of so many, tackling the never-ending work of raising awareness and increasing education about cancer and preventative screening. Purposeful design elements, such as the Red Disk wallpaper, tie a thread through the roots of the past – those who remember or were touched by the historic properties featured – to the aspirations of the future – those who will live on to make their mark in the world thanks to the work of the Roswell team. This welcoming space serves as a place where members of the community come together to do meaningful work, and there is no better way to honor that than featuring the sites where meaningful work happened in and around Michigan Avenue so many years ago.



In some ways, this project is a culmination of years of work done by the small but nimble team at Red Disk who has been artfully handsilkscreening wallpaper since 2017. They specialize in bringing the work of local artists to this medium and are most known for their work recreating original designs from renowned artist, Charles Burchfield, in collaboration with the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

 

The designs are timeless, elegant patterns that span decades on a handcrafted, multi-layered piece that must be experienced in person to fully appreciate its beauty. It tells the story of the artist who created it, the person who uses it, and how they connect to the meaning behind it. A tactile experience, the wallpaper is beautiful to the touch and immersive in the way it transports viewers to another place and time.

 

The team at Red Disk saw an opportunity to help Roswell Park transcend the project into something culturally significant that complemented the new architectural design with century-old buildings sharing the historic culture of the area. While the special edition 907 Michigan Avenue wallpaper is not for sale, Red Disk’s full line of patterns is available on their website or through their trusted partners in the trade.

 

“Typically, walls divide spaces, they separate. But with the wallpapers we create, we hope to transform walls, to share stories that connect. That’s what’s so special about this collaboration with Roswell Park. The 907 Michigan wallpaper—and the entire community center—is designed to bring people together.” —Red Disk


Wallpaper has risen in popularity in recent years due to its ability to transform a space so drastically and so has the craving for authentic, handmade pieces that stand the test of time and tell a story. Whether it’s the story of the inspiration behind a project or the connection someone has to a piece itself, we are all on a journey to leave our mark in the world. Red Disk and Roswell have done this so perfectly, creating a memorable and meaningful experience for all who enter, with stories that will transcend time as the future unfolds.


907 Michigan Special Edition Wallpaper

907 Michigan Special Edition Wallpaper, celebrating Buffalo African American Heritage Landmarks—a collaboration between Roswell Park, illustrator Karen Matchette, and Red Disk. Red Disk Special Edition Wallpaper Features Key Landmarks from Buffalo’s African American History: 

  • Michigan Street Baptist Church – At 511 Michigan St, this was the 1st Black Church in Buffalo built by African Americans in 1845.

  • Vine Street African School – Founded by escaped slave Henry Moxley, the building at 17 Vine Street served as his barber shop as he became a successful entrepreneur and advocate to transform Buffalo’s segregated school system.

  • Little Harlem Hotel – Ann Montgomery Woodson turned the former ice cream building into a hotel/club at 496 Michigan Avenue that hosted jazz musicians Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, and many more.

  • Mary B. Talbert House – Founder of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club and advocate in the anti-lynching movement, Talbert worked with prestigious civil rights leaders to create the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

  • AME Church – Located at 17 Vine St, this building was the original site for the Colored Methodist Society / Church Bethel AME Church, sadly demolished in 1928.

  • Bethel AME Church – At 1525 Michigan Ave, this was where the oldest congregation of African Descent organized in 1831.

  • Dan Montgomery Saloon – Husband of Anne Montgomery, Dan was a successful business owner who opened the saloon in 1907, and it served as an important meeting place for Black intellectuals and one of Buffalo’s best nightlife establishments.

  • Michigan Ave YMCA – Created in 1924, John Edmonton Brent was the 2nd African American in the country to design a “colored” YMCA, built as a home to help foster and give purpose to the Black community in WNY.



About Roswell Community Outreach & Engagement

The Roswell Community Outreach & Engagement group is a multidisciplinary team of cancer scientists and outreach specialists focused on reducing the risk of cancer in vulnerable communities. They build partnerships and deliver services to reduce the cancer burden among the people they serve with a focus on improved screening and community education. To learn more about their team and the expansive new center, visit www.roswellpark.org/research/community-outreach-engagement.  


 

About Red Disk

Red Disk creates beautifully handcrafted artisan wallpapers silkscreened in micro runs in their Buffalo-based studio using local C2 paint. Founded in 2017 by Traci Ackerman, the team began by reimagining designs from renowned 20th century artist Charles Burchfield and have since added many other patterns that are both timeless and elegant such as the classic toile of Buffalo landmarks by Roycroft artisan, Karen Matchette, and the nature-inspired art of Cassandra Ott. They continue to collaborate with many local artists, creating designs that are fresh, innovative, and inspiring. To learn more about Red Disk, visit www.reddiskstudio.com



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