It was a day for bridges. Kevin Mackey spent much of Tuesday at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, learning about life-or-death efforts by 19th century Americans seeking to escape their bondage. But one of the most powerful lessons occurred while Kevin’s fifth grade class was on its way to that tour.
The Buffalo News: Commentary, Sean Kirst
The staff at the Tubman school took many of the children on field trips to the Underground Railroad Heritage Center, where a new and sweeping mural of Tubman by Madonna Pannell adorns a nearby wall, where staff members use true stories to emphasize the staggering danger for escapees.
The power of the location – where the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge eventually replaced the old suspension bridge – lies in the realization that for fugitives en route to Canada, “these were the last few steps they took on the land where they were enslaved,” said Ally Spongr, interim director of the center.
Madonna Pannell started her mural across from the Amtrak station and the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center in Niagara Falls, NY on August 19th, 2019.
Days prior to starting, she was informed that she’d get the largest wall space surrounding the historic area, measuring 16ft x 54 ft. This was to be her 2nd mural to date and her largest painting. In this space she imagined a large towering and powerful image of Harriet Tubman surrounded by Niagara Falls.
That night she projected her imaged onto the wall to get the correct proportions and quickly began filling in the wall, using acrylic paints only.
Two months later, Madonna expressed her thanks to all of those who were involved.
Finally finished. Thank you to everyone who patiently followed along on this two month project and made it possible for me to be a part of it. Really! Part of the reason I was chosen, other than my abilities, was because the community spoke up at meetings and told them they wanted me a part of it! And that’s what Niagara Falls is about.
She was hoping this piece featuring inspirational figure Harriet Tubman, along with the 7 other completed murals would inspire hope in the Niagara Falls community, who seems in much need of the color and life that the project has brought to the once gray area.
To everyone giving words of encouragement and support along the way, I really appreciate you all. Niagara Falls is an amazing city with amazing people. We will continue to pass this sense of community on.
The finished piece with artist statement will appear on madonnasjournal.com in the next few days.