The World Canals Conference opened in Rochester, NY on Sunday, September 19. This event has gathered hundreds of people from more than 20 countries here to share information on community and economic development, tourism, recreation, rehabilitation and operation of canals and inland waterways. It launched with a variety of fun activities including an historic boat flotilla, exhibits in the War Memorial, boat rides, games and crafts for children and music on a barge. It also presented the rare opportunity for visitors to see the Genesee River Aqueduct, which is normally inaccessible.
The Aqueduct will the the location of a dinner and reception for conference attendees on Monday, September 20. Organizers of the event leveled the aqueduct bed, added a rug and will bring in mood lighting and music to make for a memorable evening. In a bold and brilliant move, they decided to retain the graffiti that decorates the walls, rather than to whitewash it. Today, I had the pleasure of taking a tour of this unusual attraction where the historic and the contemporary collide, with delightful results.
Until recently, I might not have been as appreciative of this opportunity, but in March, I saw a documentary on Rochester’s graffiti group, FUA (From Up Above). This film, produced by Rajesh Barnabas and presented as part of RCTV-15’s INput Film Festival, enlightened me about the talent and time that goes into graffiti art. Because graffiti is an art form born out of poverty, most graffiti artists are self-taught and they turn to graffiti on walls as a form of self-expression when they can afford no other canvas. The Genesee River Aqueduct showcases the work of dozens, and possibly hundreds of graffiti artists. It is also interesting that organizers of the conference chose to juxtapose the work of artist Eric Waugh. His work, known for its “urban energy,” is complimented by the graffiti, and vice versa.
If you look closely at most of the pieces, you will find the name or initials of the group that produced the work, the names of the artists who worked on it and the year it was created.