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 Niagara Falls artist Natalia Suska paints a mural of three freedom seekers who came through Niagara Falls on the underground railroad.

In a community with as many challenges as the City of Niagara Falls it’s important, at times, to pause and recognize even small improvements.

In the series of new murals that are being created in the North End and that have already been completed downtown, the improvements in question are not only worth noticing but are actually eye-catching, colorful and attractive.

Area residents and officials gathered last week to celebrate the latest in the series of new outdoor, public art projects in the Falls as part of what was a successful Trucks at the Tracks event at the city’s Amtrak station on Depot Avenue.

If you missed it, you missed an encouraging event, coordinated by the Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association, in partnership with the City of Niagara Falls, that allowed dozens of people to get together to enjoy some fine food from local food trucks, take a tour of the Underground Railroad Heritage Center and meet the 10 artists who are designing 10 new public art murals.

While the food and drinks were no doubt appreciated by all those in attendance, the real stars of this show were the artists and their work.

The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, with financial support from the New York State Health Foundation, is helping to advance the multi-phase Heritage Arts Mural Project and Walking Trail that will merge public art, local history and public health. Through August and September, the 10 artists, who hail from Niagara Falls and Buffalo, will be painting the new murals on Main Street and Depot Avenue in the North End neighborhood. The project is intended to unite artists with the Highland Community in the North End in a collaborative process to transform public spaces and inspire local citizens.

Attendees of the Trucks at the Tracks event were able to get an up-close look at one of the first murals to be completed — a portrait of John “Spider” Martin by artist Edreys Wajed.

The painting of the North End murals follows the completion earlier this year of another large-scale public art project in the city, one that resulted in the addition of “Let’s Fall in Love,” a mural on Old Falls Street that was created by Casey Milbrand, an artist from Buffalo.

While some may question investments in public art, in a city where millions visit each spring and summer, such projects are a way to create a more inviting environment for tourists. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, stylish and attractive pieces of public art, like those being created near the city’s Amtrak station and Underground Railroad Heritage Center in the North End, provide a boost in civic pride for city residents as well.

Here in Niagara Falls, where so many disappointments and failures have shaped negative attitudes for so long, beautiful outdoor pieces of art are not only welcome but worth celebrating.

To the organizers of the project and to the artists themselves, we say thank you and job well done.

Anything that adds a touch of color and a sense of hope in this otherwise dreary city is a welcome addition indeed.

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