Public art / Tom Holt
photos by luke copping
Creating murals since: 2004
Hertel Art Alley
Niagara Falls Art Alley
Ted’s Hot Dogs interior, 124 West Chippewa Street
Tom Holt moved to Buffalo in 2002, after finishing his art degree, to join friends who enthused about the city’s low rents and wide-open spaces. A year or two later, he was in the midst of a forty-eight-hour painting job at the Burchfield Penney Art Center—work that was not his typical style at the time—when Hallwalls curator John Massier told him he was looking for large-scale works for a themed show.
“I never was a large-scale painter, nor was it my intention to be,” Holt says. But opportunity called, and soon murals and other large pieces became a significant part of his portfolio.
His largest pieces tend toward pure self-expression, he notes, adding, “The larger I paint, the less meaning there tends to be.”
In Buffalo, the best expression of Holt’s mural style is in North Buffalo’s Hertel Art Alley, best described as not far from the Sunoco station on the corner of Hertel and Colvin Avenues. Sometimes called Oh Word in reference to the text that appears on it, it features a cat (modeled after Holt’s own pet cat) with a human body riding a skateboard, contrasted against a bright fuschia background. Holt also has a piece on view in Niagara Falls’ Art Alley, one inside Ted’s Hot Dogs at 124 West Chippewa in Buffalo, and he collaborated on the mural inside of Sato Brewpub on Pearl Street, with his business partner James Moffitt taking the lead.
Two of Holt’s most-noticed pieces, a large unicorn that was on display in Buffalo’s Five Points area and the side of an Allen Street building then known as Space 224, have since been painted over.
Holt fondly recalls bringing together a large group of local painters and graffiti artists, not all of whom had ever made art professionally, to paint a mural on the outside of 224 Allen Street that coincided with a show inside. There was no budget for the work, the ground was uneven and unsteady, and the result was, in the artist’s words, “rough around the edges,” but what resulted reflected the community that came together to create it. That work, he says, is one of the few that he has missed after its time has passed, but he concludes: “I accept that things are ephemeral; it comes and goes.”
Holt will soon be working on a major project that he expects to be the most challenging he’s ever done, because he’s setting the highest expectations for himself. It’s in a high-profile downtown spot. “You really have to make the entire city proud,” he says.