SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Frank Malfitano misses Jazz Fest. Then again, the long-time impresario misses just about everything about the arts during a pandemic.
“I thought ‘What can we do in the interim, you know? We have to do something with the Arts,” Malfitano says. “We have to lift people’s spirits up. We can’t just sit on the sidelines and wait for the Plague to pass.”
After some pondering, he was inspired by community murals he’s seen around the country, and thought “Why not here?” His next thought went to local heroes and she-roes he considers under-celebrated.
“You know, we’ve had some people in basketball in this town who have really made a mark on social justice and racial justice and gender equity and equal pay for women, and I thought, “Wow!”
Malfitano settled on four Syracuse icons:
- Breanna Stewart, the WNBA’s best player today and a civil right activist.
- Dolph Schayes, who battled anti-Semitism throughout a Hall of Fame pro career.
- Earl Lloyd of the world-champion Syracuse Nationals, the NBA’s first Black player.
- And Manny Breland, SU’s first African/American scholarship player, and a pioneer educator in city schools.
“All of them are unbelievable trailblazers and pioneers in the fields of civil rights, social justice and racial justice,” says Malfitano.
Malfitano has secured a wall at 333 East Onondaga Street, near Columbus Circle. And he’s engaged one of the best artists working today: Los Angeles-based muralist Jonas Never. “He’s great at pop culture icons as well as African-American athletes,” says Frank. “I mean, I’ve seen his murals of Kobe. I’ve seen his murals of LeBron James. But he’s also done Anthony Bourdain and Einstein and Tom Petty.”
“We have the mural. We have the artist. We have the building. We’re all set to go,” Malfitano says. “We just need to raise the money. And the more money we raise, the more murals we’ll do.”
He’s hoping to raise $75,000 to get started in July. If the campaign raises more money, Frank has more walls and more themes lined up. “We may not be able to have concerts. We may not be able to have festivals. But we can create murals.”
If you’d like to support the effort to create this community mural, you can contact Frank Malfitano at 315-635-8045 or email@example.com.