Published February 9, 2022
Craftsmanship has been a central theme throughout Edreys Wajed’s life. It started when he was in elementary school, when his teachers would comment on his attention to detail, his commitment to his penmanship and his innate talent for art. As a graduate student in UB’s MFA studio art program, Wajed continues to focus on his craftsmanship.
“I don’t subscribe to perfection at all,” Wajed says. “But I do subscribe to attention to detail. I’m concerned about every brush stroke being intentional, as with every drop of paint. There’s an order to it.”
Wajed’s attention to detail, his talent and his work ethic has led to several highly sought-after commissions in recent years. In 2017, he was commissioned to paint seven murals on The Freedom Wall, at the corner of Michigan Avenue and East Ferry Street in Buffalo. For this project, Wajed was selected as one of four Buffalo artists to create the tribute to important leaders in the civil rights movement. In 2020, he partnered with fellow artist Yames Moffitt and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery to co-create “Love Black, 2020” at Say Yes Buffalo (located at 712 Main St. in Buffalo). In 2021, he worked to create a logo commemorating Val James, the first Black hockey player born in the U.S. to make his debut with the Buffalo Sabres in 1981. This year, Wajed is co-curating the exhibit “In These Truths” with the Albright-Knox from Feb. 19 through June 5.
Recently, Wajed’s artwork made a cameo in HBO’s hit series “Insecure.” His piece “Back to Life” — inspired by the music group Soul II Soul — is featured prominently on the wall during an intense conversation among some of the show’s main characters in season 5, episode 5.
“One of the things that I challenge myself to do is to grow; to accept and say yes to opportunities that I may not have been prepared for in the moment,” Wajed says.
One of those moments was when Wajed was approached by his friend, Leah Hamilton, an art adviser, who saw the potential in Wajed’s artwork.
“She was very encouraging and inspirational, and she suggested submitting my piece to the show,” Wajed says.
Even though he wasn’t entirely ready to share his abstract work with the world just yet, he believed in Hamilton’s expertise and trusted her professional instincts.
“I agreed, and she submitted it in 2020, and then the pandemic hit and I sorta forgot about it. A few weeks ago, a friend from L.A. and then friends from all over the place started texting me about the show and asking me if it was my work,” he recalls. “It was great that they recognized it and that it was up on the screen long enough for people to really see it.”
Next up for Wajed: a Master of Fine Arts degree from UB.
The Western New York native has a long history of ties to the university. He was in the Upward Bound program throughout high school, where he spent summers on the South Campus.
“I’ve always been involved on the fringe of UB,” Wajed recalls. “And I’ve always had very positive experiences and relationships with UB.”
Wajed found out about the UB MFA program while working as a resident at the Buffalo Art Studio. His wife, Alexa, talked Wajed into applying to the Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship Program.
“I didn’t have going back to school in my plans, but my wife kept talking about it and encouraging me to apply and, gratefully, I was accepted,” he says.
Staying open to life’s possibilities has led Wajed to find success in a myriad of creative roles. In addition to his success as an artist, he has been a clothing designer, jewelry designer, hip-hop artist, producer, high school art teacher and musician. He is also an entrepreneur: He and his wife are parents who also run their own business called Eat Off Art. Of their company, Wajed describes it as a creative consulting agency and experience-making company that highlights the importance of community, art and art-making.
Wajed says it’s been a challenge to have all these projects happening at the same time as going back to school, but, in his words: Challenge is where the growth is.
Wajed says he has learned a great deal while attending UB, but that the networking opportunities as an MFA student have been invaluable.
“We know lots of people and have lots of associations with organizations and individuals as part of our network, but being part of UB is a world in its own. I’ve made some meaningful and rich connections with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” he says.
In addition to gaining new networking opportunities at UB, Wajed says he’s learned a lot from his courses.
“The faculty and staff that I’ve met are untapped gold. We’re talking about professors who have been teaching for 20, 30-plus years. They are invaluable resources and are key to anyone in the MFA program,” he says.
One of the faculty members Wajed refers to as influential and supportive is Reinhard Reitzenstein, associate professor of art, who also serves as director of the sculpture program and undergraduate studies. Of Wajed, Reitzenstein says: “Edreys Wajed, synonymous in my mind with exuberance, clarity, kindness and steadfast dedication. Edreys approaches whatever he does with enthusiastic energy, at once as contagious as it is finely and carefully wrought.
“He knows that a good idea becomes a great idea through uncompromising craftsmanship,” Reitzenstein says. “He knows that clear communication happens when the terms are articulated through thoughtful, mindful expression. Empathy is the key driver for his enterprise, and his respect and support of the Black experience deeply inspires the lives of those his work touches.”
So, what can UB offer to someone like Wajed, who already is an accomplished artist and well-connected in the art community?
“I feel like I have so much more to do and so much more to learn,” he says, “but I also think about all the doors that might not otherwise be open to me if I didn’t have my MFA.”