Published May 2, 2022
You may not have known Harumo Sato during her time at UB, but if you are a frequent visitor to One World Café, you will know her work.
The same goes for Tayron Lopez, who graduates from UB this spring but not without leaving behind his mark.
Sato and Lopez are two of the artists who were commissioned to design artwork for the new international eatery on the North Campus. In all, four pieces from four separate artists within the UB community will be on display at One World as part of a broader initiative to exhibit more public art on campus.
“This new space invites opportunities to celebrate the uniqueness of UB and our community,” says Kelly Hayes McAlonie, director of campus planning. “Public art is a perfect vehicle to demonstrate this.
“The project was deliberately designed with neutral colors and natural materials so as not to compete with the artwork,” Hayes McAlonie says.
Look up to find Sato’s work. The piece — titled “Megumu Megumi (Gift, Gifted)” — was incorporated into the first-floor design of One World, where the artwork hangs from above to brighten the space and contrast the dark ceiling.
The two large panels — which include colorful, abstract patterns and images of exotic fruits — celebrate UB’s diverse international enrollment and its history as home to the Native American tribes who once lived on the land where the university now stands, Sato says.
“Fruits are, in many different cultures and mythologies, treated as gifts from gods,” says Sato, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UB in 2015. “By visualizing a wide variety of fruits — some of which are hard to find in the U.S. — I hope that UB students explore and exchange cultural heritage through discussing different fruits and related memories.
“Through constructing a composition with abstract and figurative pattern designs from different timelines, countries and cultures, I want visitors to see UB’s diverse community as a united, inseparable, co-dependent entity as a whole,” Sato says.
On the third floor, the Lopez mural, titled “One World,” hangs next to the staircase and offers his depiction of life on campus.
Lopez, who goes by “Tai” or “Taiitan,” knew what he wanted to design the first time he saw a mockup of the café.
“I wanted to convey a feeling of warmth, something that focused on diversity, imagining the convergence of communities and different cultures all throughout,” Lopez says.
“I would describe the work as a new piece of nostalgia — something you haven’t quite seen yet, but still familiar,” Lopez says. “These aren’t quite my words; I’ve heard a few people say similar things to me. After hearing it, I felt like it fit and helped describe the piece well.”
The Bronx native, who found an interest in art at age 4 and would often get caught doodling in class, earned his bachelor’s degree from Sage College of Albany and will graduate from UB with his MFA. He credits UB alumnus and mentor Stacey Robinson for introducing him to UB’s art program, where Lopez has had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant.
“I applied and made it in — thank God,” Lopez says.
Likewise, Sato, who grew up in rural Japan, calls attending UB “a lucky mistake.”
“Initially I wanted to live close to New York City, but I couldn’t afford to go to schools there,” she says. “I found UB, which is ‘close’ to the city and has a good art department, but I didn’t quite understand how big the United States is.”
Later on, Sato realized how the support of the faculty and friendships from fellow students provided an “amazing environment” to focus on her art. Coincidentally, Robinson was among those to help Sato accelerate her education at UB.
“I still keep in touch with some of the faculty members, getting some inspiration and encouragement,” Sato says. “I would not be who I am today without the UB art department.”
Since graduating from UB, Sato moved to the San Francisco Bay area with her husband, who is a UB graduate as well. She is currently in residency at the Cubberly Artist Studio Program, creating large-scale murals and public-art installations for such clients as Facebook, Target, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the City of San Francisco.
“My main focus is how to get close to the universally intriguing visuals which speak to anybody beyond the difference of nationality, generation, sex and education,” Sato says. “If people find beauty in my art, it’s because my art reaches to the universal unconscious beauty in their heart — and I am grateful to know it.”
The mural created by Lopez, and two other pieces commissioned for One World, were funded by a philanthropic gift from a donor.
Watch for the other two pieces at One World: “Together We Are” from Chicago-based artist Brendan Fernandes, who has ties to UB’s Anderson Gallery, and “Nourish/Inhabit” from Joan Linder, a professor in the Department of Art.