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Valeria Annette Cray

She was born in West Palm Beach, FL. She is accomplished in the area of the Arts.
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Valeria Cray is a sculptor, artist, and educator. A multi-media artist, she works in the mediums of ceramics, copper, aluminum, acetate, jute, textiles, plexiglass, and wood. The eldest of six siblings, Valeria Annette Cray was born in West Palm Beach, Florida, to Leadley and Annie Mae Sherrod Cray. Valeria's mother was a naturally artistic person who influenced and motivated her artistically. Her mother told her, "When God created artists, they were special people with a special gift of seeing, hearing, and feeling things differently than others." Having such insight, Valeria's mother pointed out that everything around her had something to do with art or math. These observations helped Valeria visualize and see the beauty that others would overlook or ignore. It also helped her to treasure and to value learning and education.

Leadley Cray, Valeria's father, was a self-taught auto mechanic, who learned through practical experience. He was well known and respected for his quality workmanship. Both Leadley and Annie Mae felt that education was the most important part of their children's life. After losing her mother, Valeria and her siblings were reared by their grandmother and later their aunt, Ruby Sherrod Jones. The example and inspiration gained from her parents early in life were nourished and cultivated by other family members. Valeria's artistic excellence was recognized and encouraged. She, in turn, encourages the artistic growth of her son, Hiram who is also a visual artist and a professor.

Valeria Cray holds a (BFA) Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Buffalo and a (MFA) Master of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute, New York, NY. While studying and teaching art with the Aztec Indians in the mountains of Tespostlan, Mexico, she assisted with the construction and organization of schools in the area. Cray also studied Jamaican art and culture.

With Buffalo home to most of her major artistic works, her sculpture "Adam and Eve" acknowledges her as the only African American female modern artist in the permanent collection of the Albright Knox Art Gallery. In 2003, she was commissioned by the Langston Hughes Institute to design the tiles used within their building. Two years later, Valeria was commissioned to design the exterior doors for the entrances to the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library at Jefferson and East Utica Streets.

In 2011, her sculpture the "Spirit of Life Tree" was commissioned by the Buffalo Renaissance Foundation. It is located on Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus at Ellicott and High Streets and has been featured in 3 publications: the 2012 UB Downtown Newsletter, 2019 Buffalo Renaissance Foundation, and the 2019 Buffalo Spree. Her son Hiram also worked with her on this project. She also has a piece that was inspired by breast cancer titled "Whole Armor of God" that is featured in the 2006 Bravo calendar.

In 2019, she was commissioned by the City of Buffalo to design the African American Heritage Corridor Archway on Michigan Ave. In the same year, she would also design the commemorative awardee plaque for the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo's centennial Celebration. Exhibits of Valeria's work has been held throughout the state of New York with much acclaim and accolades. Tension, Texture, and Design: The Soul of an Artist was an exhibit of Cray's latest work incorporating copper, stainless steel, acetate, plexiglass, and brass.

A social activist, Cray believes that art can uplift people. It is with this philosophy that she has conducted workshops and classes at universities and with at-risk youth and senior citizens in New York City and Buffalo. The president and founding member of the community based organization, 50 Women with a Vision, Valeria has had involvement in major community projects including the restoration of the Apollo Theater and the Annual Jefferson Art Festival.
Valeria and her son Hiram were also involved in spearheading the tile mural quilt installation inside the Apollo Theater on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, NY.

Also, a cosmetologist, Cray owns and operates East Wind, a salon specializing in hair loss and hair attachments. Her expertise in this area has been highlighted in various newspaper and magazine articles. Valeria undertakes the challenge of creating designs for her East Wind clients as well as creating sculptures for herself in her art studio.