Ralph Sirianni appeared as the guest speaker for Alden High School Veteran’s Day Assembly, on November 10th, 2022.
An excerpt of the video can be seen HERE.
Transcript of Introduction:
Ralph Sirianni was born on the West side of Buffalo on Jan. 2, 1949. As a child of Italian immigrants, Mr. Sirianni dreamed of life in the arts, earning a reputation in his neighborhood for his artistic talents and his ability to draw accurate likenesses of friends and family.
After graduating from Kenmore West High School in 1968, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served a yearlong tour primarily in I Corps, the northernmost area of South Vietnam. During his service, Mr. Sirianni used his drawing skills to connect with the local population, cobbling together art materials and canvases from his surroundings and sketching portraits of his fellow soldiers and the civilians they encountered.
Upon his return to the United States Mr. Sirianni remained enlisted at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina for the next two and a half years, earning the rank of sergeant before his honorable discharge from the Marine Corps in 1972.
On the G.I. Bill, Mr. Sirianni enrolled in the fine arts program at the University at Buffalo in 1978, where he worked with renowned Buffalo painter and professor Walter Prochownik (PRO-CHON-ICK) to process his experiences during the war and with substance abuse through artistic expression. Mr. Sirianni began working at the Buffalo VA Medical Center in 1978 as a laundry worker and soon volunteered to paint murals in the hospital’s lobby and work in what would later become the hospital’s creative arts therapy program.
After receiving his master’s degree in art therapy and human services from SUNY Buffalo State College in 1992, Mr. Sirianni began his 24-year tenure as a creative arts therapist at the hospital. Across his career, he worked with more than a thousand patients – many of them suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and other debilitating conditions resulting from their service – to express themselves through art. He retired from the VA in 2016.
While he was employed at the VA, Mr. Sirianni also developed a side career as a police and courtroom sketch artist beginning in the late 1990s. His sketches have been used by police agencies in Amherst, Batavia, Oakfield as well as the New York State Police to apprehend suspects in high-profile cases. His courtroom sketches, of the trials of the Lackawanna 6, James Kopp, the Buffalo Tops shooter and many others, have been featured on local and international news outlets including America’s Most Wanted and the Associated Press.
In addition to his painting, Mr. Sirianni designed several memorial monuments throughout Western York and the Eastern United States. These include the Iraq-Afghanistan Memorial, the centerpiece of the WNY Vietnam Veterans Monument and the Korean War Memorial of Western New York – all at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Serviceman’s Park in Buffalo. He also designed the remembrance fountain at the VA Hospital as well as the U.S. Marine-themed Buffalo Soldier statue that is placed for much of the year outside the hospital’s main entrance.
Through his service to our country in the Marine Corps, his service to other veterans through his work as a creative arts therapist and his service to the public through his monuments and courtroom sketches, Mr. Sirianni exemplifies what genuine patriotism looks like. We are honored that he has taken the time to be with us today as we celebrate not only the service and sacrifice of all our veterans, but also the 247th birthday of the United States Marine Corps, which he so proudly served.
Please join me in welcoming Mr. Sirianni to the stage.