By Mary Lou Janson
Large-scale paintings are popping up in unexpected places throughout Tampa Bay, creating brilliant backdrops on exterior walls, adding drama to drab parking garages and bringing original, dynamic artworks to the forefront by bringing them to street fronts.
The SHINE St. Petersburg Mural Festival launched in 2015 and added 17 new murals to the downtown district, that continues to attract steady streams of admirers. To build on that success, organizers are busy lining up new locations and a new line-up of artists, who will add another wave of murals — not just to walls — when the event returns Sept. 1 – 10.
A public parking facility, a shopping center stairwell and a white wall adjacent to a landmark restaurant, are among the new heavily trafficked sites boasting murals in Tampa. Helping to pair accomplished artists with ready-made canvases in downtown, Hyde Park and SoHo, are Jake and Cassie Greatens, co-owners of CASS Contemporary Gallery in South Tampa. A movement that began with murals cropping up in major metropolitan areas is now spreading to smaller markets, according to the Greatens.
Jake and I are working with artists to infuse the Tampa scene with muralists from around the world. This movement takes buildings and makes them prettier,” said Cassie Greatens. “The process involves more than finding an ideal site and surface. The accomplished artist selected to paint that space has to have a suitable vision and voice to ensure their work is timeless and everlasting,” she explained.
Tristan Eaton was commissioned to create a mural commemorating the 60-year anniversary of Bern’s Steak House. Among Eaton’s achievements are a permanent collection at the New York Museum of Modern Art and a growing list of global destinations hosting his murals.
“Tristan takes street murals to another level,” said Cassie. “Bern’s wall is a prime wall. The mural tells a story about an iconic family in Tampa who has helped to put Tampa on the map. It was the best wall for Tristan.”
Murals, not to be confused with graffiti, are becoming a popular platform for renowned, professional artists whose works are coveted by private collectors and featured at world class museums.
John Collins, executive director of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, has an increase in businesses interested in partnering with artists for this year’s SHINE event, as well as inquiries about muralists. The arts alliance web site now includes a dedicated directory of muralists. The listing includes local artists instrumental in organizing SHINE, Tes One, Bask and Pale Horse, among others.
We now have 50 murals in St. Petersburg and that number is growing,” Collins said. “What we hope happens with the mural movement is that we find ways for local and international artists to collaborate. What we see happening is that neighborhoods where there are murals, take more pride in their communities.”
Among the esteemed artists featured at the 2015 SHINE festival were:
- Michael Vasquez, a St. Petersburg native, now based in Miami, whose works have been shown in galleries around the world, including a recent exhibit at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
- 123Klan, a French graffiti crew who have dominated the street art scene for more than 20 years. Now living in Montreal, Canada, the husband and wife known for bold character design and iconography, have attracted clients such as Sony to Scion to KidRobot.
- Ya La’Ford is a professor, visual painter, installation artist and muralist with an MFA from The Art Institute of Boston and a Juris Doctor law degree from the University of Florida. With studios in Tampa Bay and New York, her work can be seen across the country from the Boston Public Library to the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American Museum.
“Locally, the mural movement is still a work in progress, but we are excited to see what Tampa does with this movement and how far it goes with it,” Cassie added. M
Tampa Bay Mural Art Gallery
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