In order to see for ourselves what all the excitement over the SHINE Mural Festival was about, we took a drive around St. Petersburg. Using an online virtual map as our guide, we were able to find this year’s muralists contributing their colorful creations to St. Pete’s extensive culture of street art.
Just off Central Avenue, we spotted Taj Tenfold of Jamaica spiraling up in the air atop a forklift. With cans of spray paint in hand, he focused on his wall-sized canvas in hopes of getting enough done before the rain broke through the clouds again.
Artists from the Tampa Bay area and beyond gathered in St. Petersburg this week to create murals on the walls of local businesses. The SHINE Mural Festival began as a support system for local artists and organizations to invest in their work and help others live out their artistic inspirations.
As we stood near Tenfold’s work, we noticed an SUV pull up beside us. Members of the SHINE steering committee popped out of the car with provisions at the ready to feed and hydrate the artists. We were able to meet Kathryn Howd, one of the original operation’s committee members of SHINE. Howd, and other SHINE committee members, often stop by murals in progress and will continue to do so throughout the week.
While Tenfold tackled this massive wall, Howd talked about the competitiveness of the application process. She pointed out that each artist is somehow connected to one another through social media or by word of mouth. Howd said they had a great group of local and international artists this year, and despite a delay from the rain, everyone stayed positive and continued working hard.
We moved on to the outskirts of downtown and found St. Pete local, Leo Gomez; another one of the 16 SHINE artists.
Gomez was at the Ice House of St. Petersburg, which was covered top to bottom in blue paint and outlined with white letters. When the work is finished it will read Sunshine on My Mind. He said his inspiration was drawn from “positivity, with a mix of St. Pete vibes.”
“The goal is to brighten up someone’s day, as well for ourselves to put good energy into our minds,” said Gomez.
Positive vibes seemed to be what motivated many of this year’s artists. As regular citizens walking from piece to piece, we were able to connect with each artist and feel the bright energy from not only the mural but the artists themselves.
As the city stretched out farther, more artists continued their work along the walls of racquetball courts, non-profit organizations, nail salons and more.
Creative Clay, on First Avenue S, is where we found Todd Frain delicately replicating the work of adult painters with neuro-differences, or those with special needs.
Frain welcomed us warmly and introduced us to his friend who sat near him for moral support so that he wouldn’t go stir crazy. Observing from Frain’s perspective we understood why he might feel that way – the rest of what was left to paint seemed to stretch on for a mile.
Frain started as a volunteer at Creative Clay in 2009 after getting his portrait painted by one of the adult artists. He hung around long enough that he was eventually offered a job. He currently teaches adult artists how to draw, paint and make ceramics. Frain said he is now “homies and friends” with all of them.
When we asked Frain about the inspiration for the mural he said, “This is not my art, I can’t make this much fun out of art.”
Frain described how the center’s artists are inspired by the works of Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dalí. He said the rest of the mural will be replications of pieces from more featured artists at the center.
Because most of the murals were nearby, we were able to hit one more work-in-progress.
George Rose, based in Melbourne, Australia, was quietly stroking away on a racquetball court at the Campbell Park Recreation Center (or as she described it on Instagram, a “squash court”). She later was comically corrected by her mum and dad who said, “That’s a racquetball court, George, squash is played indoors.”
Rose chose a botanical theme since SHINE is doing a mural series on the LGBTQ+ community. After researching botanicals that have historically been used to represent the community, George used them in her mural to present her own significant interpretation of St. Pete pride.
Although many of the artists faced difficulties at the beginning of the week with major rainstorms, their attitudes remained positive and they continued to work with support from friends, family and the community.
Meeting the artists at their designated mural site was worth it. Each had a story to share and was eager to talk about why they were there and how they chose their subject for the festival.
You can view all the artists on their social media accounts and stay up to date on their progress as they rush to finish their murals before the end of the week. The festival continues through Oct. 26.
Find out more about the festivities and how you can be a part of it as the week progresses, as well as a virtual map guide, at: https://stpeteartsalliance.org/shine-mural-festival/.