Despite an attempt by the Florida legislature to take the wind out of its sails, the SHINE Mural Festival enjoyed perhaps its best cruise yet in 2018. The public art event, which wound down Sunday, was nearly capsized when the State cut its arts appropriation funding to zero dollars.
Salt Palm Development became the Arts Alliance of St. Petersburg’s first-ever SHINE title sponsor by kicking in $25,000 – more than covering the absentee state money – and with the $25,000 contributed by the City of St. Petersburg and other sponsors, SHINE was able to paint the city with even more vibrant colors, and striking images, than in any of its three previous editions.
With 40 artists requiring lodging, meals, supplies and sundries, the 18 new walls given the SHINE makeover didn’t come cheap.
“I know we paid for 100 hotel room nights,” said John Collins, executive director of the Arts Alliance. “And more than $25,000 in paint, purchased locally, of course.”
The festival could not happen, he said, without the support of the community. “And I can’t even begin to count the wonderful support we got from all of the restaurants … each one donated a day’s worth of lunches for the artists. There weren’t any chain foods – it was all local. And our army of volunteers.”
Smart Move donated mobile storage units so paints, water, supplies and food could be stored on site.
SHINE itself became a community-within-a-community, Collins explained. Lars Wunderlich, the German artist known as Look the Weird, was in danger of missing the festival deadline. He’d taken a day and a half to create a separate piece inside the Morean Arts Center, and attended (with most of the other artists) the festival finale at the Morean Saturday night.
But rain – the bugaboo of all outdoor artists – had slowed down progress on his mural, on the west wall of Billy’s Corner Barber Shop on Central.
“He was enjoying St. Petersburg,” Collins said. “He was at the party Saturday night, and checked out of his hotel Sunday morning and was back at the wall, with his suitcase. A bunch of local artists gathered around him to help him finish it, so he could be picked up at 1 and taken directly to the airport in shorts and a T-shirt. He was pushing it.”
The camaraderie, Collins pointed out, “was just astonishing; it was really beautiful to see.”
Look the Weird’s mural presents an impressionistic view of Florida, as seen through the eyes of an intensely artistic European. “He painted scenes that he felt were scenes of Florida. There are scenes there that are pretty evocative.”
Likewise, the finished mural by the Manchester, U.K. duo known as Nomad Clan has a Florida theme … rather, the artists’ interpretation of a Florida theme. “They researched the early Spanish explorers, Ponce de Leon and Panfilo de Narvaez, the conquistadors who first landed and explored Florida,” said Collins. “And used real hurricane photos for reference.”
For Collins, “It was interesting to see what the international artists think about America, and St. Petersburg.”
As far as hard stats on the festival’s economic impact, Collins said he doesn’t have all the numbers pulled together yet.
But the public art demonstration and exhibition has clearly become a St. Petersburg destination. “SHINE has grown,” Collins declared, “so I think it deserves attention year-round.”
During a weekend stroll amongst the murals, Collins said, he and his wife spoke to dozens of people who were clearly taking tours of their own. Collins, who was wearing a SHINE T-shirt, was a magnet for the visitors.
“Of every single person I talked to who was either on a bike ride or walking around, not one was from St. Petersburg,” he reported. “They were from Bradenton and Tampa and Sarasota, all over. Two people from South Africa. An international audience coming here for the weekend.”
Canvas works by many of the SHINE 2018 artists, as well as paintings by numerous local artists, will be on display through Oct. 27 at the Morean Arts Center (you can catch a glimpse of the special work created there by Look the Weird during his time away from the wall).
“Not only are we showcasing their mural work,” Collins said, “but I think people around the world don’t realize that they are also visual fine artists, and have some stunning work to show.”