More than 20 new canvases of concrete, stucco and brick are about to be painted in St. Petersburg, each by an artist with an individual vision and technique, the majority in public, in the presence of anyone who’s curious about how imaginative things get created out of thin air.
The eighth annual SHINE Mural Festival begins Friday and will continue through Oct. 23.
A branch of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, SHINE – during which murals appear, in real time, on the walls of willing downtown businesses – is probably St. Petersburg’s most famous exhibition of visual art (that doesn’t have the word “Dali” in it, anyway).
This year’s breakdown is four national, four international and 13 local artists.
“What we’re doing with SHINE is different from other murals in the city, or events in the city,” says longtime festival director Jenee Priebe. “The heart of it really is about creative freedom.
“I think if you’re not an artist, that maybe doesn’t resonate. But it’s very rare for these artists to get an opportunity to paint whatever they want to paint on a wall. Nobody’s telling them what to do. There are no real rules, other than the basics, like no nudity and no politics. To have that kind of creative freedom in a public space is a rare opportunity for an artist.”
Every year, as its reputation expands, SHINE’s administrators are able to attract bigger names from the global muralist field.
Ironically, as the word about SHINE spreads, the careful curation (wall size, wall texture, wall location et cetera) of the beloved outdoor art fest is being made more difficult by St. Petersburg’s seemingly endless physical expansion.
The owners of sleek new condo buildings aren’t especially receptive to murals.
“Over the last year,” Priebe notes, “I’ve seen more walls being knocked down than what I’ve seen in the past, just due to construction or development. And other walls that we reached out to this year are slated for demolition.
“We don’t really want to put an artist on a wall that we know is not going to be there in a year. Just to honor their art – and the time, the energy and the money that it takes to put all this together.
“We’ve lost more murals this year, and are going to lose more next year, than we’ve ever seen before.”
The upshot is that some – most certainly not all – painted walls from earlier iterations of SHINE are being recycled for use by new artists.
“We’re going back to some of the property owners that we’ve worked with in the past. And a lot of the murals from the first couple years are faded and could use a refresh. It seems like there’s a lot of walls out there, but there’s a lot of nuance behind how we select the walls, and a lot of logistics behind it. So not every wall is useable for our purposes.”
Will this trend continue and affect future SHINE Mural Festivals? Without a crystal ball, there are no definitive conclusions to be drawn about St. Petersburg’s future as a self-proclaimed City of the Arts.
In the meantime, Jenee Priebe is circumspect about the inevitable loss of earlier works.
After all, nothing last forever. ”And it’s not meant to,” she says. “That’s why we have museums and galleries. That art will last. This isn’t meant to. I think it’s hard because we do get attached to them, we have our favorites and we don’t want to see them go, but it is the nature of it. And the artists understand that.”
Click here for the map of SHINE 2022 artists and locations.