As St. Petersburg’s prolific arts community struggles with an economy that’s all but relegated it to the back burner, the Pinellas Arts Community Relief Fund – a joint effort by Creative Pinellas, the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and Pinellas Community Foundation – continues to solicit donations for those who can’t currently be demonstrably creative.
Stephen Collins, owner of Coast Brothers Janitorial Service, is one local business owner who decided to go one up on the Relief Fund. Collins’ brother John, the executive director of the Arts Alliance, told him about the project.
“But I’m one of these guys that, I don’t want to give people fish; I’d rather give them a fishing pole,” Stephen Collins says. “I have this thing about just giving money to someone who I know would prefer to work.”
Collins and his son Patrick, Coast Brothers’ vice president and general manager, hired local muralists Derek Donnelly and the Vitale Brothers to create original murals on the company’s four box trucks.
They aren’t applied vinyl “wrap-arounds”; the artists painted directly on the vehicles.
On one side of a 24-foot truck, the Vitales contributed a sea turtle mural, on the other side, a pair of cavorting bottlenose dolphins.
“When they did the dolphins, I was stunned,” Collins reports. “I stood there in the parking lot; it just popped.”
Donnelly’s turtle and grouper murals were inspired by the work of legendary St. Pete muralist Bill “Woo” Correiera, who died in 2013.
On his Facebook page, Donnelly called Woo his mentor.
“I never painted fish or turtles before he passed away, despite him telling me to numerous times,” he wrote. “When he passed I started doing them as a way of coping and keeping his spirit alive. I hide his name in every one that I do. It is a true honor to be in the position to do this for a living and commemorate Bill’s life and work.
“A huge hug to the Collins family for the support during these crazy times!”
Donnelly also posted this timelapse video:
Although the murals will serve as a “rolling advertisement” for Coast Brothers, Collins says the business is more or less dormant during the Covid-19 era. “We sell to hotels and independent schools, places that are basically not buying anything.”
The janitorial supply business, he says without a trace of irony, is “in the toilet.”
But he has a second concern, the website buyitbythecase.com, that’s taking care of business. “I’m fortunate,” Collins explains, “that the internet business has held up enough that we are able to pay bills.”
For now, Stephen Collins feels like he’s thrown down some sort of gauntlet.
“I hope that maybe the 15 percent of the businesses that are doing well would say ‘Hey, I can do this, too. I could help the community, and maybe help myself.’
“Maybe it’s because of my brother, and because I love the murals, but when I go to the airport or somewhere and I see a building, I’m seeing a blank canvas. I’m thinking more people should do this. St. Petersburg is a city of the arts.”
Using his own set of guidelines, he’s contributing to the cause by bankrolling the four murals. “It’s sort of my way of giving back,” he says. “I mean, I’m not the painter, but fortunately I provided the canvas.”