In planning its fourth annual SHINE Mural Festival, the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance was forced to deal – like so many other Florida arts organizations – with the evaporation of the state’s arts appropriations earlier in the year.
It was a bloodbath. For 2018-2019, the Arts Alliance received zero dollars (last time around, to compare, the legislature ponied up $23,000).
The white knight came charging in on a horse called Salt Palm Development, delivering a princely check for $25,000. “They came in at that level to be our title sponsor, thank God,” says Executive Director John Collins.
And so this year’s SHINE event will go forward, Oct. 6-14, brightening up the city with live “plein air” works by six international, five national and 26 local artists, including nine wall artists, five Coast Bike Murals and 12 Corner Canvas murals.
Other downtown developers have contributed funds, too, according to Collins. “Fortunately,” he says, “this year our developers are investing in SHINE. Because after all, once we improve the neighborhoods with beautiful murals, it only improves developers’ chances of doing what they do.
“People are realizing the investment is paying off. That’s one way of looking at it. Also, we’re still looking for people to support it just because they like seeing it.”
SHINE is a few days shorter this year, too, reflecting a lesson learned at the previous editions. “It’s becoming more of a festival, in a tighter timeframe,” explains Collins. He refers to it as “more inclusive.
“And I think that will add to the experience for the artists, but also maybe make it easier for the public to take it all in, over the course of eight days. When it was two weeks, it was a bit spread out.”
Of special interest for 2018 is the addition of “Bright Spots,” special events presented in partnership with the Public Art Project and other collaborators. “It’s sort of like Broadway and Off Broadway, but it’s all theater,” Collins smiles).
Collins is thrilled to welcome Haider Ali, the legendary Pakistani painter of large motor vehicles. Ali, who’ll be in St. Pete for four days, will paint a car, live, on the outdoor patio of the Museum of Fine Arts.
“He is probably one of the top, if not the top, car painters in the world in the Pakistani style,” says Collins. “I can’t believe we got him. The stuff that he’s done in Pakistan, and around the world, is pretty wild.”
The vehicle, he adds, is privately owned. “The owner will be driving it around St. Pete for years. She’s going to be driving a work of art by an international artist.”
In its four years, SHINE has developed an international reputation. It has become a well-integrated element of the St. Petersburg arts magnet.
Other well-known international muralists coming to St. Pete this year include Great Britain’s Nomad Clan, a group whose dark yet playful folkloric murals have been featured across Europe – they created the tallest mural in the U.K.
From Japan, DAAS blends cubism and abstract techniques to create human and animal images. Works by DAAS are found in the United States, Japan, Jordan and Nepal.
From Germany comes LOOK (co-founder of the artist collective The Weird); Spain sends Miguel Ángel Belinchón Bujes, commonly known as Belin, whose work – according to Collins – “blends realism with cubism to create a uniquely modern technique reminiscent of Picasso and Dali.”
Collins is quick to point out that local artists are the bread, butter and star attraction of SHINE. They’re the whole reason the idea was dreamed up back in 2014.
There will be three “Open Call Walls” – reserved for as-yet-unknowns who compete for the chance to paint – as opposed to just one in previous years.
This year’s local artists are Bekky Beukes, Cecilia Lueza, Ya La’Ford and the Vitale Brothers with Noirs One.
National artists are Angela Faustina (Georgia), Matthew Hoffman (Illinois), Gibbs Rousavall (Kentucky) and J&S Signs (formerly of St. Petersburg).
For the first time, the Alliance has asked each wall owner to contribute $1,000.
“What unfortunately has happened is we’ve created such a wonderful success over the last three years by giving all the walls away, people have started expecting that,” he explains. “And we’ve had to say to them ‘Money doesn’t just appear.’
“Ever since the first year, we’ve made the commitment that every artist is paid. Some of the wall owners are getting international artists who can make $25,000 or $50,000 to paint their wall – and they have been getting it for free. And now we’re saying ‘Oh, come on, you can chip in.’”