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Vitale Bros. and SHINE: This time, it’s personal

Bill DeYoung



Johnny Vitale, along with his brother Paul, opened the Vitale Bros. business in 1992. Photos by Bill DeYoung.

The brothers keep this rendering of the finished mural handy, for reference.

Brothers Johnny and Paul Vitale hung out their shingle as professional artists in 1992, and 30 years later, the Vitale Bros. moniker is synonymous with creative painting, from stylized murals to commercial work, in St. Petersburg (and beyond).

Their latest project, part of the SHINE Mural Festival “Bright Spots” community program, is entirely personal.

The brothers and their crew are painting a bright mural on the façade of a three-story residential home at the Parc Center for Disabilities.

“This place,” Johnny Vitale said during a short break Friday morning, “always held a special place in my heart, because they helped discover my aunt’s hidden talents.”

The Vitales’ late Aunt Nancy was diagnosed with Downs syndrome.

“When her mom and dad – my grandparents – died, she came to live in this area in a group home,” Vital explained. “She would come here to Parc. And unbeknownst to us, the last 10 years of her life, they discovered that she was an artist.

“She’d never expressed any desire to do that. She couldn’t really talk that well. But we were so surprised back then, like ‘Oh my God, how cool that Aunt Nancy’s an artist!’”

Vitale met with the Parc board of directors, and with the graphic artists who designed the center’s new logo, which is being incorporated into the mural.

Most importantly, he was introduced to the residents of the building. He liked them; they liked him.

So it was a win-win. “This is going to cheer them up, and it cheers me up to know that,” Vitale said. “This is not just for the general public – it’s for them.”

Said Parc president and CEO Michelle Detweiler in a prepared statement: “This mural represents so much more than a beautiful piece of art on a building. It represents family.

“We are extremely grateful to the Vitale Bros. for donating and creating this mural for us and cannot wait to see the finished result.”

Johnny Vitale (on the lift) on site at Parc; the artist Cheetah was working with him Friday.

The Vitales have been involved with the SHINE Festival, in various ways, since its inception eight years ago. On the day the Catalyst visited the Parc site, brother Paul was across town, finishing up the “base coat” on the last of 14 walls – a necessary preparation before the 2022 artists arrive to begin their creations.

“When all the artists that I know first started,” Johnny Vitale reflected, “the outlet to make money at art was more geared towards residential – faux finishing and stuff like that, decorative home stuff. It wasn’t really huge in the public arena.

“We would do murals from time to time; there weren’t too many exterior ones. But this wave of new artists came and started doing more art for art’s sake: Not necessarily getting paid to do it, but they would decorate the side of someone’s building. It was a new generation of artists like Sebastian Coolidge, Derek Donnelly, Tes One … this influx of graffiti people and whatever started decorating the back of the alley where we were running our commercial art outfit, on the 600 block.”

The transformation began then – approximately 10 years ago.

“We did the first largescale mural with Tes One (a.k.a. Leon Bedore) and Palehorse (a.k.a. Chris Parks) behind the State Theatre. In that case, they designed it and we painted it.

“And that was their introduction to ‘Oh … we should do murals.’ They weren’t mural people, and we were not art for art’s sake people either. So it was a unique kind of crossover.”

(As part of the building’s 2019 transformation into the Floridian Social Club, the rear wall required structural work, which meant the mural had to be removed, after seven years.)

“Leon’s background was graphic design for corporate, so after that we started collaborating on a lot of commercial jobs,” Vitale recalled “As a team, we’ve tackled some pretty big commercial accounts.”

Not surprisingly, all the St. Pete muralists are friendly with one another, and collaborate often.

“It’s an art-incestuous town,” laughed Vitale. “You’re always going to rub shoulders with somebody.”

RELATED STORY: Downtown is ready to SHINE once again








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    Velva Lee Heraty

    October 15, 2022at6:53 pm

    I’ve known the V Brothers since 2007. In many ways they made St. Pete what it is today. They are far more as people and as community culture than this article delves into. I would love to read a more in-depth profile.

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