By Anna Bryson
Over a dozen local, national and international street artists spent the past 10 days transforming St. Petersburg’s downtown with spray paint for the city’s third annual SHINE Mural Festival.
Ending Saturday, the festival revitalized public spaces, inspired dialogue and united the community with the power of art.
The world-class talent that SHINE brought to the city created newer, higher standards of art. “Dream big, be big,” was painted in huge letters on a 90-foot wall in Child’s Park in southside St. Petersburg. Children got to fill in each of the 13 letters with different doodles.
At the opening event on Oct. 7, attendees had a chance to put their handprint on the wall and sign their initials.
The festival wrapped up Saturday, Oct. 14 with the “Outside In” exhibit in the Warehouse Arts District. The event featured large-scale installations from local and national artists including past SHINE participant Ricky Watts and current SHINE artists Yok & Sheryo.
Although many local residents and artists praise SHINE for bringing in international talent, some criticise the festival, saying it is detrimental to the grassroots movement. It is sometimes associated with the gentrification of street art and of St. Petersburg.
Chad Mize, a mural artist and graphic designer, has been a member of the SHINE committee all three years.
“From the beginning, there’s always been kind of a negative voice from some of the locals because they felt like we were bringing in these artists internationally. But the idea behind everything we did was to put us on the map — to put St. Petersburg on the international map in terms of street art. I always looked at it that way. It was never to take away from what was already happening here.”
Amid criticisms that SHINE doesn’t include enough local artists, there were only five St. Petersburg artists chosen to participate this year.
The five included were Jared Hernandez, better known as Thirst, Daniel “R5” Barojas, John Suarez, Herbert Scott Davis and Carlos Culbertson, better known as Zulu Painter.
Zulu and Thirst collaborated on a massive piece under an overpass on 22nd Street S., where in spite of the heat, Zulu danced, spray painted and waved to passersby.
“I love it when people come to watch me paint. It makes me more energetic,” said Zulu.
Although Zulu has participated in SHINE all three years, this piece is his biggest yet. He chatted about SHINE’s effect on the city by bringing in wild talent from all around the world and creating a unique art scene.
Zulu said St. Petersburg is different from other art scenes, like Wynwood or Detroit, because instead of a slow, gradual growth, the Sunshine City’s street art scene grew quickly, stemming from fine art rather than graffiti.
Other Florida artists who participated in SHINE were Jujmo, from Tampa, and Alex Yanes, Axel Void, and Jose Mertz, from Miami.
This year was Mertz’s first visit to the city. He noted St. Petersburg’s murals are tidier and more refined than those in Miami. For him, it is easier to see the murals up close because St. Petersburg is more of a walking city than Miami is.
“I love that everybody here is mad nice and people aren’t afraid to interact with you,” said Mertz. “There are a lot of really hot murals here.”
Other artists who participated were Cryptik, Mikael B, and Stephen Palladino, from Los Angeles, California; Hueman, Oakland, California; Joram Roukes, Groningen, Netherlands; Waone, Kyiv, Ukraine; Lauren YS, San Francisco, California; Sam Yong, Melbourne, Australia; Yok & Sheryo, Australia and Singapore.