Valerie Kalfrin

Mural festival casts spotlight on St. Petersburg’s street art

"Twiggy," by mural artist Chad Mize / Courtesy of Chad Mize

“Twiggy,” by mural artist Chad Mize / Courtesy of Chad Mize

The outside of a building isn’t just a canvas to artist Chad Mize but an opportunity to transform and energize the urban landscape.

Mize painted a mural of ’60s icon Twiggy with stars in her eyes behind his former gallery Bluelucy in the 600 block of Central Avenue. He’s also known for the cheery Mr. Sun, peering through spectacles instead of sunglasses, on a blue background in a Central Avenue alley.

Now he and about a dozen local and out-of-town artists are casting a spotlight on St. Petersburg’s embrace of street art through the SHINE St. Petersburg Mural Festival. Since Tuesday and through Sept. 12, passersby can watch these artisans craft large-scale murals on a variety of locations and enjoy others’ existing work, effectively transforming the city into an open-air museum.

“It’s like an outside 24-hour gallery,” said Mize, a multimedia artist who lives in St. Pete and was part of SHINE’s organizing committee.

A map at highlights existing murals, such as the one committee director Leon “Tes One” Bedore and Chris “Pale Horse” Parks created on the back of the State Theatre, as well as new ones. Expect a mural with bite from the Los Angeles-based graffiti artist known as Shark Toof by the State Theatre and bold iconography from the Montreal husband-and-wife team known as 123Klan in the 1200 block of Central Avenue.

Astute viewers might notice associations between some murals and their locations. The face of 19th Century inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, painted by Carrie Jadus, looks out at Fifth Avenue South from the offices of software-support company GeniusCentral Systems. Artist Ya La’ford adorned the 85-foot tunnel under First Avenue South from Tropicana Field to Central Avenue by Ferg’s Sports Bar with an interlocking blue-on-blue geometric pattern reminiscent of sun rays.

Learn more about the festival in my Tampa Tribune story online here, and about Mize’s appreciation for how art evolves. He and the other participants expect that their work won’t last in public, but he loves seeing how his murals pop up in people’s photos on Instagram and Facebook.

“I feel like those are the memories, and that becomes art in itself,” Mize said. “Public art becomes a backdrop whereas a painting just sits in someone’s home or a gallery.”