A Conversation with Steven Speir and Evan Poirier

Iryna: My name is Iryna Kanishcheva. I’m in the Protocol Gallery right now and I will talk with two artists who live in Gainesville, and who have done a few interesting murals in our town.

Iryna: Evan, tell me a little bit about yourself.

Evan: 33 years old, I live here in Gainesville with my wife and my 6-year-old.  I do graphic design and illustrations, and I also dabble in street art, and have done so probably since 16…

Iryna: Tell me about you, Steven.

Steven: I’m similar age. I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama.  I spent the past seven years with my wife in Philadelphia.  We recently relocated to Gainesville.  I started with the whole graffiti scene, street art, aesthetic  at the similar age of 14-15. And it carries over into the style of which I like to paint…. But also I like working on the grand scale of murals. It’s a lot of fun and also a great way to collaborate with similar artists. That’s actually how we met.

Iryna: Tell me how did you meet each other?

Evan: We met through our mutual friend. He is also an artist. He is not here presently…

Steven: He is alive.

Evan: He is alive, yeah.  Just not here, haha. Hector called us up… to paint on the 34th St Wall. Painted some stuff, had some fun, nothing too crazy.

Steven: We were supposed to paint outside that one place. There were three of us.  We were gonna share a 4’x6’ plywood panel… That scale does not work well with three artists.

Evan: Three people, you gotta go big, yeah…

Iryna: Did you share the wall on West University Avenue next to the training center?

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Steven: We know another mutual friend, he had access to this wall space, and he reached out to us… Stylistically we are on totally different sides, but what we’ll do is he’ll conceptualize an idea and I’ll be more his assistant.  Primarily someone takes the main initiative with design.

Evan: We sort of take turns…

Steven: Which is fun!

Evan: Yeah..

Iryna: But you get along pretty well, I guess.

Evan: Yeah! I do a lot of spray paint techniques, fading, shading, highlights, . . . and Steven is a pro with a brush.  We combine two styles.

Iryna: So, your wall on Main Street was done with  a brush?

Steven: Yes! Actually it was not any can, it was all brush, brush and roller.

Evan: I think you get a nice round style. If it’s all brush or if it’s all spray paint, it doesn’t do it for me … Use whatever you can; whatever you can use, do that.

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Iryna: Steven, I discovered your website stevenspeir.com, right?  Comparing your works 2006-2007 years and present time your style became different. I would say more colorful and simplistic.

Steven: Absolutely. …Well, 2006 was the year I was coming out from undergraduate, from the painting department at Savannah College of Art and Design.  My concentration was portraiture, really into photorealism, but I would always incorporate like that loose gestural hand in clothing in the background. A that’s where a little bit of the Street Art influence shine through in the aesthetic. I guess I got bored, burnt out on just painting portraits over and over again. I wanted to venture out.  I decided to paint more large, flat, color fields and shapes. Still referencing Street Art cultures. And then it turned into more characters. It is kind of evolved ever since then.  It was transitional stage from 2006-2007 into what its become today.

Iryna: I know people like your work. Did you see the film “What do you know about Street Art?”.

Steven: I did! I was happy to see people enjoying it.  That’s all it really is, you know, just supposed to invite and engage conversation with our community. Not really social-political, just simple seeing it and enjoying it.

Iryna: Did you hear, they want to see more murals in our town… Haha.

Steven: Haha, yeah… I was very pleased to hear that.  Coming from Philadelphia, they have a huge murals program, more that many cities. Moving to Gainesville, I notice a lot of blank canvases that need to be decorated.

Iryna: Actually, what do you think about Street Art Scene in Gainesville?

Steven: It is borderline non-existent…

Iryna: Hahaha

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Evan: There is no initiative. There is no public art movement. There is a lot of little pockets of art that are picking up momentum here and there.  But there is no one really pushing to put more art in public places where everyone can see it.

Steven: Exactly! There is Norman Hall Tunnel for students. It is almost like tolerance.

Iryna: They tried to cover it every time but already tired to do that and just left it as it is…

Evan: You’re not even supposed to paint that tunnel. I have had police come and tell me to leave.

Iryna: In the tunnel, really??

Evan: Yeah… While I was painting it.

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Steven: Did you show them a student ID?

Iryna: Hahaha

Evan: I don’t have a student ID… My point is, even the wall Steven painted on, that is on Main Street, is a new within the last two years…

Steven: Right!

Evan: …It is supported through local property owners. It isn’t like those guys are pushing to do more in other places, as far as I know. Hopefully it will happen, but up to now it hasn’t happened. So that’s what’s cool to hear that you have tried to do something.

Iryna: Yeah.. Actually, everyone that I have spoken with likes my project and agree to participate, and I already have permission for at least 7 or 10 walls downtown at the moment.

Evan: Oh, downtown, cool!

Iryna: Yes.

Evan: Permanent walls?

Iryna: We want to have it like an annual event and every year we will cover some of the walls, but if we have something really interesting we will leave it as a permanent or even turn into a landmark.

Evan: It’s awesome.

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SW 34th Street Wall, 2013. The character on the right is by Steven

Iryna: Well… We definitely have a legal wall,  the 34th St. wall, what do you think about the paintings on this wall?

Steven: I think it is a great option. It seems to be more like a billboard for UF students to promote an event or to tell their friend  Kristen “I love you”.

Iryna: But nobody aside from Kristen is interested in reading it…

Steven: Yeah… But it is great, but you can plan and expect for it to be covered, altered, in days if not hours.  People are sharpening teeth, practicing there.

Iryna: Have you ever had paintings there?

Steven: I have.  I had a collaboration there with Evan.

Evan: We have photos on Instagram.

Steven: You just can have a good time there.

Evan: Nothing scripted. Take a photo and forget about it because you will never see it again.

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SW 34th Street Wall, 2015. The character is by Evan 

Iryna: Street Art is very elusive and vanishes as soon as appears, right?

Evan: Yeah.  Many years ago someone made an event called “The miracle on 34th Street.” Which was a famous Christmas movie. But anyway, the event took place for the whole weekend. People who knew about the event and painted graffiti came up and basically filled up the whole wall. But it’s been probably 10 years since the last time.

Iryna: Wow… I didn’t know. I’ve been living here just two years.

Steven: Yes it was good event. Long time since that happened.

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20, N Main St. The wall next to The Wooly

Iryna: Steven, what is your story of the painting on Main Street, next to The Wooly?

Steven: I worked in the gallery there… And the owner initiated this wall space. Basically, you don’t have to be a street artist to paint there, just enjoy painting, especially on a large scale. He initiated that and still looking for artists…

Iryna: Since I have lived here, I’ve seen three or four different paintings there. The first one was done by NICK KUSZYK aka rrobots, a guy from New York.

Steven: It is seasonal.

Evan: Yeah, every few months… There should be more walls.  That should be a big goal for people who want to see more artwork, would be to promote some kind of agreement between property owners and artists.  To allow artists to create public art, whether it is rotational or permanent.  There should be a big push to do something like that.  It would make a lot of people very happy.

Iryna: Yes, I agree. I have the same opinion. That’s why I’m doing that. The event is going to conclude with a Mural Walk, because I want to tell people what every wall means, who are the artists, and how it was done. Because sometimes people see photorealistic painting but they probably think it was just attached to the wall and do not realize that it was created with spray can or brushes. It’s amazing. But not everyone knows it.

Evan: True.

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2029 Northwest 6th Street. The mural at the Protocol gallery

Iryna: Tell me about this wall next to the Protocol Gallery, does it mean something?

Steven: It was the second mural that we have done on this property. We wanted to correlate with the current show, in preparation for the opening in the gallery. It is part of a showcase.

Evan: The current artist is Michael Oliveri, a professor at UGA.  For that show Steven and I collaborated and painted abstract portraits of him in two different styles, mirroring each other.  Then in the center is a Michael Oliveri 3D pyramid-frame light sculpture, which is actually a working blacklight.  It was supposed to be like a fun representation of his work.

Iryna: What are you currently working on right here?

Steven: We are going to open a place on the Protocol property for people to eat. It is going to be a bar and café.

Iryna: And then this wall will be more open to the public, because right now it is a little bit closed, and even I didn’t know anything about this wall until I came here.

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Iryna: Evan, tell me about your work, your style. Do you have more walls in Gainesville or somewhere else? Do you have a website?

Evan: Yes, I do! evanpoirier.comI have several pieces installed at Shands at the Children’s Hospital.

Iryna: Shands? Really? Who gave you permission?

Evan: Tina Mullen art coordinator at Shands. Actually I was working at Shands a few years ago. They gave me the opportunity to create some artwork… I have had several projects at Shands, including the Alachua Juvenile Detention Center, just to name a few places.

Iryna: It is cool! Does it still exist?

Evan: Yes, some pieces in the Pediatric Emergency room and throughout the hospital.

Iryna: To me Shands is a very nice spot. Because they have tall buildings which is rare in our town. We could put there huge murals for children. I was thinking about covering it next year.

Evan: Hm. Yeah, they are pretty open to creating public art, so they either have space, or they are working with a non-profit that needs a mural.

Iryna: Thank you. Thank you, guys, it was very nice to meet you!

Steven: Nice to meet you as well. We hope everything works out.  It’s all great things.

Evan: Looking forward to the event!

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