When you think of ‘mural cities’ in Florida, what first comes to your mind? If you thought of Miami, it is not the only city recognized for its advanced urban art culture. St. Petersburg Florida with over 480 murals, creates a competitive platform for the title of one of the best urban art destinations in Florida.
Although public art in St. Petersburg is represented by multiple organizations and individuals, the major project in this city is SHINE mural festival which received widespread international attention. An outdoor art exhibition was founded with a seed grant from the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and produced by the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance with local artists and community members.
GNV URBAN ART has attended all of the editions of the SHINE Mural Festival in St. Petersburg since it’s established in 2015. Read about:
In 2019, the project highlighted five international, four national, and 25 local artists, including 13 wall artists, 12 Corner Canvas murals, and even a bus! We got a chance to interview Jenee Priebe, SHINE’s project coordinator to learn more about the project.
Interview with Jenee Priebe, SHINE St. Petersburg Mural Festival Coordinator
As a curator myself, I know that many people do not realize how much work is behind a mural project and what kind of challenges could be. What are the challenges you have experienced this year (and/or past years)?
Fundraising is an ongoing challenge. As a nonprofit, securing funds to support great creative ideas is always a challenge. I think there’s a perception that SHINE is run by the City or fully funded by the City. While the City of St. Petersburg is a great support to SHINE (and has been since year 1), the event is produced by the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and we rely primarily on donations from businesses and community members to make SHINE happen.
What is special about this year of SHINE?
SHINE feels special every year. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to bring world-class artists to St. Petersburg to paint alongside our incredible local artists. Since this was our fifth year, we wanted to partner with some other reputable brands in the street art world, like PangeaSeed Foundation, Chop Em Down Films and the Inside Out Project. We also added a lot of events and community projects that added to the overall uniqueness of this year.
Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans
Despite heavy tropical storms, 24 x 175 feet mural was painted with aerosol for only 8 days. The collaboration between Plastic Birdie and Blaine Fontana was organized in association with SeaWalls_ aka PangeaSeed Foundation, an international art program that aims to raise awareness about global ocean environmental issues.
What’s going on behind the scenes?
SHINE is produced by the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance (SPAA). John Collins is the Executive Director of SPAA. Jenee Priebe was hired in 2018 to be the SHINE Program Coordinator/Director and works closely with a volunteer committee of thirteen individuals, representing different facets of St. Pete business and community. Prior to 2018, SHINE was run entirely on a volunteer basis. Jenee, John and the SHINE steering committee meet year round to plan the festival—curating artists, sourcing walls, fundraising, event planning and coordinating logistics. During the festival, it’s all hands on deck to make sure the artists are cared for while they paint. The hospitality aspect of SHINE is one of the most important parts for us as a team. We want each artist to walk away from SHINE feeling like it’s one of the best festivals.
What is the mission of the program and how you have realized it?
The mission of the SHINE St. Petersburg Mural Festival is to illuminate the power of art in public places by revitalizing areas, inspiring dialogue, and uniting communities—all while cultivating new standards of artistic excellence and reflecting St. Petersburg’s creative spirit. I believe the curation of SHINE is a key factor in how we realize this mission. We believe in the impact of art for art’s sake. SHINE murals aren’t about branding or marketing for any particular business or agenda. It’s simply an expression of how art in its purest form can transform public spaces. Protecting that and partnering with dedicated sponsors who understand that mission is important to the success of the festival. Additionally, we’ve seen areas of St. Petersburg come alive after adding murals to a neighborhood. The murals bring foot traffic and encourage people to explore new areas of their city. I think it creates a sense of belonging and pride.
What’s the relationship with the community? Please tell an example of how people appreciate the work you do?
We hear repeatedly from SHINE artists how much the community expresses their appreciation for the art. We’ve also heard great feedback about our local muralist community and how warmly they embrace visiting artists. I think people really enjoy the murals, they get rather attached. A few years ago, a new business moved into a building with a SHINE mural on the side. Word got out that the new business was going to cover the mural and there was community outrage. People threatened to boycott the business over it! We understand and appreciate the temporary nature of the art form but I think it just goes to show how much the community responds to the art.
Thank you, Jenee! This year’s line up is beautiful and diverse. We wish you more successful editions of the project in the coming years!
What do artists say?
As noted by participated artists, SHINE indeed is focused on hospitality and exceptional support by all involved: staff, volunteers and the community. Among great creative ideas was a shuttle that delivered each artist to where they needed to go and storage units situated at the walls to storage materials. Very convenient!
Taylor White wrote in her Instagram:
“I am really impressed by the community in St Pete and their commitment to having this festival work. Thank you so much to all the people who helped make sure all of the artists were fed, watered, and had ridden to where we needed to be. With enough help, I was able to get this wall complete and get home to NC to be with family on an important day. Thank you all so, so much for your selflessness and commitment.” – Taylor White.
Low Brothers from Germany, whose work is influenced by the 80s and 90s culture, found the perfect solution for the unusual shape of the wall exploring the digital era through multidimensional geometric shapes.
“For this wall we had our sketch quite early, which is not often the case. The shape of the wall gave us immediately an idea for the basic composition – layering different browser windows. On this wall, we used Montana cans, masking tape for all long and straight lines, stencils for the folders and emoji faces and vinyl foil for the spirit type. The wolves, the can and the emojis are freehand. We never worked with so many different techniques on a wall before. In the end, it turned out that, besides some small rain showers, we had a perfect sunny week. We were also lucky to work on the shadow side, whilst poor Drew Merritt who painted next to us needed to fight with the intense sun. In the end, we’ve finished even earlier than expected and could enjoy the rest of our time going kayaking and to the beach. We mostly enjoyed the people! The citizens of St. Pete were so nice and hospitable, the organizers so well prepared, thought and helpful and on top, it was a nice reunion with our artist friends, but also great to meet new ones!” – Low Bros.
Some artists enjoyed their experience with SHINE enough to be willing to come back. The illustrious duo of Doug Cunningham and Jason Noto, known as Morning Breath, were back for another round (the Brooklyn based artists were featured in SHINE year 1). Another “returning” artist – Palehorse.
Chris Parks, digital illustrator, fine artist and muralist, formerly curator and founding member for the SHINE 2015-2017, made it to the streets for this year’s edition. He created a detailed artwork using golden paint and inspiration merged with mythology and spiritual practice:
“Throughout my life, I have always been drawn to sacred art. Inspiration for this mural comes from something I’ve read about and I’ve been thinking about. Every human that realizes their true self finds the same truth. We all will discover the same source. But even if there was a global cataclysm that destroyed every book, wiped out every teacher, every temple, but eventually, humanity would rediscover what it have been lost… Because humans will always seek the truth, seek happiness. And when we seek, we will discover that we are all ONE. Our bodies are only separated manifestations of divine love. Everyone that seeks this divine love within, will merge with internal blithe.” – Palehorse.
The public art project would not be successful without community engagement. Every year, SHINE partners with local businesses, organizations, and individuals of different ages.
Starting from the Grand Central District, St. Petersburg artist Jay Hoff collaborated with LGBTQ+ Welcome Center to produce a community mural, celebrating diversity. Inspired by LEGO® toy building bricks, the mural titled “Pride & Love” was completed before SHINE’s official start, so the artwork could be part of the Come Out St. Pete celebration and photo boost.
Next, in the Deuces Live District, SHINE partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs at the Royal Theatre to produce a mural on a wall of the historic Quonset hut. Designed in collaboration with the surrounding community, artist Brian McAlister and students from the Gibbs High Mural Club created an artwork celebrating the history of what used to be one of the few movie theaters African Americans could visit. Built in 1948, the historic
Royal Theater still operates as a social and cultural landmark on the Deuces.
Continuing in the Warehouse Arts District, St. Petersburg artist and Creative Clay teacher Todd Frain worked with Creative Clay students to create a mural on the west side of the building. Students had the opportunity to incorporate their own designs.
Finally, Northshore Pier Project with Dynasty Financial Partners and St. Petersburg artist Cecilia Lueza created a vibrant ground mural on the concrete pier in the Waterfront Arts District.
As stated by SHINE, “Art has the power to transform lives and landscapes. By creating access to art, we also have the opportunity to create community. This is what we work all year for.” For more details on the project, please visit the official SHINE website and make sure you have an updated map of all murals when in the area.
We will keep exploring Florida Top 10 Urban Art Destinations and looking forward to hearing your feedback!