ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg recently became more vibrant now that the second SHINE Mural Festival has concluded, adding 21 new murals, four of them created as projects with community participation. Those from the first festival have remained, remarkably, since murals often are short-lived.
Murals add color, of course, and a level of cool to a city because of their stylistic associations with graffiti, a subversive modern art form. They're fun and photogenic; our mural sites have become selfie ground zeros.
There is something deeper, though, in murals' appeal.
Murals, also known as street art, provide us with a freedom and accessibility to explore something new. They cost us nothing and require no special plans to be seen. They ask us to stop and really look at a place we may have passed hundreds of times, inviting us to re-evaluate our surroundings. They are frequently painted over, making way for a new mural, reminding us that change is inevitable and, with the right perspective, can bring something wonderful. They are free of demographic distinctions, engaging us together, so that a group looking at a mural could include a parent with young children, a business executive and a homeless person. In the viewing, we are equal. When I have seen this dynamic, no one looks uncomfortable; everyone has the same agenda.
This year's crop is riveting in quality and variety. Compare the thrashing movement of fish, almost kinetic, by Pantonio to Zulu Painter's mysterious, quiet portrait of two children in a boat. Both are created with limited palettes but couldn't be more different. Or Nosego's lyrical sweep of a bird to Daniel Mrgan's whimsical imagery. And marvel at the exuberant literalness of Cecilia Lueza's graphic street mural on an actual street intersection. You perhaps will like one better than another but you'll have so much context in which to make that decision.
We are brought to all these experiences almost as a gravitational pull. A mural's sheer size draws us toward it. It will not be ignored.
And here's the fundamental contradiction that makes murals so great, so compelling: We cannot buy them. But we do, for a time, own them.
Contact Lennie Bennett at (727) 893-8293 or [email protected]