In a city already home to great pop-art museums, including The Dalí and the Chihuly Collection, think of the burgeoning street art mural scene as something of the city’s outdoor museum.
St. Pete’s downtown has recently become a destination for street art, now defining the look of the city for many TV commercials, travel brochures, tour groups, and of course, perfectly composed Instagram posts. Far from run-of-the-mill graffiti that sometimes stretches the definition of “art,” these pieces – slathered mostly across business storefronts and public buildings – enrich the neighborhoods they’re in and spark thought and conversation.
That wasn’t always the conventional thinking, though – until a couple of years ago, many of the murals were considered illegal, and it was still mostly an underground scene. But everything changed in September 2015, when the first annual SHINE Mural Festival took place, and local, regional, and international muralists descended on St. Pete to transform blank-sided buildings into works of art for everyone to enjoy. Today, there are close to 50 large-scale murals crowding the main street of Central Avenue and its many alleyways.
One of the easiest ways to see them up close and personal – while getting the inside scoop on the artist, the artwork, and process – is to take a guided tour with St. Pete Mural Tour, offered every Saturday morning and visiting over 30 murals found in a four-block stretch. But if you’re going on your own time, here are five murals of all shapes, sizes, and styles you must make your way to.
515 22nd Street South Mural
Symbolizing both the complicated relationship between the US and Cuba and the potential for peace by the way the countries’ two flags blend into one in the middle, this piece, painted on the side of Soft Water Studios, was done by Havana-based artist Michel Mirabal. Mirabal also did a similar piece that hangs in his hometown’s US Embassy and served as the backdrop for official meetings between the US and Cuba during President Barack Obama’s landmark visit to the country in March of 2016.
2130 Central Avenue Mural
No, it’s not a giant computer-generated poster. Though, as close as you get to the minute details done in such tiny precision, no one would blame you for thinking so. But, in fact, this abstract design, aptly titled “Hypnotic Waves,” was drawn freehand by Miami-based artist Douglas Hoekzema, or Hoxxoh. Known for his kaleidoscope-like patterns reminiscent of gears within a clock, Hoekzema’s murals tackle a regular theme of time, and this piece, he says, is intended “to show us a different way of viewing time through a means of exploring its natural fabric.”
1720 Central Avenue Mural
Works like the one adorning the side of the FRSTeam by Rogers building have earned Chilean-born artist Dasic Fernandez a spot on lists like “10 Rising NYC Street Artists You Should Know.” Using bold colors, the piece is a prime example of his signature “inverse drip” style, where clusters of bold colors contained in female forms drip upward, giving a surreal sense of gravity gone backward.
687 Central Avenue Mural
Painted on the back of the historic Beaux Arts–style State Theatre Concert Hall, this piece by Leon Bedore of Tes One and Chris Parks of Pale Horse is a unique display of mixed images, blending roses, hawks, snakes, and a woman’s face in shades of orange, black, and turquoise. One of the best and most well-known murals in St. Pete., it’s certainly worthy of the many artistic talents who have graced the stage inside.
1246 Central Avenue Mural
While this piece by a Dominican-born, Miami-based artist who goes by the name Evoca1 drew complaints from Doberman lovers because of the muzzle, according to an article in the Northeast Journal, a local St. Petersburg newspaper, the mural “symbolizes the anguish he, his sibling, and their dogs endured when their parents battled through a bitter divorce.” In fact, he and his sister (who is depicted in the mural) and their dogs were often ignored; therefore, when the dogs got into trouble, they had to be muzzled. The message is actually about nurturing your children and pets, no matter the circumstances.