The mural being painted on the East Side Wall of the Foolish Pride Tattoo shop is going to be stopped and painted over with an advertisement. The Marbleside property changed hands recently and the wall space is leased for advertising purposes, pending on City approval. This is far from the only example, but the displacement of Artspaces for commercialized ones is nothing new, and seems to be picking up momentum lately.
The revolution that took place in Saint Petersburg over the past two years is still barely nascent. We are beginning to see tourists saying they want to see the murals of the City. Instead of valuing this destination asset, the City seems poised to strangle this self-funded movement before the eggs are even hatched. These murals were paralleled by the rise of galleries and the WAD. I keep hearing that the same people who caused a short storm by usurping control over what murals can go up (beyond legal community standards) have regrouped, gathered reinforcements and are ready to paint the city into yet another bland social-realism mural haven. Obviously, none of these people have been to (or read about) Art Basel, or to Wynwood in Miami and seen the unbridled power of creative wall art exerting its pull on tourists.
The ironic and sad thing is that the interests of realtors, developers, tourists, property owners, citizens, the City and its artists have a lot in common, and depend on each other to forge a sustainable, viable future for any City. What is needed is a synthesis among these groups, not the usual archaic power grabs.
Artists showed the City what could be done with meagerly resourced self-funding, and...the silence is deafening. Where are the Government and/or Private Sector Partneships? There is only jockeying for straitjacketing the artists by people who ought to know much better.
Welcome to the Do-it-Yourself Universe. Developers are poised for the economy to warm up to where the banks loosen loans to line Central Ave with condos, and the City is salivating at the thought of increased revenues per square foot. Saint Pete may well be on its way to becoming a third-rate Sarasota or South Beach, another Floridian cliche'.
It is high time artists realized they are on their own, used by developers and government like Kleenex. As I detailed here weeks ago, several gallerists from the First Wave have/are leaving. They are being followed by several more smaller galleries. These spaces are very likely to be replaced with non-arts commercial tenants. It heralds a dimming of the arts in Saint Petersburg, and a hard thinning of the herd. Some of our best and brightest are draining away for a multitude of reasons.
There is no Cavalry Coming. No Saviors. If artists disregard this, fold up fetally/infantilize, and fail to mobilize and act on behalf of their own future, they will be left to twist in a cold and cruel wind.The creativity we all talk about has to be applied to the situation.
Ps. In the Boston Museum of Fine Art there is a magnificent painting by Paul Gauguin that I had the privilege of seeing in person, here seen below (click to enlarge):
It is titled: " Where do We come from? What are We? Where are We going?" He meant it to be his masterpiece and last painting, planning on suiciding after finishing it. He died of an STD. The title are questions every citizen should ask himself as an inividual and as part of the City.