Words/Photos: Kieran Walsh
Sometimes it’s the subject, sometimes the colors, sometimes it’s the size, often it’s the location. I appreciate it all, but there is nothing like being caught off guard by a mural when you see it for the first time, especially in a place you do not expect to see it. Imagine a drab uneventful average wall, it's hard to imagine that because there is nothing to imagine. Now imagine a piece of art that somebody shared with whoever sees it. That wall is now memorable, and with every passing a small landmark you remember to look at, like a familiar face.
In Tampa Bay where I live it’s a tale of two cities St. Petersburg and Tampa. St. Petersburg has many murals and really led the street art charge. Revitalization St. Petersburg’s downtown opened shops, restaurants, and bars. It being a “hip” vibe, the art was easily ushered in. A few here and there until now a blank wall is a minority. St. Petersburg is an open air gallery where nearly every building is a canvas painted for your enjoyment. Political themes to fairyland dreamscapes are living on these walls. Downtown may house much of the art but murals have expanded to the beach and to satellite blocks where a few independent businesses have joined the fun. The city has recognized and helped with this effort, along with the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance. Mural Fests are a thing! www.stpeteartsalliance.org has a great resource to learn more. Tampa, my home turf, is admittedly a bit more grimy, hence the art is more unexpected when discovered. Not to say our city doesn’t have a fantastic support system of programs for artists, it certainly does! www.tampa.gov/art-programs/murals The art seems to live in spots you’d expect, downtown and the hip parts of town, but also in the most random spots. On the side of a building behind an alley, the underside of a roll up garage door, some deserted wall with no rhyme or reason. It’s like a game at times, how many more can I find? It never seems to end, I have been for over two years and I am still seeing new ones weekly or hearing reports of new ones from friends. It’s super exciting that this free treasure hunt exists. Seeing the greats like Tes One, Bask, Tony Krol, Michelle Sawyer, Jay Giroux, Vitale Brothers, Zulu Painter, Kosharekaert, Tasko, just plastered on a wall is quite amazing.
I gravitate towards art. Usually if I can get a bit of color in my day it’s uplifting. I cheer on these artists that are leaving a mark for all of us to appreciate. Once all this art was supported by programs and the business owners latched on, the art explosion happened, and it was impossible to not see it unless you lived under a rock. I am an avid rider; I enjoy hopping on a scooter anytime I can. Inevitably these two worlds collided in the most natural sense for me. I enjoy sharing it when I can. I started a facebook page called “scooters and neighborhood art” to share these pictures I snap, along with submissions I get from folks around the USA and beyond. You can also follow tampa2stroke on Instigram where I post these art pictures as well. I, along with my wife Amy, have lots of fun seeking these out. It’s become a fun thing to do around town and when we are out on a vacation. Open your eyes - art is everywhere!
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