ST. PETERSBURG — The Shine Mural Festival is underway, now in its seventh year featuring local, national and international artists painting the town. The festival is produced by the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance.
In years past, I’ve driven around to see the murals in progress, strategically parking in spots central to a few locations. But this year, I got the opportunity to tour a few murals with artist and Shine co-curator Chad Mize, in a 2021 Polaris Slingshot he customized with his trademark free-flow doodle design.
Mize was approached by a marketing person working for Polaris to paint and use the three-wheeled, open-air vehicle to promote Shine. It was bright blue and orange, so Mize had it wrapped in matte black vinyl. It took him about a week to paint his intricate doodles in silver with a product called Liquid.
The Slingshot been parked at various festival events and used to bring gift bags to the muralists. It will be at Mize Gallery, 689 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday for the opening of the “Shine Year 7″ exhibition. On Saturday, it will be leading a special mural tour for Slingshot owners. (Currently, the Slingshot isn’t available for public use.)
I’ve seen these vehicles zooming around downtown and thought I’d be terrified to ride in one. So it was with trepidation that I accepted Mize’s offer. But on Tuesday, we strapped on helmets, locked in seatbelts and took off to downtown from Mize Gallery.
Instantly, my fears faded. The ride was smooth and I felt secure, despite being low to the ground and having no doors. Mize was a good driver, and the vehicle handled well. I never got the sense that we would tip over.
The openness offered a unique vantage from which to see the city.
We headed over to The Factory St. Pete in the Warehouse Arts District, where San Francisco area-based artist Ricky Watts was putting the finishing touches on his sunset-inspired mural.
Watts was part of the first Shine festival and has visited St. Petersburg frequently since then. He said the energy that happens during the festival is magical and keeps him coming back. His abstract style focuses on color and movement, but he makes works specific to the walls he paints.
Several people who were visiting Watts were attracted by the Slingshot and Mize’s intricate doodles. Mize was happy to explain his painting process. This was a common occurrence as we toured the murals.
We headed down the street to visit Los Angeles-based artist Woes Martin and his mural of panda bears at the Bayboro Brewing Co. From a distance, the pandas looked adorable, but when we got up to the wall they became ferocious. Martin has been painting pandas for more than 20 years and tells people who ask why they’re vicious that they’re actually smiling.
Martin makes art toys and puppets and has a hip-hop puppet show with the DJ crew he is part of. This is his first visit to St. Pete, but he said he knows many of the artists who have painted Shine murals from festivals around the world. He was intrigued by the Slingshot and talked shop about painting with Mize.
We headed back downtown along First Avenue S. I really enjoyed the ride, especially because of the lovely weather. It was hard to talk because the Slingshot is loud, so we exchanged a lot of “huhs.”
We parked to see Houston artist Emily Ding’s mural of a fawn at Rob Graham Enterprises. Fun fact: The building at 100 Seventh Ave. S was formerly an art center (the Morean Arts Center traces its roots back to it) and is thought to be the location of the city’s first outdoor mural, painted in the 1970s.
Across Seventh Street, Trinity-based artist Jared Wright was painting his first-ever mural of colorful animals. He, his wife and friend convened at the Slingshot, where Ding and her assistant Jorge were observing her mural. Moments later, Watts arrived, bringing the day full circle.
If you go
The Shine Mural Festival runs through Sunday. The Slingshot will be on display at Mize Gallery during the opening reception of “Shine Year 7″ from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday. 689 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. St. N. Also taking place in conjunction with Shine is a reception for “D-Railed,” an exhibition of graffiti model trains at D-Gallerie from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. 1234 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. St. N. For information on Shine, visit stpeteartsalliance.org/shine-2021.