By Lindsay Toler
By Chad Garrison
By Brett Koshkin
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Riverfront Times
By Danny Wicentowski
By Pete Kotz
One commenter on the Riverfront Times website likened the mural to something you might find "on the back of a stripper in Tampa." Others defended it as an expression of the area's "hodgepodge" nature.
But the mural found a receptive audience last month at a meeting of the Cherokee Station Business Association. Attendees voted 14-0 to support keeping El Leñador's mural intact.
"It's eye-catching," commented board member Angelo Olegna, going on to point out the building's odd pedigree. "It represents Cherokee perfectly and how strange it is. And I believe we should stand behind each other as much as possible, so I personally support the mural."
Jeff Vines of STL-Style, a St. Louis-themed apparel company, concurred. "It's so much more interesting now," he said. From the front door of his shop, Vines and his brother and business partner, Randy, can glimpse the mural.
"Before it was one of the most unsightly edifices, and now it's one of the coolest," said Jeff Vines. "We don't want to go back to the blank wall. If it's this or nothing, then definitely I support it."
And so the mural remains.
A few weeks ago Operation Brightside placed the service request on hold to whitewash El Leñador after Alejandre called to protest that the "graffiti" on his building was, in fact, art — an extremely rare argument, according to Brightside's executive director.
"We've removed graffiti from about 120,000 locations [in twenty years]," notes Mary Lou Green. "I would say you could probably count on two hands the number of times people have said, 'Don't remove the graffiti.'" And most of those challenges, she says, had to do with homeowners not wanting people on their property. It wasn't out of fondness for the markings themselves.
Alejandre has also responded to the excise division's citation by bringing his operation at El Leñador into line with Schmid's special conditions: He's put up a fence and a bright light in the parking lot. He's shut down operations on weekdays, which used to be lucrative for the bar.
But he hasn't budged on the artwork outside.
"We can take it down as a friendly neighbor," he says. "But by force, no."
As someone who lives and works on Cherokee, I'm so frustrated by the petty politics holding back business and development in an area that needs these things so badly. There is a strong community of pioneering people who are willing to risk much, including their safety, to make this neighborhood a strong and vibrant community. El Lenador was one of the places anchoring the west end of the street. Now, however, they're barely allowed to conduct the business that sustains their existence in the community. When they're not open, the block is dead.
I think that the controversy surrounding the mural proves that it's art. Art makes people think, disagree, argue and step outside the normal... signs don't. Art can't be regulated just because it isn't understood by each individual in the community or else we'll just end up with ... what... a Thomas Kincaid mural?
Reminds of when I had a chance to chat many many years ago with Caspar, one of the primary organizers behind the Paint Louis festivals in '98-'00 that put graffiti-inspired murals on the floodwall south of the Arch. He recounted similar troubles, and far far more hassle by Harmon's administration at the time. The event encouraged muralists to travel to St. Louis from around the country, only for them to be singled out and hassled by police for 'suspicion of intent to commit vandalism.' Caspar gave this as his primary reason for leaving St. Louis for Seattle.
My prediction is that until the tags come down, Alejandre is going to find out that under the City of St. Louis system of government, your alderman has the power to destroy your business at will. It is almost certainly impossible for any business to comply with every single regulation. Depending on what business you're in, some of them may even contradict each other; the rest cannot be met and still make a profit of any kind. Every business in the city exists at the constant mercy of the nearest elected official -- and that is exactly how St. Louis voters like it.
Apparently LA is experiencing the same issue as reported by your sister paper. http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2012/08/man_one_vyal_la_mural_buffed_by_city.php?ref=trending The wall ended up looking worse when the art was covered by a bad paint job....
The building owner isn't pleased with the way the "mural" turned out, but he shouldn't be fined for it. If the alderman want something to do, why not try cleaning up the neighborhood that surrounds Cherokee? The amount of garbage and neglect that I see on a daily basis is pathetic. Leave alone the legit business owners that are trying to improve our neighborhood and try cracking down on the ghetto rats that are making it trashy. There are so many artists in this neighborhood that are trying to improve things, why not see the good that they are trying to do? And now I will step down from my soap box.
I can't believe that the city is trying to regulate a mural. Don't hate what you don't understand politico's.
I have been in St Louis for the past 3 years. First moved to SOCO (worst decision ever) I thought STL was STL. Until I visited Benton Park/Cherokee St. I now live in Benton park a couple blocks off of Cherokee St. It is vibrant, somewhat diverse, always fun and safer than people think. It appeals to most artists, it lends itself to free thinkers. It is still growing a little bit of graffiti may be better than staggering drunks, wouldn't you agree?
The Lenador building is one of the buildings in STL that i have come to enjoy every time I ride my bicycle past it. It reminds me of my old neighborhood, PILSEN in Chicago. Graffiti kept me out of of trouble growing up and would rather see expressions in explosive colors, than gang activity or drive by shootings. I would rather be assaulted by the loud voice of an artist's work than hear the words of an alderman/woman that has lost some connection to the growing population of the community he/she serves.
Cherokee Latin/Art district is not as strange as stated in the article, it just may be strange to a generation growing out of touch with the changing times. This neighborhood is one of the few where I feel perfectly comfortable being myself, a Mexican American, artist, supporter of the arts, city employee, urban cyclist, and a dreamer full of ambition.
The work on the Lenador may be more helpful than one would think. It helped me a long time ago.