Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Paint Louis in Jeopardy After Graffiti Artists "Bomb" St. Louis

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 7:13 AM

click to enlarge An artist works on his Paint Louis piece — part of an annual event to paint the flood wall at the riverfront. - PHOTO BY JOHN HARRINGTON
  • Photo by John Harrington
  • An artist works on his Paint Louis piece — part of an annual event to paint the flood wall at the riverfront.

Paint Louis – which brings street artists from all over the world to St. Louis for a city-sanctioned weekend of graffiti on the riverfront's flood wall – might be in trouble. The event's organizer, John Harrington, says he fears the city may not reauthorize the event next year after some graffiti artists decided to “bomb the city” during the 2015 gathering, held September 10 through 12.





The annual three-day event is thought to be the largest gathering of street artists in the world. Originally started in 1994, it was canceled in 2001 after artists left their sanctioned canvas and began painting all over the city.



It took Harrington, a former graffiti writer who was part of the original crew that started Paint Louis, to bring the event back to life in 2011. But he now fears for its future.



“Most definitely I’m worried,” Harrington says. “Some of those people I think did it on purpose because they’re like, 'Fuck Paint Louis. They didn’t put us on like we wanted to be on, or we didn’t get on at all – we’re going to go out and bomb the city and get the thing canceled.’”



click to enlarge Graffiti artists "bombed" the city, Harrington says, with vandalism like that depicted above. - PHOTO BY JOHN HARRINGTON
  • Photo by John Harrington
  • Graffiti artists "bombed" the city, Harrington says, with vandalism like that depicted above.

Before Paint Louis begins each year, artists are asked to submit a rendering of what they would like to paint. Based on these submissions, the flood wall is sectioned off into parts, one for each writer. This year, 200 writers were invited to participate, Harrington says, but approximately 375 showed up – some of whom were unhappy they did not get the respect they felt was due. A number of locals were among this group, Harrington says – locals who did not go through the submission process but rather just expected to be given space.



Yet Bero, a local graffiti writer, said his aversion to the application process had less to do with entitlement and more to do with fear of police. Members of the painting community believe that undercover police officers hang around Paint Louis taking photos of writers and their work. After that, police can then link writers to their tags in other parts of the city.



Whatever their reasons for not participating, a number of artists took it upon themselves to host their own party – painting unsanctioned areas all over town, or “bombing the city,” as Harrington and Bero describe it.



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