Graffiti Culture
8:05 am
Sat August 30, 2014

Graffiti Festival Paint Louis Begins Second Year Reboot

The flood wall is being prepped and will be filled with new graffiti art.
The flood wall is being prepped and will be filled with new graffiti this weekend.
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

This weekend kicks off the second year of the Paint Louis’ reboot. Over the next three days, graffiti artists from around the country will gather in St Louis to paint the flood wall protecting downtown The original event began in 1995 and ran through 2001. It was shut down after too many artists painted in unsanctioned areas. One of the original organizers and graffiti artists Jona Anderson, better known as Stun or Stun1, has returned to the city. Although he now lives in Minneapolis, he’s glad to be back in St. Louis.

“Oh, it is a joy to paint with graffiti crews from all around the country that you see in magazines and hear about on the internet,” said Stun1. “This is like the Super Bowl of graffiti.”

Returning to St. Louis is a kind of homecoming for the artist. “I only paint a couple times a year, unlike two or three times a week when I used to live in St. Louis,” he said.

Although Stun1 is no longer as prolific as some of the other artists, he’s still glad to be here. “I just try to compete with everyone else who’s painting the wall, and try to bring my level up to where it used to be,” Stun1 said.

Jim Wafer preps the wall.
Jim Wafer preps the wall.
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Stun1 is joined by artists from such places as Seattle, Cincinnati and Portland. 

“It’s a good time for the public to come and see what graffiti painting is all about,” he said.

Last year’s Paint Louis suffered minor setbacks. It rained two of the three days artists had to apply their work. This year, the forecast also include some rain. But organizers say that won’t stop the festival. Local promoter and organizer John Harrington, 42, of hip-hop and rock group Midwest Avengers helped organized the original Paint Louis and this year’s version. Organizers have already spent more than $10,000 to get Paint Louis off the ground. He hopes the event reaches a wide audience.

“I want to see people who don’t really understand what it is to come down and see that it’s art. A lot of people don’t understand what the difference is between graffiti and tagging. They think it’s all this scribble scrabble. But you’ll see by the end of this event it’s going to be great art, great murals, great pictures.” Harrington said.

Harrington is aware there’s at least a little tension with organizing the event, even if this year is permitted.

Todd would only give his first name. Many graffiti artists deline to sign up with the government names.
Todd would only give his first name. Many graffiti artists deline to sign up with the government names.
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

“You know how graffiti artists are, they’re rebels in their own right. That’s what I worry about with this event. Some of these guys get up hardcore all across the country and all across the world. And they don’t want their faces seen,” said Harrington. “So when the cops say we need every body's name written down and their government name, I’m like that’s not possible man.”

Organizer AJ Sanchez, 33, is said most artists hear of the festival through word of mouth and his own recruiting.

“I travel around the U.S. finding out who’s hot and trying to work with them,” Sanchez said. Sanchez has been involved in Paint Louis since 2012 and is a graffiti artist himself. He says the weekend is busy for organizers as well as artists. 

“Pretty much I’ll be sleeping down here over the next three days,” he joked.

Sanchez will be able to get some rest Monday night. Saturday and Sunday artists will have until 8:30 p.m. to paint their murals.  Artists must complete their murals by 6:30 p.m. on Labor Day.

Painting preparation
Painting preparation
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio