A new mural at St. Louis' riverfront — but not on a blank wall | St. Louis Public Radio

A new mural at St. Louis' riverfront — but not on a blank wall

Jun 24, 2016

While some street art is popping up in auctions alongside the likes of Banksy and Mr. Brainwash, some is showing up on the walls of the St. Louis riverfront. And it's city-sanctioned. The St. Louis Streets Department and local artists have joined together to produce a new mural along St. Louis' riverfront.

“It’s bringing home the idea that this is St. Louis and we should be proud of our river and our placement and the life that exists outside our urban human living,” said the artist in charge of the mural, Jacob Schmidt.

The St. Louis Streets Department commissioned the 21-year-old artist to cover offensive graffiti along the new downtown flood wall with a mural titled “Tails of the Mississippi.”  Schmidt and a growing team of volunteer artists used spray paint and graffiti techniques to design images of fish and local wildlife.  The team has spent over 150 hours on the project so far.

Credit Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The original graffiti spilled over the new surface almost immediately after the new riverwalk was erected as part of the multi-million dollar riverfront renovations. Schmidt said people tag the wall because they don’t respect a blank structure created without community involvement. He hopes the mural changes those disrespectful attitudes.

“This project is kind of a litmus test for how to react to a community project down here on the waterfront,” he said.

Amateur graffiti like that seen on the far left is being covered by local artists who are creating a series of marine life images.
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

This isn’t the first time the artist has joined up with the streets department, and its commissioner Kent Flake, for a public art project. Four years ago he approached the city about getting permission to paint dumpsters in neighborhood alleys. He was dissuaded because of the color-coding system used by sanitation workers. Yet, he was given permission to paint the city's massive industrial dumpsters. 

“It’s an important lesson in bringing murals and free art to St. Louis because they’re trucked around all over the city and placed for the day and then they leave and so it’s like a traveling art show,” said Schmidt.

The mural was composed largely using techniques and styles established in graffiti tradition.
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The artist sees his work as a continuum of the work created by Paint Louis, a regular gathering of talented graffiti artists that take to the flood wall south of the city’s official river walk. He views the mural he’s creating as an extension of that approach to public art making.

Schmidt anticipates another five days of work before this stage of the project is complete.

Follow Willis Ryder Arnold on Twitter: @willisrarnold