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Arts

St. Louis Artist Cbabi Bayoc Uses Murals To Beautify Abandoned North St. Louis Building

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Chad Davis
/
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis-based artist Cbabi Bayoc's 11 murals are now on the facade of the Old Greyhound Station on Cass Avenue.

St. Louis artist Cbabi Bayoc has fond memories of the former Greyhound Bus Station in north St. Louis. The Cass Avenue location was the station he was at when headed to a historically Black college.

“I caught the bus there going to Grambling back in ‘93,” Bayoc said. “I remember going there and walking through the terminal and all that. So, it was sentimental.”

Since September, the abandoned building has become the muralist’s latest canvas, where his own spray- painted images are displayed on the building's façade. Eleven 16-foot-tall drawings show Black people in a variety of poses painted with vibrant colors that display Black lives.

Bayoc is known in St. Louis for his murals and art that focus on racial diversity. He said he wanted this project to illustrate the people who live in the community. One of the paintings shows a young Black boy with his fist up, inspired by Bayoc’s son. Another image portrays a Black boy holding a sign that reads, “Stop killing us.”

Bayoc wanted to capture what African Americans are expressing in the movement for change.

“Really because of where it was and all that’s been going on, I knew that I wanted all of it to be Black folks,” he said. “But even in that, I wanted everybody to be able to see something different and I wanted the work to be different. I wanted it to be different than anything anybody's ever seen.”

The former Greyhound bus station in north St. Louis once bustled with travelers. After Greyhound moved to its current location at South 15th Street, the building became a symbol of blight and decay.

Bayoc worked with the nonprofit Urban Strategies to paint murals across the city. The organization focuses on community planning and neighborhood revitalization.

Urban Stategies’s senior project manager, Myisa Whitlock, said the organization decided to beautify the spot at the request of nearby neighbors and community members.

“They wanted to see beautification, they wanted to see these abandoned buildings secured so young kids won't wander in these unsafe spaces,” Whitlock said.

Bayoc and Urban Strategies have collaborated on art projects around St. Louis since 2018, Whitlock said. But the space on Cass Avenue stood out because it’s also used as a place of refuge for people without homes. Bayoc and Cherokee Street Gallery owner Benjamin Lowder installed the pieces over three days.

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Stephanie Zimmerman
Cbabi Bayoc started working on his spray paintings in January. The project was a collaboration with Urban Strategies, an organization that focuses on neighborhood revitalization in the St. Louis area.

It was difficult to install the large boards, said Cherokee Street Gallery founder Benjamin Lowder, who helped Bayoc put up the pieces over three days.

“It was already a challenging and complicated install, but then the considerations around that, it was really people's homes, and a group of people's homes, who were pretty in a fragile state and position,” Lowder said.

Lowder said the art pieces double as a beautification project and a way to cover the broken windows and collapsed areas of the building. He hopes the art will protect the people from bad weather and low temperatures in the coming seasons.

Bayoc hopes those who live in the building and around the neighborhood will be inspired by his art.

“I was even conscious of those cats that, you know, are just lingering around over there and just hanging out all day,” Bayoc said. “I just wanted to make sure that I was conscious of even those folks that we don't necessarily want to live in the building, because hopefully we get that building would become something.”

Bayoc and Lowder say they hope the paintings will remain up until the building is renovated.

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

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