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Artists at St. Petersburg’s Shine Mural Festival are excited to give back to the community

Person laying on the street with a mural behind him.
Courtesy: Leo Gomez
Leo Gomez is one of the many artists participating in the 2021 St. Pete SHINE Mural Festival.

This year, frontline health care workers will be able to watch as selected mural artists decorate walls and places around downtown St. Petersburg. 

Leo Gomez will be participating in the St. Pete SHINE Mural Festival for the second time.

This year, though, will be different.

That, Gomez said, is because of the meaning and purpose for the artists taking part.

Man stands in front of a mural wall.
Courtesy: Leo Gomez
Courtesy: Leo Gomez

“Coming back this year as someone who will be doing a community mural, especially for the health care workers, that felt pretty special,” said Gomez, a mural and hand-lettering artist based in St. Petersburg.

“It’s one thing to have your artwork on the side of a building or on a business, but it’s another thing to have a mural that’s going to be painted literally right next to the emergency room of Bayfront Hospital here in St. Pete.”

The festival began in 2015 to give local artists an opportunity to express their work on public property. This year, 16 artists were invited to participate.

All are either local, national or international artists, and the public is invited to watch as they work on walls and buildings at various designated locations in downtown St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg Arts Alliance

That feeling of drawing attention to health care workers is mutual for Mwanel Pierre-Louis, another mural artist participating in this year’s festival.

“For me, being an artist has always been more of an essence of me just being a vessel or being a conduit to the community,” he said. “So, helping out the frontline workers, different nurses and doctors, I thank them, and doing this is more gratitude than anything.”

Although Pierre-Louis is based in Miami, he said being an artist allows him to make an impact in any communities that are not in his hometown.

“Hopefully by the end of the festival, I’m bringing in a brand new energy for the community and helping realize the essence of what the city is about,” Pierre-Louis said.

A mural.
Courtesy: Mwanel Pierre-Louis
Courtesy: Mwanel Pierre-Louis

When Pierre-Louis and Gomez are not painting, they like to walk around and see how the people in their communities react to the many different murals.

That’s what visitors and residents of downtown St. Petersburg can experience every day.

Work from previous SHINE festival artists over the years dot several buildings across the city, including the Edge and Grand Central districts near Tropicana Field.

“It’s really exciting to see people that, when the festival comes around, a lot of people get together and support the arts and the local artists,” Gomez said.

The St. Pete SHINE Mural Festival runs through Oct. 24.

Leonardo Santos is the WUSF Rush Family Social Media Intern for the fall of 2021, his second straight semester with WUSF.
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