Feel like painting your initials or more elaborate artwork on the outside of a building? Cleveland has a place where you won’t get arrested or harassed.
In October, Stamy Paul, president and founder of the nonprofit Graffiti HeArt, acquired the new home of Graffiti HeArt at 4829 Superior Ave., but you don’t need the address to find the building. The exterior has been painted by Los Angeles-based Kelly “RISK” Graval, a nationally known graffiti artist. You get your turn to tag because Paul has provided one primed exterior wall of her rehabbed building, built in 1903, to accommodate those with a sudden artistic urge.
Graffiti is raw, rebellious and in your face. It’s also a reflection of our culture and an outlet for artists who consider the city streets and buildings their canvas. For more than a decade, Paul has admired the work of graffiti artists she has seen in her travels to foreign countries where murals are more accepted. And she thought, why not Cleveland?
Paul founded Graffiti HeArt in 2013 to promote street art in “an approved, commissioned way,” so the work would have “improved economic value,” contribute to urban revitalization and provide educational opportunities to young artists. All that, plus graffiti is just cool, she says.
“Graffiti isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. If everyone liked it, it wouldn’t be interesting to me ,” says Paul, who is responsible for at least a dozen murals across Northeast Ohio and Puerto Rico. That includes the iconic Greetings from Cleveland “vintage postcard” created by New York artist Victor Ving and local artists. The Ohio City mural is part of Ving’s “Greetings Tour,” which is a cross-country mural project creating landmarks through public art.
Graffiti, always a controversial art form, has gained more fans across the country in the past few years. Paul says Cleveland’s mural projects are “putting the city on the map” as a town where renown graffiti artists have public work and local graffiti artists are encouraged. She has plans to use her building as a gallery, meeting place and workshop where artists young and old can take part in interactive activities. As an example, Paul wants to create a collaborative mural where participants will be able to take home a piece of the finished artwork.
“There are some graffiti artists and writers who prefer not to collaborate with us just yet. I respect that,” says Paul, who lives in Tremont. “And, I understand people’s concerns about historic buildings. We just continue to do our good work and hope to change people’s minds about graffiti one project at a time.”Some of that good is seen in the $70,000 raised since 2015 by Graffiti HeArt that has allowed 30 students to attend the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Pre-College Program. A portion of Graffiti’s project commissions, as well as donations, go to educational opportunities. The fourth annual Graffiti and Grapes Scholarship Fundraiser is Nov. 23, at CLE Urban Winery in Cleveland Heights