Celebrating Community Art: Cherokee Street Mural Wins Reprieve

Cherokee Street muralThe first round in the fight to save the Cherokee Street mural was over nearly as quickly as it began. Created on a boarded up storefront at 2643 Cherokee, the stenciled mural was created by well known artist Peat Wollaeger and several other local artists. Originally given permission to remain for the 30 days, the mural went up in time for the SGC International Conference in March.

Recently, it was learned that the mural would be painted over during the regular community clean-up effort known as Operation Brightside, returning the storefront to the flat red board up it had been previously. A handful of Cherokee Street residents and business owners took up the cause to preserve the mural and two days, a flock of Tweets and nearly 700 Facebook page likes later, the mural may just stay.

Cherokee Street is a focal point of the artist community in St. Louis, the center of the printing press, airbrush, t-shirt artistry that gives the City of St. Louis some organic life that it is otherwise desperately lacking. The mural is an expression of community. Many feel that it has added life to an otherwise dead storefront. The mural's creator may have said it best, from Peat on the Save the Cherokee Street Mural Facebook page:

This is the first ALL stencil mural to be created in St. Louis, many of the artists involved live thousands of miles away, these artist stenciled works on Paper, mailed to me and I wheatpasted them to the building. While I was painting the Wall, Local artists showed up with stencils and asked if they could paint…I welcomed them and it really added a community vibe to the wall!

EYE am a huge supporter of Public art, in the world of Billboards and non-stop-in-yo-face advertising, it's nice to have a break, to have ART for the Hell of it or to inspire someone who might not ever step foot in to a gallery. CHEROKEE street is the perfect block to have this type of expression!

Cherokee Street mural

Operation Brightside, among other efforts, focuses on graffiti removal across the city. According to their website, they have removed unwanted graffiti from 115,000 "vandalized properties" over the course of the past 18 years. In fact, Operation Brightside has removed graffiti from this same property on several occasions and as recently as 2009. And so it would appear that the mural was to be treated the same as any spray or scribble in the city.

Cherokee Street muralThe mural removal would have consisted of returning the storefront to a monochrome red. This surface would undoubtedly be tagged and painting in short order, necessitating more graffiti removal. Clearly the existing mural should stay. The group promoting the mural are asking that it stay indefinitely and possibly be repainted for future events.

Recently, I wrote about the new public art appearing in The Grove neighborhood and included some photos of murals in Columbus, OH. My one criticism of The Grove, is that the murals are all very clean, almost too clean. A very talented local artist has put together many of them, hence the sameness, but some variety, a little less polish would be nice. In Columbus, the murals are often of fine art. In each case, the genre seems to fit the neighborhood well.

The Cherokee Street mural appears to be a perfect reflection of the neighborhood. Instead of removing it, more opportunities should be sought to add to community art. Where vacant storefronts and other opportunities exist, additional murals should be considered.

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{the building prior to board-up (left) and prior to the mural (right)}

Cherokee Street mural

*mural photos courtesy of Save the Cherokee Street Mural Facebook page