LGBTQ youth lead Come OUT St. Pete project for SHINE Mural Festival

By : Tiffany Razzano
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ABOVE: LGBTQ youth from Metro Inclusive Health and volunteers finalize the first mural for the fifth annual SHINE Mural Festival on Sept. 28. Photo courtesy Chad Mize.

Since the inception of St. Petersburg’s SHINE Mural Festival in 2015, multimedia artist and gallery owner Chad Mize has incorporated a community project into the annual art event.

SHINE transforms the city’s streets by curating large-scale murals painted by renowned artists from across the globe, he says. “We bring international talent to the city to elevate the scene here. It puts us on the map.”

While this global attention is important for St. Petersburg’s growing reputation as an arts destination, the local community is at the heart of the festival, Mize explains. “It’s important that we have a dedicated community mural each year.”

In the past, he’s worked with groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters and local students from Gibbs High School, which houses the Pinellas County Center for the Arts, on these special projects.

Now in its fifth year, for the first time the SHINE community mural will showcase LGBTQ themes, Mize says. Local LGBTQ youth from Metro Inclusive Health were invited to help paint it.

The mural brings a much-needed element to SHINE, he adds.

“St. Pete is not only known for the arts, but it’s known for having a large LGBTQ population,” Mize notes. “It makes sense to bring this design to SHINE.”

It also challenges the norms “in the mural world,” says Mize, who identifies as a gay male. “It’s usually straight men, predominantly—and females doing murals are also few and far between.”

This year, the community mural, which will be located in the Grand Central District near Old Key West Bar & Grill and was designed by LEGO artist Jay Hoff, also celebrates Come OUT St. Pete, an annual series of events based around National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. This year, events hosted by various businesses and organizations were scheduled from Sept. 28 through Oct. 11. The key piece to this celebration is the Come OUT St. Pete Parade and Festival set for Saturday, Oct. 5 in the Grand Central District.

Though this year’s SHINE festival is scheduled for Oct. 18-26, the community mural, referred to as the Come OUT St. Pete Mural, was painted Sept. 28 ahead of the celebration’s main event.

“We wanted it to be done before the parade and the festival,” Mize says.

Though he typically designs the community murals, this year he enlisted the help of Hoff. The wall they painted reminded Mize of LEGO blocks, he recalls, which brought to mind Hoff’s colorful three-dimensional mosaic portraits of LGBTQ icons such as Elton John, Joe Dallesandro, David Bowie and Divine.

The wall, with six-inch by six-inch tiles, had a “pixelated” appearance reminiscent of LEGO bricks, Hoff adds. He kept this in mind when designing the mural, treating each tile as though it were a LEGO piece and painting it a different color. After the mural was painted, Hoff and Mize went back over the mural with a stencil to give the bricks the three-dimensional look of LEGO bricks.

Hoff went through several design ideas. He first considered “a very symmetrical simple pattern type thing utilizing images of the Pride flag,” he says. “It looked cool, but was kind of boring.” He and Mize also discussed incorporating Hoff’s iconic portraiture into the mural’s design, but eventually decided that wouldn’t work for the piece.

Ultimately, Hoff came up with a simple, but powerful concept—hands surrounding a heart—that incorporated Pride and Trans flag colors.

“It’s a simple, yet bright, bold statement that utilizes images of hands with a big red heart in the middle,” Hoff said. “That really spoke to us the most.” He thinks it will quickly capture the attention of those visiting the Grand Central District.

“It’s great for a little photo opp,” he says. “Come stand in front of a big, red LEGO heart.”

Chad Mize agrees that the eye-catching design will capture the attention of locals and tourists alike. “I’m a big believer in creating murals that are backgrounds for photos,” he says. “This has a sense of, ‘Hey, take a photo in front of it.’”

While planning this year’s community mural, Mize immediately knew he wanted youth involved in the project and reached out to Cole Foust, an artist and LGBTQ division manager for Metro Inclusive Health. Foust brought teens who attend Metro’s weekly youth groups to help paint the mural.

He saw it as a great opportunity for these youths in several ways. “It’s really awesome to connect them with different leaders in the community and show them there are different career paths in the arts,” Foust explains.

“Working with these kids is my way of giving back,” Mize says. “We’re showing kids that you can have a career in the arts. It’s so satisfying to have an impact on them.”

The arts are also an inspiring outlet for LGBTQ teens, who are “disproportionately affected by bullying,” Foust notes. “Providing them a platform like painting, spoken word, things of that nature can be really helpful in giving them a voice.”

He particularly appreciates Mize’s LGBTQ outreach through SHINE. “It’s been really cool to see how Chad has helped facilitate diverse groups of people, allowing them to come together to express themselves,” Foust adds. “I’m grateful to have worked with him on this project.”

As for the mural itself, he thinks it’s a testament to St. Petersburg’s reputation as a diverse, inclusive city.

“It has a really great message behind it about diversity, inclusion, acceptance and love,” Foust says. “I’d say those are all themes that carry St. Pete. They’re all things that make St. Pete so special.”

You can view the finished product below:

First #shineonstpete Bright Spot complete! The rest will happen October 18-26.

Posted by SHINE St. Petersburg Mural Festival on Saturday, October 5, 2019

The mural is located at 2451 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg and the fifth annual SHINE Mural Festival will be held Oct. 18-26. For more information, visit ShineMuralFest.com. For more information about Come OUT St. Pete, read Watermark’s coverage and visit ComeOutStPete.org.

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