There’s less color in the Tampa Bay art world today, and a bright light in the region’s mural scene sadly turned dark on Friday when Matt Callahan died as a result of injuries sustained in a fight earlier this week.
Just after 3 a.m. Wednesday, police found Callahan — owner of Man Made Murals (est. 2001) — in a median on Gandy Boulevard. Callahan, 40, was taken to Tampa General Hospital where he was listed in critical condition with bleeding to his brain. Callahan was confirmed dead at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“Matt was a workforce, always so busy, he would get off of a job painting with just enough time to shower and head to an opening five minutes after it started, piece in hand, still wet with paint,” owners at Mergeculture, a Tampa Heights gallery wrote.
The Best Of The Bay-winning Callahan could “do it all” according to Mergeculture’s Tony Krol and Michelle Sawyer.
“Murals, letters, signs, distressed letters... He did it with such ease and so fast. This is a huge loss for the Tampa art community, enormous,” they wrote, adding that Callahan’s first show at Krol and Sawyer’s gallery was hilarious because the lights weren’t working with most of the work yet to be hung.
“We laughed about that when he showed up, because he stayed up the previous night knocking out a show stopper. He had some good times at the gallery.”
The last wall Callahan completed locally is in downtown Tampa near the corner of E. Jackson Street and S. Morgan Street. The work announces the arrival of the NCAA 2019 Women’s Final Four. Callahan also touched up some oversized bowling pins in Channelside during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2015 playoff run. He was stoked to be a part of that simple project, according to Kelli Yeloushan.
“He was just a really nice guy,” Yeloushan, who now books shows at the USF Sun Dome, told CL. “He even changed over the bowling pin to say ‘Be The Thunder,’ after 2015 playoffs without me asking so it could stay up year round.”
Callahan’s commercial work took him all over the country, from Alabama to Anaheim. In appeared on Tampa's Fusion Bowl and Hablo Taco. In Florida, Callahan painted Lake City bakeries and breweries (Born & Bread Bakehouse, Halpatter Brewing Company), showed up in Lake Buena Vista (Disney Springs, plus this beaut at Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming Florida Kitchen) and even painted a mural for Coral Springs High School.
In 2016, Callahan worked with Angela Delaplane to complete an elaborate piece at Classical Architectural as part of St. Pete’s SHINE mural festival. His work can be seen on the walls of Green Bench Brewing, Seminole Heights’ Red Star Rock Bar and Coppertail Brewing where he painted this Evan Harris design on the Ybor City brewery’s south wall.
His work even appears at iconic south-of-Gandy hangout and bowling alley Pinarama, less than one mile away from the Warehouse Liquor Store and Bar where an employee told police that she saw Callahan and someone else arguing earlier this week. The police report says that the worker didn’t see what happened outside of the bar, but police eventually found Callahan in that median on Gandy.
A Cedar Key memorial is planned for April 21 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“All of Matt Callahan's friends are invited to attend and share memories of this very talented artist and sweet son, brother, father and friend to everyone,” it says on Facebook where Callahan had thousands of connections.
Losing a beloved Bay artist is an impossible thing to grasp in the moments after death, but Callahan literally left his mark everywhere, and he’ll never be forgotten.