Tampa Bay Fresh Fest — led by Mark Stevens and Eric Hornsby — will pay artists to paint murals in one Tampa neighborhood

The mural festival — slated for February 2019 — will culminate with an art exhibit.

click to enlarge This mural, a Tampa Heights collaboration between Starve, Zulupainter1, Skylar Suarez, Eric Hornsby and Zeros, is the sort of thing Tampa Bay Fresh Fest wants to see more of in Tampa. - Ray Roa
Ray Roa
This mural, a Tampa Heights collaboration between Starve, Zulupainter1, Skylar Suarez, Eric Hornsby and Zeros, is the sort of thing Tampa Bay Fresh Fest wants to see more of in Tampa.

Murals. If you live anywhere near the east side of St. Petersburg’s Central Ave., they’re everywhere. But why aren’t they in more places? Specifically, why doesn’t Tampa have more of them?

Well, for one, murals cost money. Sure, some of the muralists in St. Petersburg have worked for below the going rate, but any artist will tell you not charging a realistic price for your art isn’t sustainable. Paints and brushes cost money, but so do things like food, water and a bed. 

Another reason you might not have as many murals per capita in your town as, say, St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District does, is that it takes a coordinated effort to get that level of mural saturation.

Enter Tampa Bay Fresh Fest, a new group led by artists Eric “Esh” Hornsby and Best of the Bay-winning Mark Stevens. They want to find communities that could benefit from a mural movement like theirs. Their goal? To “beautify communities, engage the public, support accessible art and amplify public arts programming in Tampa,” according to their sponsorship info. Hornsby founded TBFF; Stevens — you might know him as Aurailieus Artist — co-directs.

And they’re set to paint Tampa.

“Tampa really wants a mural scene,” Stevens says. “The last time I painted something in Tampa it was almost non-stop people pulling their cars over to talk to me, take pictures; I even did a podcast video interview. The people in Tampa really appreciate public art.”

But where in Tampa? Well, that part depends on community response. Currently TBFF has its sights set on either Hyde Park, Seminole Heights, Sulphur Springs or Ybor City. The target date for the mural fest is February 2019.

“Our goal is to bring life and personality to our city in a way that not only turns it into an artistic destination, but gives the community a sense of personality and identity,” Skylar Suarez, TBFF’s Chief Administrator, says.

How will TBFF select a community?

“This year we’re planning to work with the community and business owners to select walls all around southeast Tampa,” Stevens says. “To make the final selections we will use a small panel of curators, [who will be] three to five prominent figures in the art scene.”

Right now, TBFF is actively seeking any organization or person — that means a business, government, person, or group — who agrees with those goals and who can put their money where their heart is. Sponsors, artists, and those seeking a mural should note: The artists retain complete artistic control over the mural. 

Tampa Bay Fresh Fest will screen all designs, of course — and they promise they won’t allow nudity, profanity or obscenity, and that if the wall owner has an artistic preference, they’ll certainly consider it when reviewing mural designs and artists. 

“This is an artist-run initiative, basically artists doing this for the sake of artists, from a place of almost extreme positivity,” Stevens says. 

As Tampa Bay Fresh Fest looks for local artists to create at least 12 murals in a single neighborhood as part of its first festival, which they picture as a weeklong event not unlike SHINE — everyone can watch the murals progress — but with their own unique art stamp: The festival will culminate with an art show featuring yes, the muralists, but also other local artists. 

The benefits are pretty clear: The festival helps create community pride, but it also showcases art in a way that makes those neighborhoods something of a destination. Bonus? It puts artists to work.

“Another major focus of Tampa Bay Fresh Fest,” Hornsby explains, “is to emphasize the artist. To see that they are given the utmost respect and accommodations, to not just focus on popular areas but bring the transformative power of street art to our underserved communities as well.”

That’s the part where they need you. TBFF has partnered with Derek Donnelly’s 501c3 Public Art Project, and they now need sponsors to donate money so they can start work on the murals that will transform a community. Sponsorships start at $250; they have packages for $250, $1,000, $2,500, $5,000 and $10,000 sponsors (and we’re pretty sure they would come up with something pretty kick-ass for anyone who wanted to donate more). 

“At the end of the day,” Stevens says, “we are trying to bring some awesome art to Tampa and pay some pretty amazing artist to do it.”

Want to sponsor or have a wall in one of those areas that could use a mural? Email them at [email protected].

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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