When William Schramm arrived at his antique/gallery store this morning, he was greeted by graffiti he never thought would appear in St. Petersburgâs idyllic and largely gay Grand Central District.
During the night, someone had spray-painted âno fag pornâ on the galleryâs main window. The display in the window showcases the male nude paintings of Rico Estante, one of the artists whose art will appear at Schrammâs opening of a permanent erotic art collection on Friday, Sept. 28.
âThat word cuts to the bone,â says Schramm, who is gay. âNobody else got painted on the street. This is one building. Thatâs why itâs more concerning to me because itâs like a hit.â
Schramm opened Gallery 2061 seven months ago with the intention of bringing erotic art shows, like those found in many major U.S. cities, to St. Petersburg. His first show in August turned out to be a big hit, attracting over 700 people on the first night.
âLast time there were no problems,â Schramm says. âEverybody thought there was going to be a controversy. The story was there was no controversy.â
Schramm says police officers arrived this morning and the incident is being investigated as a hate crime.
Local artist Loren Marks, who will be showing some of her paintings at Fridayâs show, says the graffiti completely misses the theme of the show.
âIt is an erotic art show,â she says, adding that both female and male nude paintings will be on display. âItâs not a gay porn show.â
Many of the pieces that will be on display Friday are being delivered today, and Schramm worries this incident will reflect negatively on artistsâ perceptions of the city.
âItâs sort of an insult [to the erotic art community] because everyone was like âHey, St. Pete is looking up,ââ he says. âYou feel like youâre doing something cool and then thatâs happened.â
Schramm still plans to hold the gallery opening, but with caution. An off-duty police officer will be present.
âThis is the kind of thing I never thought would happen and it scares me to death,â Schramm says. âAcross the country, when shit like this happens it escalates. If this is really how the situation is, Iâll shut the entire gallery down.â