St. Pete Gallery Victim of Hate Crime

When William Schramm arrived at his antique/gallery store this morning, he was greeted by graffiti he never thought would appear in St. Petersburg’s idyllic and largely gay Grand Central District.

During the night, someone had spray-painted “no fag porn” on the gallery’s main window. The display in the window showcases the male nude paintings of Rico Estante, one of the artists whose art will appear at Schramm’s opening of a permanent erotic art collection on Friday, Sept. 28.

“That word cuts to the bone,” says Schramm, who is gay. “Nobody else got painted on the street. This is one building. That’s why it’s more concerning to me because it’s like a hit.”

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.

“Last time there were no problems,” Schramm says. “Everybody thought there was going to be a controversy. The story was there was no controversy.”

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 Friday’s show, says the graffiti completely misses the theme of the show.

“It is an erotic art show,” she says, adding that both female and male nude paintings will be on display. “It’s not a gay porn show.”

Many of the pieces that will be on display Friday are being delivered today, and Schramm worries this incident will reflect negatively on artists’ perceptions of the city.

“It’s sort of an insult [to the erotic art community] because everyone was like ‘Hey, St. Pete is looking up,’” he says. “You feel like you’re doing something cool and then that’s happened.”

Schramm still plans to hold the gallery opening, but with caution. An off-duty police officer will be present.

“This is the kind of thing I never thought would happen and it scares me to death,” Schramm says. “Across the country, when shit like this happens it escalates. If this is really how the situation is, I’ll shut the entire gallery down.”

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