Kranzberg has artists transform Washington Avenue with murals

Artists have redesigned a section of Washington Avenue in St. Louis.

That Kranzberg Art Foundation commissioned 20 artists to paint large murals on the walls of buildings between Josephine Baker Boulevard and North Leonard Avenue, near the Grand Center border in Midtown.

The collection of works known as Walls of Washingtonofficially opens on October 7th during the first Fridays when people will be able to take a closer look at some murals that are not currently open to the public.

“This section of the Grand Center is very underused and underrated in terms of walkability and I have to acknowledge that this area could be a source of inspiration if only some paint and pigment were embedded in the facades,” said Gina Grafos , director and chief curator for visual and literary arts at the Kranzberg Arts Foundation.

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Seven other artists contributed smaller works that are on display at Sophie’s Artist Lounge and Gallery. Artists painted the largest span of continuous murals on the back wall of this building, which also houses the offices of several arts organizations and Kranzberg’s High Low gallery and café.

Performance venues, the Big Top and the Marcelle Theater, are at opposite ends of the murals.

“I think that definitely helps draw more attention to what an area can look like when you do it as focused as they did,” said the St. Louis-based artist Cbabi Bayoc, who contributed a mural. “I think it helps widen the conversation that we need more of this. And the more people see it, the more they want to see more.”

Walls off Washington map.png

Kranzberg Art Foundation


The Kranzberg Arts Foundation collaborated paint Louis and Black painted STL, organizations that have sponsored street art by Black St. Louisans to identify participating artists. The contribution of people involved in these organizations was key to the project and its recognition of “the history and legacy of graffiti and street art and thinking about how this art form can be further expanded,” Grafos said.

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The murals are big and colourful. Organizers said they will help change the mood of a neighborhood that is home to several cultural organizations but has little daytime foot traffic and borders a vacant lot.

“The center of the mural is an older black man. Alongside him, I have someone who plays guitar due to St. Louis’ rich musical heritage,” Bayoc said of his post, which references the neighborhood’s history and threat of gentrification.

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“It kind of speaks to the idea that this was once someone’s home, but now it’s a whole new environment,” Bayoc said.

Work on Walls Off Washington began in 2019 with a mural by Remix Uno, a Mexico City-based artist. Organizers plan to continue hiring artists until the work spans four blocks.

Other participating artists include Nina Chanel Abney, Derrick Adams, Burlesque, C215, Phil Jarvis, Liz Markus, Hayveyah McGowan, Norm4eva, [email protected], Remix Uno, Carlos Rolón (aka Dzine), Kenny Scharf, Simiya Sudduth, TASK, Tukeone, José Luis Vargas, Wendy White and Carlos Zamora, aka CARTEL.

Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jeremydgoodwin

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