Moving Forward After the Backlash


Keeping On Keeping On Is The Way of Committed Artists.


Public artwork across Pinellas County bore the brunt of an alleged act of protest last night.

The week ended with news about defaced worksξcreated both by the perpetrator and others to protest inequities in artistξopportunities.

Local St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park-based artists, whose works have been altered, as well as their friends, have reported that the defacer communicated frustrations about the inequitable influences of funding. While he may have had some legitimate concerns, most would argue that he could have found a more constructive method to get his message across.

Compromising the hard work of a non-consenting artist, with whom you’ve entered into a partnership, crosses a more personal line. Anything you have to say after such a breach becomes inexorably devalued by it.

Feelings of outrage, betrayal and bewilderment have dominated frustrated artists’ Facebook feeds as photos of elaborate St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park murals and other works as they gaze on elaborate projects covered in chaotic swirls of spraypaint.

I can say with some authority that many of the defiled works were created with a spirit of unbridled creativity and camaraderie — this spirit is contagious and helps us overcome the hardships of life and the bad news we’re barraged with every day.

Adds arts supporter Margaret Murray, who’s returning to the Museum of Fine Arts as Associate Curator of Public Arts Programs next month: “There are so many conversations occurring locally about arts funding and the inequities that happen when you have limited resources. That these conversations encompass both murals and large-scale public artworks illustrates the impact funding has on artists and their ability to create not only artŒæbut an environment in which art and artists can thrive.Œæ These conversations, while painful, are what a city with a robust interest in the arts, should be about. As funding increases, fingers crossed, it will be important to create a mechanism where as many artists as possible can be heard, seen, and included.”

Derek Donnelly’s statement to Creative Pinellas: “We St. Pete artists are a strong group of creative professionals that will only work harder when something like this happens. Hate will never win in our loving city. There is literally too much talent and passion to ever stop us from going anywhere but up.”

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