Thu 5/30-Sat 6/1
More than five years ago, Graffiti HeArt president/founder Stamy Paul set out to reframe Northeast Ohio’s conversation and perception of street art.
The local nonprofit organization promotes graffiti and street art as an appreciated art form through aspiring and accomplished artists with charitable contributions that fund art education scholarships and urban development projects.
Graffiti HeArt connects graffiti artists to commissioned projects and helps beautify and revitalize spaces. Through its efforts artists completed 10 public murals in Northeast Ohio and Puerto Rico, and more than 50 commercial, corporate and private mural art projects locally, as well as generated $50,000 in scholarship funding for underserved youth.
Now Graffiti HeArt is taking a major step forward opening its first permanent studio and gallery. The 4,600-square-foot venue is located at the corner of Superior Avenue and E. 49th Street.
Graffiti HeArt is planning a multi-day grand opening weekend including the screening of Saving Banksy Thu 5/30 at the Capitol Theatre, followed by a discussion with film executive producer Brian Greif and artist Kelly “RISK” Graval.
The Graffiti HeArt Gallery VIP reception takes place Fri 5/31 with an open house and ribbon cutting scheduled for Sat 6/1.
CoolCleveland talked to Paul about the exiting news, as well as the importance of RISK visiting Northeast Ohio.
CoolCleveland: Congratulations. How long as a Graffiti HeArt permanent studio and gallery been on your radar?
Stamy Paul: It’s always kind of been a dream of mine to eventually have brick and mortar location for the nonprofit organization I started back in 2013. We wanted to have a space where we can really highlight and showcase graffiti and different forms of media of street art like wheatpasting, stenciling and blow-up. Also, to have the opportunity for some of the youth as well as adults to kind of do graffiti gallery shows, art educational workshops and demonstrations for the public. We’re currently still under renovation making the inside really gritty but a nice space for our organization.
CC: Regarding the grand opening weekend visit of RISK, how important is that to not only Graffiti HeART but also the street art community of Northeast Ohio?
SP: I can’t overemphasize the impact of having RISK come to Cleveland. He’s one of the top, world-renowned graffiti artists. People who understand the graffiti world and the history, they’ll know who RISK is. Having him come to Cleveland is huge. The fact that he’ll be painting and doing a mural installation on the entire exterior of our building is huge. It’s going to be one of a kind. He also is going to be painting one of the walls inside, which will be part of our permanent elements of the gallery as well. We’re going to become a destination based on his media.
CC: Going forward, do you expect the Graffiti HeArt gallery to offer different themed exhibits and other events associated with such spaces?
SP: We don’t have anything set up right now, but we’re going to be developing the programming for it. We’ll probably be jumping on other events that are going on around Northeast Ohio, like Third Fridays. So when people are out and about, they can also check out the graffiti gallery. We’ll be working with some local artists and starting to brainstorm some of the programming. We’ll probably have a quarterly gallery event where an artist will basically have their piece created and have it themed for their show similar to other gallery spaces.
CC: Through your efforts over the last six years how has graffiti and street art been embraced by Northeast Ohio?
SP: I think it’s becoming more of the hip thing. It’s kind of like now it’s the in thing. There are still though different opinions, including graffiti artists themselves who aren’t yet clear about the organization and what we’re doing. They may think this is a for-profit or exploits artists, when in fact it’s the opposite. It’s really to help protect and give them the platform where their art is protected and they do get commission projects. Overall, I think street art has become more mainstream, especially mural art. There are more people who reach out to us around graffiti because they think it’s cool and it’s edgy. They see it as being more acceptable now.
[Written by John Benson]