Making it pop: International artist arrives in Cleveland to paint Stella Maris mural

Since 2013, Graffiti HeArt has been using talented mural artists and their works as a way to raise money for aspiring young artists, arts scholarships, and public art project around Cleveland.

Graffiti HeArt has commissioned international artist Michael Roy, aka Birdcap, to paint an original piece on the east-facing wall of Stella Maris on Washington Avenue in Flats West Bank. The mission has been so successful that Graffiti HeArt has brought more than 40 public murals to Northeast Ohio and other communities and raised more than $100,000 in scholarship funding for underserved youth for art scholarships through the Pre-College Program for high school students at the Cleveland Institute of Art.  

This week, Graffiti HeArt has commissioned international artist Michael Roy, aka Birdcap, to paint an original piece on the east-facing wall of Stella Maris on Washington Avenue in the Flats West Bank. 

Birdcap has been in Cleveland all week and will be here until Saturday—leaving behind his original, three-dimensional abstract mural. He has spent more than a decade building an international reputation for his street art—primarily using aerosol paint to produce his colorful murals.

"Birdcap has grown his portfolio internationally with a distinct style that continues to evolve as seen in the piece he is painting in Cleveland, which includes many elements from his various drawings, paintings and unique characters," says Graffiti HeArt president and founder Stamy Paul 

Birdcap works in a style equally steeped in Saturday morning cartoons and history paintings—creating densely colored scenes that slide between references to Jim Henson and the Crossing of the Delaware.

Using fantastic shapes that make a Birdcap mural identifiable across the world, the artist takes up deeply personal subjects such as grief and loss, tackles political anxieties, and traverses a contemporary landscape both absurdly beautiful and troubled. 

While he grew up near the bayous of southern Mississippi, Birdcap got his start after studying painting at Memphis College of Art before becoming active in the thriving street art scene in Seoul, South Korea—where he adopted his Birdcap name.

“There are not many folks like him in existence—he’s been in Europe, Asia, he’s been around, says Paul. "Also interesting is his use of the aerosol medium and the fact that he was inspired by graffiti art while while attending Memphis College of Art. It’s a great story to hear, especially how he took his talents abroad and didn’t become a muralist or get ingrained in the street art culture until he moved to South Korea." 

Birdcap’s career as a muralist may have spanned continents, but his work is a product of the south—both a love letter to the region he calls home and a challenge to its problems.
“Bringing a Birdcap original piece to Cleveland will be a wonderful addition to the existing public mural landscape that exists,” says Paul. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to add to our own portfolio of public murals and to partner with Stella Maris to bring art to their building canvas.”
Earlier this week, Paul reports Birdcap was mapping his mural in a “grid,” and will be painting all week. Visitors are welcome to stop by all week, at 1320 Washington Ave., to watch Birdcap bring his mural to life.

“We like to weave in street artists from other parts of the U.S. and the world to integrate with our local street art scene," says Paul, "[which] also adds to the breadth of artists for our local community and visitors to see and enjoy."

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.