You’ve probably seen the mark of Graffiti HeArt all around Cleveland, whether you realized it or not. The nonprofit coordinates graffiti-style murals in the city’s private and public spaces, like the vibrant piece on the Stockyard Meats building in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood and the “Greetings from Cleveland” painting that greets visitors to Ohio City.
But with the opening of the Graffiti HeArt Gallery on May 31, the organization will welcome guests and artists to a permanent homebase. “It's always been one of the dreams that I had when I started this concept,” says founder Stamy Paul. “To have a place that the public can enjoy, where artists can practice and create without many rules.”
Graffiti HeArt founder Stamy Paul (left)Graffiti HeArt was born out of Paul’s love for the graffiti she spotted while traveling the world for her day job as a corporate HR professional. After having a hard time finding a local artist to create a piece for her home, it sparked an idea. “That was inspiration to say, 'How do we give that platform to more artists in Cleveland instead of having to go outside our city to find them?'” she says.
Shortly after, in 2013, she started Graffiti HeArt to promote the art form. By 2014, the organization was creating live graffiti art installations at the Gay Games.
Murals and commissioned art created by nearly 40 artists followed, doubling as fundraising for scholarships for underserved youth. To date, the group has provided 30 scholarships, totaling almost $70,000 to the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Pre-College Program. Last October, Paul finally found the right building for the group’s brick-and-mortar, on the site of Ohio Technical College.
At the gallery, Paul plans to host exhibits and events, and hopes to continue fostering education with workshops and demonstrations on safety and [graffiti] techniques using aerosol. Youth-targeted education will include lessons on creating a portfolio and hosting an art exhibit.
True to form, the building itself will be a work of art—renowned L.A.-based graffiti artist Kelly “RISK” Graval will be painting the gallery exterior the week of the opening. “He’s like the Picasso of the graffiti world,” says Paul.
Other opening week festivities include a screening of the film Saving Banksy at the Capitol Theatre on May 30, complete with a live Q&A session with the film’s director and RISK himself. A ticketed VIP event for the grand opening takes place on May 31 at the Gallery, followed by a free open house and ribbon-cutting on June 1 for the public to check out the space.
“We want it to be a destination,” says Paul. “Not just for Cleveland, but for people all over who follow this type of art form.”
Graffiti HeArt gallery is located at 4829 Superior Avenue in Cleveland.