Legal graffiti. Is that an oxymoron? I'm not sure. But, yes, there is a place in St. Louis where graffiti artists, from the o'so famous to those aspiring to be, can go and legally paint without the fear of being caught by the Fuzz. The Po-Po. The Five-0. The Coppers. The, well, the slang list for police goes on and on, I'm sure. As far as I know the spot is just called the Graffiti Wall. Let me know if I'm wrong though. And it's literally a wall, a flood wall that runs along the Mississippi River on Wharf Street. Basically, to get here, get yourself onto Chouteau Avenue and take it as far East as it will go and you'll dead end at the Graffiti Wall. The art starts right there, at Chouteau and Wharf and runs south for about a mile. The path along the wall, if you want to call it a path, has a nice, flat walking surface that changes from asphalt to chipped-rock making it an easy walk in decent weather. It's not, in the official sense, handicap accessible but I bet you could push a wheelchair just fine along the path. However, in the rainy and wet season and the Mississippi River-above-flood-stage-level times, like today, there are some puddles to navigate but nothing too serious. I'll add too that you can just as easily drive this if you prefer that to walking.
This is just south of where Chouteau dead ends at Wharf Street. We parked here today and it wasn't a problem.
So what will you see? Lots of graffiti, obviously. Some is figurative, some abstract. Some, as my 10 year old pointed out today, have some "adult themes and language" so, parents who have children that can read and/or make sense of sexual imagery as well as those with sensitive dispositions take note before you head down. But please do take that warning with a grain of salt because the Graffiti Wall is always changing. I've been down a handful of times and there is always new artwork. In fact, we saw an artist painting today - he rolled black paint right over an existing image, let it dry for a bit, then got to work on his piece using spray paint.
The Kid and the Dog stopping for their first photograph.
Even if you don't know their names, everyone is probably familiar with the work of graffiti artists Banksy, Shepard Fairey, or, even locally, Peat Wollaeger. Beyond that people tend not to know a whole lot about graffiti artists or art, also called street artists or street art. I would include myself in that group especially when you're talking about the local scene. So as I walked along the wall today, studying the art, picking out favorites, or photographing them, I had no idea if I was appreciating the work of an unknown artist or a very famous one. Art is subjective, of course, and there is a wide range of styles but I am comfortable saying that some of it is much better than others.
The Kid and the Dog after a series of photographs. The Kid is holding up okay but the Dog is much hotter, much more tired, very thirsty, and wondering where the AC went.
Today, along the wall, we had the perfect conditions: not too hot, the sky was blue and clear, there was a slight breeze in the air, and it was practically devoid of human existence. Around 10 am this place was peaceful, it looked safe. And, better yet, I felt safe. I felt it was a safe place to take my child. Even without the 95 pound Shepherd I would have felt safe. That said, I've never been to the wall at night and I've always been with a group so I can't speak to how safe it is at different times or under different circumstances.
You can see steel beam reinforcers and the sandbags at the base of the flood wall, aka the Graffiti Wall, have been brought in. The Mississippi River is currently flooding and it's seeping under the walls, despite the sandbags.
A Couple of Resources;
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