Mural artists accept the inevitable destruction of art

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Construction and development are getting in the way - or in some cases - getting rid of artwork that draws thousands to downtown St. Petersburg.

The city's landscape of murals is diminishing, but artists and officials said they knew some would only be temporary.

“It changes an environment that is bland or just a wall into something that’s enjoyable," mural artist Reid Jenkins said.

The brightly-colored, supersized masterpieces all have a message from the artists who painted them. Jenkins painted a sprawling mural back in 2015, but now it's hardly visible.

“You can see right here it’s a little sliver of what’s left of the mural. The actual mural is still intact. They built the bricks right against the mural," Jenkins said.

A Chase Bank built back in 2017 now covers nearly the entire mural. Two other murals were similarly covered up. Jenkins and the St. Pete Arts Alliance agree murals are only temporary and aren’t consider protected public art.

“In order for something to be public art owned by the city and placed around, it has to have a shelf life of more than 20 years and murals typically in a Florida sun are not going to last that long," St. Pete Arts Alliance Executive Director John Collins said.

The Arts Alliance documents nearly all the murals, creating a book of nearly 500 photographs and the names of the artists who painted them.

However, Jenkins admits it wasn’t easy finding out his mural was out of sight.

“My 5-year-old was the one that told me, and she came in crying about it. As a parent, you don’t want to ever see your children hurt, but at the same time it’s a reality check you have to put them thru," Jenkins said.

It's a tough truth Jenkins says every mural artist accepts, but not without a lingering sense of loss.

“Bring more tourist dollars here. Bring more jobs into the area that are dependent upon arts because really helped develop st. Pete into what it is now," Jenkins said.