Graffiti HeArt Gallery Opens in Cleveland

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Cleveland has a new art gallery dedicated to graffiti.

The local non-profit Graffiti HeArt opens a physical space this weekend at the corner of Superior Avenue and E. 49th Street.

L.A.-based artist Kelly “Risk” Graval spray painted the exterior of the former Ohio Technical College building. It was navy, but Graval transformed it into a rainbow-colored work of art.

“I call it ‘beautifully destroyed,’” he said between sprays. “It's basically these color washes I do that originated with graffiti palettes, and I wanted to see if I could evoke the same emotion as I did with graffiti without doing letters or characters.”

The new building, and having Graval paint it, is a dream come true for Stamy Paul, the founder and president of Graffiti HeArt.

The idea is to “have a place where graffiti artists can play, practice, but also showcase some of their work without being a vandal, without getting in trouble,” she said.

Stamy Paul with artist Vic Ving [Graffiti HeArt]

Paul isn’t a graffiti artist herself. She cautiously admitted she is a rule follower as her career is in human resources. She said she likes exploring something different through this hobby.  

“Some people have spouses, some people have kids,” she said. “I have Graffiti HeArt.”

Through the non-profit she helps connect artists with paying gigs around the region. That has involved work indoors at businesses, including a suite in the Hilton downtown, as well as outdoor murals in various Cleveland neighborhoods.

“Often we'll get people that say, ‘hey, we have a wall just bring people to paint it and they'll get exposure,’” she said. “It’s like, ‘yes, and they also need to get paid.’”

One of the local artists she has supported is Steve Erhet. He painted some of his monster art on a gallery wall.

“As an artist you spend most of your days painting, ideally,” he said. “It's nice to have other people out there that are kind of scouting things for you.”

Artist Steve Erhet outside of Graffiti HeArt [Carrie Wise/ideastream]

Erhet said he’s able to make a living with his art, but it isn’t always easy.

“When I first started there wasn’t nearly as much acceptance of mural stuff,” he said.

Graffiti HeArt’s gallery spans two floors with wall space for both canvases and mural paintings. The non-profit has provided Cleveland Institute of Art scholarships for high school kids, and the mission is to create more opportunities for youth of all ages at the gallery.

Graffiti HeArt opens its doors to the public Saturday.

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