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Sunday, April 21, 2024

ArtWalk in downtown Gainesville features mural artists from around Florida 

Ten artists painted across walls and fences in a lot near Depot Park 

Typically, the focus on South Main Street is Gainesville staple Luke’s New York Bagel Shop or Depot Park. On March 29, the interest lay just behind it in a concrete lot bustling with people. 

Visitors at the ArtWalk venue at 714 S Main St. were greeted with the thick smell of spray paint and bold visuals across the concrete walls surrounding the lot. It featured shapes and colors central to the work of Erbriyon Barrett, a 30-year-old artist better known as ‘Cloud.’ 

Barrett’s art is centered around primary colors and free-flowing, rounded shapes, which he compares to a lava lamp. 

“This is my signature abstract design,” he said, gesturing to the half-completed mural behind him. “I call them clouds because I’m Cloud.” 

Barrett started his mural before the event, arriving early to make a rough sketch of the design he wanted. He said his favorite part of planning and executing his designs, which can be found on walls across the southeast United States, is finding the perfect color scheme. 

“That’s the main thing I love,” he said, “I just love using loud, bright colors.” 

His piece at ArtWalk had striking, deep colors in a swirling design: red, yellow, blue and green shapes overlapping each other fluidly. 

“It’s just supposed to give off the representation of free-flow movement,” he said. “That’s the thing with abstract. I just want people to have their own interpretation of what they see.” 

Although Barrett hadn’t decided on a title for his mural yet, he had a guiding concept. He knew he wanted it to connect with as many people as possible. 

“The key term I like to use for it is ‘universal,’” he said. “I try to make it appeal to all types of races, sexuality [and] gender.” 

Barrett’s pursuit of art has been lifelong, with his first foray into it at age 5. Ganes, a 34-year-old artist also at ArtWalk, had a similar experience, starting to paint seriously 18 years ago. 

“I’d always drawn letters as a kid but never really went out and painted,” he said. “In middle school and high school, I started going out painting.” 

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His first professional experience involved graffiti work around Broward County, which inspired the deeply saturated colors and thick outline of his current style. The design he was painting at the ArtWalk show, a purple and yellow tag of his name, was around 50 square feet. 

“Something like this is usually four to six hours,” he said about the mural. “I can do something this big in two hours, but there would be a lot less detail.” 

Since moving to Gainesville four years ago, Ganes has made art around the city, including on the 34th Street wall. The wall is more than 1,100 feet long and stands 24 feet tall, every inch of the concrete covered in layers of messages dating back as early as 1979. 

Painting the wall is technically illegal, violating the vandalism clause in the city code of ordinances, but countless fundraisers, community events and residents of Gainesville have contributed to the wall’s art. 

Steph Morris, a 26-year-old UF museum sciences graduate student, has painted the wall every year since she first came to Florida. 

“This is my eighth year painting the 34th Street wall,” she said, loading a 5-gallon bucket filled with spray paint into the trunk of her car. “You would think it gets old, but it really never does.” 

Morris first learned of the wall through a friend she made at 18 years old in her first year as an undergraduate student. Her friend, who had lived in Gainesville for middle and high school, brought her to 34th Street one day when Morris asked for a tour of the city’s landmarks. 

“I immediately fell in love with it,” she said. “I kept going back as often as I could, sometimes three or four or five times a week. It didn’t matter whether it had been a day or a month since I’d last been, there was always new art to appreciate.” 

Morris said she had always considered herself more of an art appreciator than an actual artist, but the wall gave her a chance to dip her toe into art creation. 

“I didn’t feel like a true artist, and I still don’t, to be honest,” she said. “But it’s one of the best feelings in the world to express what I’m feeling on such a big canvas.” 

Gainesville boasts dozens of murals commissioned from local artists within city limits, which Morris said she loves seeing. 

“I love the mural on the stage at Bo Diddley plaza and the one next to Luke’s Bagels,” she said. “But there really is something special about being able to contribute to a massive, collaborative mural that makes it feel less like an art piece and more like an experience.” 

Contact Bea Lunardini at blunardini@alligator.org. Follow her on X @bealunardini.


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