‘Art brings people together’: Paint Louis 2023 celebrates its 26th year

500 artists are making their marks on the 3-mile-long flood wall along the river all weekend long.

ST. LOUIS — Hundreds of artists from around the world are in town for the Paint Louis graffiti and music festival.

It’s the 26th year for the nationally renowned St. Louis tradition. 

Artists will be making their marks on the three-mile-long flood wall along the river all weekend long. 

The sound of shaking paint cans and music filled the riverfront Saturday. 

John Harrington, one of the founders of Paint Louis, said it’s a special weekend for the area. “Everybody loves art, art brings people together,” he said.

A tradition, that according to Harrington, got its start from a tragedy nearly 30 years ago. “After the flood of ’93, the Army Corps of Engineers built this wall to keep the city from flooding, and we decided to paint on it,” he said.

Five hundred artists now cover the flood wall with not only bright colors, but more importantly, with a message.

“We have a big problem on our continent, which is the missing indigenous women. All the kidnappings and killings, so we want to represent that, to remind people and bring awareness,” one artist said. 

According to Harrington, the annual celebration of Paint Louis is all about self-expression through the four elements of hip-hop: DJing, MCing, breakdancing and graffiti. 

“Hip-hop is very diverse and has a bunch of different people and a bunch of different styles, so there’s room for everybody,” he said.

Even more fitting was that the hip-hop-embracing event fell on the 50th anniversary of the music genre. 

Harrington believes, after all these years, it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves.

“When we started this 26 years ago, nobody wanted it. Now it’s cool. Now everybody wants to have it,” he said.

This year people even have the chance to take home a part of St. Louis history. 

Bryan Bedwell, with SK8 Liborius, said they were salvaging what’s left of the church from June’s fire. “It’s actually bricks from the building that we’ve collected, and so you can get a piece of SK8 Liborius to do your own little stencil on it if you want to,” he said, referring to a pile of red bricks next to him. 

From vendors to music to, of course, art, the free event for all ages is a tradition that isn’t going anywhere.

“It’s been going on for 26 years and it sounds like now with support of this city, it’s going to be going on for another 26 years,” Harrington said.

Artists will be back out on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The finished products will be revealed on Labor Day.

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