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SHINE Director: Art Partnerships Balance St. Petersburg’s Character With Growth

September 8th, 2023

Author: Alex Muellner 

The following Article was published by Tampa Bay Business Journal. To access the Article, click here

Jenee Priebe, Director of the SHINE Mural Festival, St. Petersburg Arts Alliance

SHINE mural festival director discusses art partnerships, character growth and St. Petersburg murals.

Jenee Priebe is the director of the SHINE St. Petersburg Mural Festival, which kicks off its ninth year in October; the event has landed a title sponsor for the first time. Led by local developers, HP Capital Group and brokered by KW Commercial, developers of the luxury condo Reflection St. Pete signed a two-year deal.

“St. Petersburg is a vibrant and growing community due largely to its commitment to the arts,” HP Capital Partner Fred Hemmer said in a release.

The partnership will culminate in 2024 with a three-story mural on the façade of the building overlooking Mirror Lake. Priebe said the contribution serves “as a model for thoughtful partnerships as the art community strives to maintain the character of St. Pete in significant growth.” The support will lead to the creation of more than 25 murals over the next two years.


What does it mean to land a title sponsor for SHINE?
This is new. We’ve been looking for a title sponsor, probably since 2018. It’s the $50,000 level, and we’ve never been able to do it before. I think St. Pete has been growing, and up until recently, there just hasn’t been that level of [commitment], at least not for SHINE.

We’ve been working on it for many years trying to build these relationships and see how we can get to that level because it’s, you know, the city gives us a grant, but that’s $30,000, and that’s been the largest donation we’ve received annually.

It was a big deal for us to have a sponsor at that level and the fact that they’re making a two-year commitment. So we already know coming into next year, for the first time, that we have guaranteed funds to help us plan better for year 10. It’s been an amazing partnership. They’re local developers; they want to be invested in the community and give back to the arts. That was important to me in terms of finding a partner.

Is it a testament to the maturing of the festival?
It’s a sign of the growth. There is more money coming into St. Pete, there is more development, and there are more people here. I’m happy that it’s been able to benefit us now because it has been a struggle to fundraise. Our budget is significant, and while we have been able to get city support, aside from that, we’re starting with nothing.

What is your budget?
It’s usually around $200,000 — a little more or less, depending on the year. But it seems to grow every year. The cost of everything has gone up — paint, lifts, airfare.

We’ve also doubled what we pay the artist over the years. When Terry Marks first started [as alliance CEO], she was adamant that we needed to pay people more and now we do. It’s still less than what they would get if they were a commission project because the trade-off is that they get full creative expression with the murals, and then we essentially cover all their other expenses. That has added to our cost over time with inflation and everything increasing. We’re doing 14 murals this year instead of the 16 we normally do. That’s a way to balance some of those costs.

I tell people there are 500 murals in St. Pete. It surprises people. Is that accurate? Yes. Of those roughly 500, the festival has produced 150. Our contract with the property owners and business owners is only for one year, so they’re not obligated to keep them for longer than a year. But most of them have stayed in more recent years.

We’ve lost more than we had in the past. Over time, we’ve lost probably 20 to 25 just with businesses changing hands or properties coming down or whatever. But that’s to be expected. A lot of them stay for many years. The Florida sun is brutal, and there’s only so much you can do about that. Within five to seven years, they’re pretty faded generally. But there’s a lot of them still out there.

Have property owners embraced the murals?
It’s been an interesting evolution. I wasn’t there in the first year, but I hear from the conversations I’ve had with the organizers. That is a big challenge, especially as the property owners do not get a say in the art that would go on their walls. They don’t see a rendering ahead of time. They have to trust the process. That first year was tough to get people on board for that. But it was also a different time in the city’s history.

It doesn’t seem that long ago, but it was, considering how much St. Pete has grown in the last nine years. Others don’t care for it; it’s just not their thing, or they’ll do it once. They’re like, ‘I didn’t like that kind of art,’ so it’s interesting. You get a little bit of both.

I have also seen this evolution of political events in the state or the nation. There have been waves of conservative feelings where people are a little bit more risk-averse.