Peat Wollaeger won't be the first to spray paint the gutted Powell Square building downtown. But he's the first to get permission.
Wollaeger plans to paint a gigantic 16-foot-by-16-foot mural on the warehouse Sunday. His message: I ♥ St. Louis. Only instead of the letter I, Wollaeger will stencil his trademark eye.
"I'm tired of the haters who say they can't wait to leave St. Louis," Wollaeger said. "Yeah, there are a lot of racist people in this town. There are a lot of people who are so closed-minded and people who only will come downtown for Cardinals games. But there are also people who put a lot of heart and soul in this town to make it a better place."
Located near Interstate 55 and the Poplar Street Bridge, the Powell Square building is a playground for vandals, a shelter for the homeless and a blemish scarring the St. Louis skyline. Chavvis Development hopes to open an arts center on the site, though director Gelinda Connell concedes the project is stalled.
"Everyone knows this building has been a magnet for vandalism and graffiti, so to replace the signatures of taggers with something really positive seemed like a great idea," said Connell, who secured owner Steven C. Murphy's permission for Wollaeger. "Peat couldn't be a better cheerleader for St. Louis, and he really commands a lot of respect among street artists."