For decades, the idea of graffiti or street art has been frowned upon in cities like Bloomington, but local photography studio owner Steve Sheldon allows artists to use his wall as a canvas.
His studio, Steve Sheldon Photography, is located off of the intersection of East Third Street and South Swain Avenue. While Sheldon has worked here for more than 30 years, he said the street art did not come along until 2005, when a hip-hop convention came to town.
“Around February, somebody called me and said, ‘We’re having a hip-hop congress in Bloomington,’” Sheldon said. “They were going to have musical artists and graffiti artists coming in from all over the country. They asked if they could paint part of my building, so I gave them a little section of it to paint.”
A week later, a couple of artists from the area asked if they could paint another part of his building. He told them they could do whatever they wanted and this statement quickly turned his studio building into a graffiti hot spot for local artists to paint three of the four walls.
Before then, however, there were nighttime artists who would spray something quickly without his permission and flee the scene.
Sheldon said this is the only issue he has with street art.
“I don’t think they should go and tag or paint a building without permission because not a lot of people like that,” he said.
He said he doesn’t have a favorite piece of work, but he enjoys looking at the art as long as nothing is offensive. He said he likes to look at street art, not necessarily because of the art itself, but because of what goes into it.
“To watch them paint is incredible, they have a real skill doing it,” he said.
Graffiti artists tend to be stereotyped as vandals, but through the artwork on his building, Sheldon said he realized they are something else entirely.
“All of them are really nice people, are students, have jobs of their own and have never gotten in trouble with the law while painting,” Sheldon said.