About a half a mile south of the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis, lies a two-mile long flood-wall, covered in the combined efforts of more than 250 of graffiti artists. Construction of the wall began in 1956 and took until 1964. During the Great Flood of 1993, the river reached to two feet below the top of the flood-wall, but the wall in its entirety held up to the raging Mississippi.
After the flood, the large concrete wall became a spot for local graffiti artists to leave their marks. In 1995 and 1996, a “graffiti jam” was hosted by local artists, and included a small number of people informally writing on the wall. In 1997, the first official graffiti event occurred, with artists coming from around the country to paint on the wall. This was the beginning of a long event called Paint Louis, that would happen on and off for the next 25 years.
In 1998 and 1999 the event included hundreds of people from across the country, and became known as one of the biggest graffiti events out there. It was going decently smoothly until 2001 when the graffiti artists that weren’t registered in the event decided to “bomb” the city with their art. This led to the event getting shut down by the city for 10 years. After some time, some of the original advocators for the event decided to get it started again.
From 2013 to the present, the event has included hundreds of national and international graffiti writers and thousands of attendees. It is still regarded as being one of the largest convergences of graffiti artists out there.
The flood-wall is now a masterpiece of color, shapes, and powerful images. The artists often put a message in their work, whether it’s honoring previous writers or advocating for change. Some artists in 2023 used their canvases to showcase the problem of Indigenous women going missing in our country, and many other artists use their canvases for causes they believe in. This ever changing mural holds hundreds of writers names underneath the layers.
Know Before You Go
The Mural Mile can be reached easily by small streets. Much of the wall will be able to be seen by car, but other parts may be better approached on foot or bike.