As ‘street art tourism’ gains popularity around the world, St. Louis is fast becoming recognized as one of North America’s premier graffiti destinations. The ‘Gateway to the West’ has been hosting regular street art festivals since the ’90s, and the city is also home to the Graffiti Wall, the longest of its kind in the world.
While most visitors to St. Louis head straight for the iconic Gateway Arch, there are plenty more interesting neighborhoods to explore. And one of the best ways to get to know the city is by going on a St. Louis street art hunt. You can enjoy the Midwestern hub’s colorful murals while also checking out the historical buildings of Carondelet or the trendy restaurants of the Grove.
While St. Louis is not a huge city, the murals around town are fairly spread out. Getting around by car is a must, and you should give yourself at least two days to see everything in the article below. Luckily, you can easily combine your mural hunting with visits to some of the city’s main attractions, like the Arch, the St. Louis Museum and the Bellefontaine Cemetery.
Downtown St. Louis is home to a number of the city’s most famous landmarks, among them the Gateway Arch. Pretty much every visitor to the city will spend some time in the area at one point or another. And while it may not have as much street art as other districts, there are still a few pieces worth checking out.
One of the city’s largest murals can be found along the side of the Red Lion Hotel. Located on 14th St. and Spruce, the hotel was formerly known as the St. Louis City Center Hotel. But the building’s history goes even much further back than that. Constructed in 1929, it was originally the warehouse for the Edison Brothers Stores. And decades later in the mid-80s, this mural was painted by Richard Haas.
It features Greco-Roman style pillars and a statue sitting above a pedestal that reads ‘Peace.’ Note that both sides of the building are painted, but the vantage point on the other side is a parking area that can be tricky to access.
While this article is largely focused on murals, you shouldn’t miss the Eros Bendato head in the Citygarden Sculpture Park. As the name suggests, the sculpture is dedicated to Eros, the Greek god of love.
It was designed by Igor Mitoraj of Poland, and supposedly, a similar sculpture can be seen in Krakow.
Further north, you may want to check out the abandoned Cotton Belt Freight Depot. The entirety of the 750-foot long building has been covered in a massive bird mural titled ‘Migrate.’ It was painted by Nita Turnage and Hap Phillips as a way to greet commuters heading into the city. It also wouldn’t be surprising to find plenty of art inside the derelict structure, but enter at your own risk!
The Graffiti Wall
Also known as Mural Mile, the St. Louis Graffiti Wall has become an essential attraction for both street art aficionados and ordinary visitors alike. In fact, it’s the largest such wall in the entire world!
The Graffiti Wall is more than just an old flood wall that’s been covered in graffiti. It’s home to the annual Paint Louis festival which began back in the ’90s. The festival went on a long hiatus when in 2001, some visiting artists got carried away and tagged private property around town. But thankfully, Paint Louis is back in full swing nowadays.
Starting south of the Arch in the downtown area, the wall stretches out to over two miles. And as you continue south, you’ll encounter hundreds of murals by both local and national artists. Considering the wide range of artists and styles represented, if you don’t see something to your liking at first, just keep on walking.
You’ll find a slew of pop culture references, as well as pieces representing St. Louis itself. But for those hoping to see something more abstract, the Graffiti Wall has got you covered as well. There’s no particular order in which the murals are organized, so the theme and style can shift from one instance to the next.
While a lot of the art can be hit or miss, there are some truly outstanding works to be discovered. And some of them aren’t always in the most obvious places, so be sure to peek around corners, or even on the other side of the wall when possible.
As the wall is updated annually, things may look quite different by the time of your visit. If you can, try getting here when the Pain Louis festival is actually taking place.
While a considerable amount of people gather to see the murals closer to the arch, fewer bother to venture all the way to the opposite end. But it’s here that you may come across some of the most memorable work. The mural by The Dask One of a boy blowing the dust out of his NES cartridge certainly brought back memories!
On the corner of Cherokee St. and Jefferson Ave, don’t miss this large, colorful mural on the back wall of the Nebula Coworking Space (just next to Family Dollar). Apparently, the mural changes from time to time. If, by the time of your visit, this particular mural titled ‘Splash’ is no longer there, you can count on another quality piece taking its place.
The southern neighborhood of Carondelet is full of street art, most of which can be seen by driving along S Broadway. The murals here take on a noticeably different feel from those in other parts of the city.
A lot of them have a special ‘old timey’ look, which is especially befitting of a district like Carondelet. The neighborhood, once an independent city, is as old as the United States itself, and accordingly has some of the oldest homes in the area.
Many of the murals were painted as part of a public arts program. Implemented in 2010, the program’s purpose was to help revitalize the neighborhood. And it seems to be working – had I not heard about Carondelet’s murals, I probably wouldn’t have come.
Continuing south down Broadway, one of the last murals you’ll encounter is one that jazz fans definitely shouldn’t miss. The Clark Terry mural, located on 7714 S Broadway, pays homage to the legendary trumpeter and St. Louis native. The mural was painted by local artist Ray Harvey, who beat out hundreds of other applicants for the opportunity.
As you’ll see more of below, this is just one of many musical-themed murals throughout the city.
The Grand Center area is one of the city’s most prominent arts districts, especially when it comes to museums and performance venues. And while there’s not a whole lot of street art in the area, you shouldn’t miss this massive, abstract mural by MOMO (whose work I also recently spotted in New York).
You can find it on 3419 Olive St., in between the Moto Museum and Triumph Grill. Interestingly, the work is meant to be seen through the Re+Public augmented reality app. While I didn’t use it myself, viewing the mural through the app is supposed to reveal some additional digital content.
Nearby the MOMO mural is this sculpture of a woman lying in sand. Also nearby is the KDHX radio building. Supposedly, there was once a large mural on its side, but there didn’t seem to be anything there at the time of my visit. Then again, I may have been looking at it from the wrong angle.
The Grove, one of St. Louis’s trendiest nightlife areas, is where you’ll find many of the city’s most popular bars and restaurants. It wasn’t always that way, however. As recently as 20 years ago, this was a ‘bad neighborhood’ that people tended to avoid. But all that changed thanks to street art. And today, all along Manchester Ave., you can find all sorts of colorful murals that are among the city’s best.
Entering the district, past the neon sign, you’ll quickly come across a large mural dedicated to The Grove itself, painted by Grace McCammond. And it was actually McCammond who painted some of the district’s first murals back in the late 90s. And shortly thereafter, more and more building owners began requesting murals on their own property,
The Grove then gained a reputation for street art that persists to this day, ultimately helping revitalize the area entirely. McCammond still has plenty of works on display around the neighborhood, including the dragon (pictured further down below) contained in the letter G.
Just next to ‘The Grove’ mural is another sizable piece in honor of the city’s favorite bird. But there’s plenty more around the area that takes a bit more effort to spot. Be sure to peak down alleyways and driveways, and also take a quick walk through the area’s numerous parking lots.
Looking closely, many of the murals on the buildings have subject matter related to the type of businesses inside. And some act as signs for the shops themselves, appearing as modern-day ‘ghost signs.’ And many others, of course, are simply there for art’s sake.
As you head down Manchester Ave., don’t miss works like the dragon mural, also by Grace McCammond. Completed in 2006, this was actually a ‘paint by numbers’ piece that other people got together to fill in. This is one of many such projects to be implemented for the annual Grove Fest which takes place in October.
Last but not least, don’t miss the St. Louis Wall of Fame. This is actually a 2017 copy of an original mural that was once further down the street. It was on the same wall now adorned by ‘Sauce on the Side’ (pictured above).
The mural pays homage to famous African-American artists and celebrities from St. Louis. In addition to Maya Angelou and some sports stars, you’ll find a slew of legendary musicians. Among them are Miles Davis, Chuck Berry, Tina Turner and . . . Nelly.
The Loop is another one of the city’s trendiest and most creative districts. And while it may not have a whole lot of street art, its Chuck Berry mural on the side of Vintage Vinyl is among the city’s most famous.
Looking at older photographs of the store, though, it’s clear that this mural is relatively new. An older mural once featured a quintet of artists, including Chuck Berry, Miles Davis and yes, Nelly.
On the side of nearby Blick Art Materials, you can also see a painting of the St. Louis skyline as viewed from the Mississippi River.
Have any more tips on where to find St. Louis street art? Let us know in the comments section below!
Before visiting St. Louis, understand that public transportation is virtually nonexistent. And while not a huge city, it’s much too spread out to walk comfortably from place to place. Unless you’re willing to ride an Uber every day, having a car is a must.
As you’ll need a car to get around regardless, location is not incredibly important as long as you’re somewhere relatively central. In addition to a myriad of hotels, there are plenty of Airbnb options as well, which is oftentimes the better value.