The World Is A Canvas

The world is a canvas for Paul Chelstad and Nic Lucart. Self-described street artists, the pair have enjoyed the opportunity to create and share their works with the huge crowds at Saturday in the Park over the last 20+ years. They are among the many who have painted the former water tower in Grandview Park.

Paul shares that he learned about graffiti art when he was in New York City in the early 1980s. “A friend moved from Brazil at the beginning of 80s and he was doing street graffiti in Sao Paulo. The night he got to New York, through a mutual friend, I was asked to go with them to stencil. It had never occurred to me at all because I worked on canvas, but I was like yeah that would be fun. Once, we got stopped by the police. We had painted these huge musical instruments in Little Italy that were so elaborate. They were so impressed by his stencils that they let us go.” Paul shared with a smile. 

Nick’s exposure to street art started here in Sioux City. “When I was young, I grew up by a train track, so I always saw graffiti on that. I always had an infinity for it. Then as I got a little bit older, I got immersed in the hip hop culture. Graffiti and hip hop go hand in hand, right along with the skateboard thing. The very bright, illustrative, flashy, look at me kind of things.”

So how did the two become committed artists for the Grandview Park water tower? “When I got back to Sioux City, I saw it and recognized the potential.” Chelstad said. “I talked to Dave Bernstein, then he and I went to City Council to ask permission to paint it. They said sure – we’re going to tear it down but go ahead and paint it.” 

The timing was a bit of serendipity. Saturday in the Park was happening soon, and it was a great opportunity to invite the public to participate. “Originally Sioux City Paint decorating donated and we painted it blue. Then people could come up and paint on it.” Chelstad noted. Lucart added, “It’s been an annual thing. We’ve always made a point of cleaning it up before Saturday in the Park. It’s kind of like the SITP gallery.”

The two shared mutual appreciation for the roles they have played in expanding street art in Siouxland. Both have contributed, collaborated, and supported artists as appreciation for the work has grown. “People will miss it when it’s gone.” Lucart noted, in reference to the Grandview Park water tower – which actually is being torn down this summer. 

“Everything in this place just came together perfectly,” Lucart commented wistfully. Summarizing the crux of street art – including the water tower. Chelstad added “It’s all organic. It’s alive and ever changing.” 

The beauty is that street art is a freer form of expression, according to the men, and much of the joy comes from the process of painting. Lucart said, “As I’ve gotten older, it’s become therapeutic for me.” The water towers have been a gathering place for artists in the tri-state area to have a creative outlet and build life-long friendships.

By: Cyndi Hanson

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