Top image: Kamila Sun, Founder of ST.ART | Bottom Two Images: ST.ART's artist Brendan Monroe for Equinox Hollywood, LA. Photo by Brandon Shigeta.
Graffiti and other forms of street art are as old as the realities dissent and political subversion, with examples of artwork on the exterior walls public and private walls of buildings in Ancient Rome, as early as 4th century BC.
Today, a passionate immigrant and former model from Russia, Kamila Sun (pictured above) is bringing street art into the lobbies, halls and other work spaces of American and International companies. In this Ideas in Focus Q&A, I catch up with Kamila Sun of ST.ART and learn about her journey into the art world and her work with muralists, painters and other street artists.
1. What is St.Art? What is it do and who does it serve?
ST.ART is a multi-service creative agency based in NYC that links remarkable, contemporary urban artists from around the world with companies and individuals seeking to fill interior or exterior spaces with original artwork or to hire artists for a specific project.
Our clientele is very diverse. From real estate developers, interior design agencies, hotels, restaurants and fashion brands to the private collectors, our clientele spans a number of sectors and needs.
2. When and how did you come up with this concept?
The company is pretty new- I established it a year ago. Prior opening St.Art, I worked in the art and fashion industries.
I studied Art History at Moscow University and came to US at the age of 21 after graduating from that university. For the first few years of my time in the US, I lived in Miami where I worked as a model and as an assistant in various art galleries in the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood.
It was during that time in Wynwood that I really discovered the street art movement.
"...Because [Street art] is a fairly new art movement and people are still becoming familiar with the genre, I feel there is a massive gap between mural artists and their potential clients. Neither side understands how to find the other."
We don't have much of it in Russia and it wasn't that advanced as it was here in the United States. I was mesmerized by all the murals on the streets of Wynwood. I witnessed how street art shaped the whole area.
Tourist began visiting Wynwood on street art tours. Restaurants, clubs and bars start popping up here and there. Very quickly, Wynwood transformed from a dangerous and abandoned neighborhood into a cool and busy area.
After my time in Miami, I moved to NYC. I continued working as a model and as an art consultant. But, the fashion world never really satisfied me mentally so I realized that I didn't want to pursue it as a career. I had tons of ideas and wanted to create something which spoke to my personality- something that excited me. This something also needed to be for a cause I stood for.
I'm a strong believer that almost any dream or fantasy can be made real. Naturally being a very curious person I had finally been confronted with my biggest challenge in life: Which direction to choose?
I went on the series of trips and explorations for two years. Where I were really been able to learn about myself. After I came back to NYC I summed up my skills and experiences and came up with the ST.ART idea.
3. For you, what is it about street art and murals that you were willing to create an agency to serve this market?
After working for some time in the art business I realized that street artists in particular are undervalued and under promoted. They have generally chosen an unbeaten path wherein they stepped away from the traditional way of establishing their name through the art institutions. Therefore it becomes more difficult for them to make a living out of their passion.
Many of the street artists I have worked with possess a formal art education. However, to create a mural is much more challenging painting the same work on a canvas. Street art requires a special set of skills and techniques. A lot of times it is simply dangerous.
Lastly, because it is a fairly new art movement and people are still becoming familiar with the genre, I feel there is a massive gap between mural artists and their potential clients. Neither side understands how to find the other. Additionally, our corporate clients often don't have time to take care of all of the logistics and management of the artists.
All of those experiences inspired me to create ST.ART agency.
4. As of now, what are some of the big challenges for you? And what have been some of the big successes?
My biggest challenge so far is changing the mentality of the client and art collectors toward the street art. People don't realize that "Street Art" is merely the term for the new art movement that came from the streets and is a style of art which has become a respected genre. Artists like Banksy and Keith Harring started from the streets but are now selling out in some of the largest auction houses and art galleries.
We recently accomplished two big projects for Equinox, the biggest sport club chain in US. We were commissioned to do the mural works for their new locations one in the Upper East side in NYC and another one in the Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA.
ST.ART artist Chris Soria for Equinox E 92nd, NYC. Photo by Matthew Gilberson
5. Have you faced any personal hurdles in building St.Art? You ever feel like race, language or gender have affected your progress so far?
Of course! Especially since this is my first business, I have faced a number of challenges. I remember seeing an ad in the subway saying: "Congrats, you are a business owner now... and you are also a CEO, janitor, accountant, paralegal, graphic designer..." something like this. I laughed to myself when I saw this because it was so true.
I have had to learn everything from the scratch.
Also, I just came to US 8 years ago. So I have had to cope with the mental and emotional challenges which come with being an immigrant, I am still working through the language barrier, and the inherent financial challenges of starting a company. These obstacles have lengthened and nuanced the entrepreneurial process for me.
However, I don't make excuses. I just try to do my best and move forward. I subscribe to the idea that if you really want something everything in Universe will help you with it!
6. What has been your favorite moment so far in operating St.Art?
Everything about it! The everyday challenge, the creativity, the people I work with, the infinite opportunities... I love my job. I don't feel it as a work at all. Even with the obstacles, is has been a pleasure.
ST.ART's artist Dasic Fernandez for Luxury Brand Partners, Miami.
7. Artists like Banksy, Lady Pink and Dondi have made there genres of street art far more popular in the decade and a half. What of you think of this popularity?
Artists or writers have always been the mirror of the current situation of the world around them, showing how it affects them.
Urban artists serve as the voice of the public that is meant to be heard by the public. They, in particular, chose not to be limited by the formal and institutional art community. This public-focused aspect of their work makes it easily accessible and helps their work to speak to their audience.
8. Lastly, which application has been your favorite in your day to day operations with St.Art?
I love Momentum, a personal dashboard new tab replacement for Google Chrome. It presents one of the most beautiful images of nature and places and helps me to focus on my daily "to-do" list. It's very inspirational and practical!
Also, for my work, Dropbox is very useful in the exchange of tons of images and big files.
Kamila Sun is the founder of St.Art, a NYC based creative agency which connects world class companies with street artists, helping to companies turn their visions for their work spaces into physical works of art. You can follow ST.ART on Twitter at st_artnow.
Medvis Jackson is a web designer at Hindsite, curator at Kulchah and avid cricket fan. You can follow him @medvisjackson for his random thoughts. He primarily covers startup, tech and small business ecosystems and resources.