Kotis street art q&a
Q. What is Kotis Street Art?
A. It’s a Greensboro-based collection of public art that includes nearly 200 installations throughout the city, with styles ranging from figurative and abstract to stencil and Neo-Cubism. It was created by local developer Marty Kotis, who commissions artists to paint walls of buildings and shopping centers he owns, and supplies them with primer, paint and any equipment they need. Kotis Street Art has brought in artists from across the world — everyone from critically-acclaimed muralists to rising stars in the street art world to local artists at the beginning of their careers.
Q. So that’s why I’m seeing so many murals across Greensboro.
Q. Is there a 10-minute film I could watch that helps me get a sense of Kotis Street Art? Maybe one that includes interviews with artists and drone footage that showcase the size and scope of some of the installations?
A. Why, yes — right here. And thank you for that question.
Q. Does Kotis Street Art have any empty walls available for artists to paint?
A. Yes. Visit kotisstreetart.com for a list of paid and unpaid commissions.
Q. Does Marty Kotis tell artists what to paint?
A. No. When Kotis hires an artist for a wall, he is paying for their talent, their ideas, their vision. As long as the painting doesn’t violate community standards of decency or promote an idea or image that is racially or culturally insensitive, he gives the artists 100 percent freedom. The only exceptions to this are commissions for a very specific project or business.
Q. You said Kotis Street Art commissions artists for work. Do the artists have to supply their own materials and equipment?
A. Kotis Street Art wants participating artists to create their most ambitious works in Greensboro and have a great time while doing so. That's why members of the organization work tirelessly to provide them with the paint, the tools and the support they need. If the artists need some piece of specialized equipment, Kotis will call in members of his construction teams. If he’s holding a pop-up gallery for a visiting artist, he’ll ask team members from the Painted Plate to cater the event. He’s focused like a laser beam on their needs.
Q. Where did his interest in street art come from?
A. It happened gradually, an outgrowth of his love of traveling in America and Europe. He drew inspiration from art festivals he has attended, including Urban Spree in Berlin; Upfest in Bristol, England; Shoreditch in London; and Wynwood Walls in Miami. His initial efforts to infuse Greensboro with the street art scene began in 2010, and included commissioning artwork for restaurant interiors and exteriors. That led to discovering local artists who were seeking walls to paint. By 2017, Kotis was curating and recruiting international artists.
Q. Would you say that Marty Kotis is obsessed with street art?
A. Would I say that? To his face? No. If he could hear me, I’d use a phrase like “passion” or “greater-than-average interest” to describe his obsession with street art.
Q. What’s the craziest thing he has ever done to help an artist fulfill his or her vision?
A. Well … this is sort of a moving target. As of this writing, two things come to mind. He bought a decommissioned fire truck so an artist could spray paint out of a fire hose. Another time, he spent several thousand dollars on a rig-and-harness system so an artist could hang in the air — think Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible” — to paint a mural on the top of a tractor-trailer. (Note: This entry will likely require frequent updates).
Q. Does he fancy himself a street artist?
A. He enjoys spray painting from time-to-time, but his canvas is more entire sections of the city.
Q. Where do out-of-town artists stay while they’re in Greensboro.
A. Many stay with friends, an Airbnb or in a hotel. Kotis also converted a loft, which includes a gallery, on a piece of property he owns for select visiting artists. It can sleep up to six artists and contains office space for several more. There are also ventilated painting rooms in the structure, which has a total of 12,000 square feet. During COVID-19, use of this space is very limited.
Q. Who are a few of the international artists commissioned by Kotis Street Art?
A. Australian artist Matt Adnate, who paints under the name Adnate, is known across the world for his large-scale murals of indigenous peoples. He’s also extremely well-known, with more than 60,000 followers on Instagram. In 2017, Kotis Street Art commissioned Adnate to paint two murals of Lumbee Indians, one North Carolina’s indigenous peoples. Models for the paintings were Madison Davenport, a Lumbee ambassador, and Tecumseh Jones, a Lumbee and Tuscarora Indian.
Then there’s the Spanish artist Belin, who is known around the world for his post-neo-cubism-style paintings, his hyper-realistic sprays and his urban portraitures. His most high-profile work in Greensboro is the Wonder Woman installation at the Kotis-owned RED Cinemas in the Midtown section, which he painted alongside the Dutch artist DOES. DOES is renowned for his well-balanced color schemes, clean style and eye for detail. His work has roots in graffiti art, and traditional letterform is his favorite style. He painted the old Ham’s Lakeside restaurant on East Cone Boulevard.
Sipros is another artist who has painted in Greensboro courtesy of Kotis. The street artist from São Paulo, Brazil, specializes in photorealistic yet stylized portraits. He started in graffiti in 1997, where he gained a reputation for his character “Big Ears.” Sipros has painted Big Ears on Kotis-owned walls across Greensboro, including at Pig Pounder Brewery and RED Cinemas.
Q. Name another.
A. OK, that’s technically not a question, but we’re game: Dan Kitchener, who paints under the name DANK and specializes in epic-scale murals of futuristic scenes. One of Kotis Street Art’s most prominent paintings is a 80-foot by 28-foot mural on the northern wall of RED Cinemas. In October 2017, DANK turned the theater’s south-facing fall into an image of a futuristic Tokyo at night. Kotis said he wanted to pay tribute to the classic movie “Blade Runner” and the sequel, “Blade Runner 2049,” which was playing at the time. Kitchener used 1,060 cans of spray paint to complete the mural.
Q. What’s the most controversial piece of street art in the Kotis Street Art collection?
A. This one’s easy. It’s a 3-D spray-paint piece by the Greek artist Insane 51. "No Filter," which is inside Kotis's Pig Pounder Brewery + Pavilion, offers three different views of President Donald Trump. When viewed through a red filter, Trump appears. When viewed through a red filter, the viewer sees an image of Trump as a pig. When viewed with no filter, the viewer sees both images. The point is that now more than ever, we tend to view the world either one way or another, as black or white — with no room for shades of gray. Interestingly enough, Marty Kotis suggested the idea to Insane 51, something he rarely does. Kotis liked the image so much, he put it on cans of a new brew by Pig Pounder: No Filter, an imperial stout aged for 12 months in bourbon barrels.