The Kansas City Royals took a swing at hiring local artists to promote the team, and it’s turning out to be a hit.
The third of six planned “Raised Royal” murals will be completed and celebrated with a mini-block party during First Friday this week.
Donald “Scribe” Ross will finish up his “Raised Royal” painting behind Foxx Equipment, 421 Southwest Blvd., Friday, June 2, with music by DJ Joc Maxx and food from the Funnel Cake Truck.
Ross’ mural is one of three in the city commissioned so far by the Royals for this year’s marketing campaign. Alexander Austin painted one on Grand Boulevard, and Phil “Sike Style” Shafer painted another one on Southwest Boulevard.
Another will be unveiled at the stadium in July. Brad Zollars, senior director of advertising and marketing for the Royals, said they’re trying to get one in Westport and another near the Urban Youth Academy in August and September.
Artists were given only a couple of parameters: Use the Raised Royal logo and think about what that means to them.
“We kind of let them go at it from there,” Zollars said. “We hope these stay up for some years.”
Ross said his involvement happened almost by accident. He had reached out to the Royals about painting part of their logo into his “Love Kansas City” piece on the front side of Foxx Equipment, and one of the people on the email chain asked if he might be interested in this mural project.
“I said, ‘I’ve got an idea, and I’ve actually got a wall,’ ” Ross said. Foxx donated the space.
Ross is the staff artist for Children’s Mercy Hospital, and his murals cover not only the hospital’s hallways and emergency vehicles but several surfaces across the city.
Ross said he doesn’t pretend to be some kind of ultimate baseball fan. He spent some of his youth an ocean away.
“I found some photos of me wearing Chiefs shirts and Royals shirts in 1985 in Israel,” he said. “When we would come back to the States when I was a kid, we’d visit my aunt in Kansas City and we’d go out to games.”
His Royals mural features one of his big cartoon bunnies carrying a baseball bat and a Sluggerrr doll. Under the piece is the caption: “It All Starts With Their First Game.”
“When you take a kid out to their first game, that’s when they probably find out, ‘Wow, this is really long,’ ” he said, laughing. “But for some people that really turns them into fans for life.”
Shafer’s mural on a city-owned wall farther down Southwest Boulevard, however, ties in to his entire family’s lifelong relationship with the Royals.
Silhouettes of a man in a wheelchair and another man pumping his fist represent his grandfather and uncle, respectively. His grandfather coached youth baseball, and his uncle encouraged Shafer in the arts and sports. Both died in recent years.
“You’ve got to make work-for-hire into something you want to do, otherwise you’re just slaving away for the man,” Shafer said. “And being able to dedicate this to my uncle and grandfather really made it awesome for me. To see my family come out and take pictures with it meant a lot to me.”
The mural features a Royals pitcher and batter that fans of recent years will easily recognize.
“The pitcher in that mural is definitely based on Yordano Ventura, and the batter is Lorenzo Cain,” Shafer said. “I like the swing of Lorenzo Cain, he’s got that crazy lean back and he looks good doing it.”
Austin painted his mural over Shafer’s “Angry Zebra” at 12th and Grand, another city-owned wall. The piece was a representation of Shafer “and every other biracial person who has ever struggled with personal identity and where he or she fits into the world.”
That the piece was being covered up by someone Shafer knew and admired made its covering a little easier to take.
“I’ve known Alexander since high school. He showed me some mural painting techniques back in the ’90s,” Shafer said. “If it was anyone else besides Alexander Austin or Scribe, I probably would have fought harder to keep it.”
Hearing that quote from Shafer, Austin laughed.
“That’s cool, man,” he said. “Because I was on their butts about, ‘I don’t know about covering up his work. You make sure you contact him and let him know what’s going on.’ I didn’t want to cover up somebody else’s work.”
Austin just missed the 1985 World Series, arriving in KC in 1987. He’s the artist who painted the big mural of Buck O’Neil and the Monarchs on the Paseo. Soon, he’ll start work on a mural on Two Light in the Power & Light District.
He said lots of folks encouraged him to connect with the Royals for the Raised Royal murals. At first he wasn’t all that interested.
“I was just sort of burned out, and I’ve got that big project in the Power & Light District in September. That’s going to be a biggie, and I kind of wanted to just relax until that came up,” Austin said. “Then I got a call from the Royals’ agency personally, saying they wanted me involved.”
Austin said he went through a lot of different designs for his Royals mural, which is about 45 feet high.
“I wanted to do something with the tickets and ticket sales,” he said. “That was the one they liked. I just threw a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what stuck and that one did. It sort of all just jelled.”
The biggest challenge was the weather. He painted it during a wet spring, when it would rain four or five days in a row. Nonetheless, it took about 11 days of dry weather to finish, or 2 1/2 weeks total.
“It’s a whole lot of trademark secrets to get one of those done,” he said.
The Scribe Raised Royal Mural Finishing Party is from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 2, on the back side of Foxx Equipment, 421 Southwest Blvd. Music with DJ Joc Max and food from the Funnel Cake Truck will be on site.