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StoryCorps In Kansas City — Painting Murals Turns Two Artists Into Ambassadors For Their Community

Phil Shafer, aka Sike Style, and JT Daniels joined the StoryCorps Mobile Tour in Kansas City to talk about the joys and struggles of painting murals.

StoryCorps' MobileBooth came to Kansas City to collect the stories and memories of residents. This is one in a series of stories KCUR has chosen to highlight.

For muralists Phil Shafer, aka Sike Style, and JT Daniels, making bold, colorful murals throughout Kansas City is more than just painting outdoors.

"It's very contemporary and I love the movement in it," Daniels said. "I have a degree in fine art. I learned how to paint with oils, paint with acrylic, I just choose to do this." 

Credit Courtesy JT Daniels /
JT Daniels' mural at BettyRae's Ice Cream in Kansas City.

But the job has added layers of responsibility and challenge.

"You're one part ambassador for the arts, you're one part performance artist, you're a lot of things," Shafer said. "We have to remember not to be complete jerks while we're working."

It's easy for them both to stay positive when passersby have simple questions — but race sometimes plays a factor in how they're perceived. 

"I've had people come to me and it's like they think they know my lifestyle, like, 'Oh, man, you probably come from a broken home, was your dad ever home?' Daniels said. "They see my skin color and they see the fact that I'm using spray paint and put you in a really small box."

"That one spray can [throws them off]" Shafer agreed.

Credit Caleb Sommerville /
One of Phil Shafer's collaborations with Ben Watson in Kansas City's Crossroads Arts District.

Still, for both men, the work is worth it to make a difference in the community. Both of them were inspired by artists as kids and want to pass that along to others.

"We have to remember that when we're out working, we're going to maybe make an impression," Shafer said. "We create things that are intended to make an impression."

"Living in Wyandotte [County], man it's almost desolate," Daniels said. "But I lived and grew up there ... we deserve good art too, we deserve murals too. We don't just need an H&M billboard off 18th and Quindaro."

Matthew Long-Middleton is a community producer for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @MLMIndustries.

Cody Newill is an audience development specialist for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill.

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