Get cute

Street artist Stay Cute is on a one-man urban-beautification project. But the Boston Police Department hasn't gotten the memo.
By P. NICK CURRAN  |  January 22, 2010

 

Who says art isn't risky?

Not 10 minutes into his first stickering run of the afternoon — and my first time observing the street artist Stay Cute as he slaps his charming creations on most every open surface along Comm Ave — we spot two police officers and four squad cars waiting near the BU Bridge. Either someone is staging a full-on bank heist or the cops are massively upset about the last mile worth of stickers.

Turns out it's the latter.

Stay Cute is a local street artist who, for obvious reasons, will in this piece remain anonymous. His homemade stickers have spread like an epidemic across Boston, and are featured prominently along the lamp posts and street signs of Allston and Brookline and, to a lesser degree, Cambridge and downtown. His signature creatures are rotund and adorably misshapen, their exaggerated doe eyes rife with innocent wonder. They fight over cupcakes and vomit streams of bright, confectionary syrups. Some have wings, a torso, and not much else, while others sport tentacles and perch atop the heads of their brethren. They have no back-story, no authentic claim to life.

"If someone gets a laugh from one of my stickers," says the artist, "then I've done my job."

Besides the majority of Boston's neighborhoods, Stay Cute's monsters also liberally pepper both coasts. He's originally from Texas, spent four years in Florida, and dabbled in California, Virginia, and Washington, DC, before making his way north. At times, he worked as a hairdresser (he once managed a salon), at other times as an art-store cashier. Now he lives off his art through commissions and gallery shows, as well as the occasional kindness of a friend with a spare couch.

"I've been here about five months," he says. "I make Allston cute."

Stay Cute describes his style's origin as twofold: 1) an affront to the evils of uninspired street art and, perhaps more important, 2) an attempt to get a totally cute girl.

"There's a girl in Orlando I liked who lived next to a huge electrical box," he recalls. "I drew a white, puffy monster with balloons across the box and at the other end a girl monster. In between I asked her out. So I kinda just stuck with monsters."

Covert ops
My first day with Stay Cute begins with a 20-minute visit to a local supplies store. He and fellow artist Iansanity, of Allston, make use of sticker paper and copy machines to produce 700 collaborative peel-as-you-go stickers. In their eyes, it's an appropriate count for the evening's intended activities. As it turns out, though, not everyone shares the artists' enthusiasm for the pervasion of mutated woodland creatures on city property.

His ill-fated first run of this night, which lasts a half-hour from first peel to last slap, ends with a warning from the police, a mug shot from a camera phone, and, for me, 20 minutes of anxious waiting while an officer takes Stay Cute aside for questioning. The cop caught Stay Cute with his stickers, but in the spirit of the holidays let him off with a warning.

"They threatened me with a felony offense," he says. "Now I have to change my characters and my tag. But it's not going to stop me."

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