TC graffiti artist no longer working in the dark

Aug 18, 2017

Chase Hunt loves skateboarding and longboarding. But even more than that, he loves graffiti art. He says the two go hand in hand.

“They’re kind of the same people,” he explains. “You meet a lot of graffiti artists that are skateboarders.”

When Chase Hunt was 15, he was arrested for painting graffiti on the side of a building in Traverse City. He was painting his artist name, which at the time was "Cmo."

“I think it was maybe like 3:30-4:00 a.m.,” he says. “I thought that was the best time because nobody was out.”

But someone was out. Chase says a cop pulled out from the alley and flipped his lights on him.

“I attempted to start to grab my stuff and run, but I was going nowhere,” says Chase.

 The building owner didn’t press charges, but he did make Chase paint over the graffiti the next day.

Chase Hunt grew up on a skateboard, riding through Traverse City with his friends at night. He says that’s when he began noticing something: to him, the city seemed bare.

“Fifteen years ago, nothing ... there was no art around here,” he says  “Seeing all these blank walls and being a graffiti artist … I just wanted to paint it all.”

Chase Hunt paints "hermano" on the bottom of this longboard, which is the Spanish word for "brother."
Credit Dan Wanschura

In addition to being a graffiti artist, Chase also makes skateboards and longboards in his garage in Traverse City. He’s been doing that with his dad for years. He’ll cut out the wood for the deck, run it through the planer, router the edges and then sand it down. But his favorite part of the process is painting the board when it’s done.

“Making boards is fun and all that, but I’m not the best woodworker in the world,” Chase explains. “I’m the artist, so that’s the fun part for me.”

Chase still does mural graffiti art at locations where he’s been hired. You can even buy some of his work on canvas at Brew in Traverse City. But still, some people aren’t fans of graffiti, even if it is art. Especially some art gallery owners.

“They still look at it as hoodlum art, or whatever they want to call it,” he says. “I’ve definitely had some people turn down my stuff because they don’t like it themselves. They don’t appreciate it one bit. They see the art form as pure vandalism even if it’s still on canvas. And they would rather have Bob Ross looking stuff.” 

But, Colleen Paveglio isn’t one of those people. She’s with the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority. For the past few years, they’ve hired Chase to do real-time graffiti art during Friday Night Live.

“I’ve just grown to like it a lot in the last few years,” Colleen says. “There’s a big kind of movement in Detroit of street art, which is really great. And there’s some talent here, and it was nice to expose it.”

"#DowntownTC" is a mural created by Chase Hunt. It hangs near the parking garage in Traverse City.
Credit Dan Wanschura

One of the pieces that the city had commissioned was the “#DowntownTC” mural located near the parking garage downtown.  

Colleen says that piece has become something of a gathering place for people to get their picture in front of, and then post to social media.

Tonight during Friday Night Live, Chase Hunt will be painting some butterfly wings on a large canvas background on Cass and Front Street.

And he’ll be doing it early in the night, in front of everybody.