The chaos created by an unexpected building collapse that sent Jason Harrington’s East Crossroads apartment crumbling to the pavement below ultimately made room for an even larger canvas, said the famed graffiti artist also known as Rif Raf Giraffe.
In 2018, the building now home to King G — a neighborhood bar and deli — partially collapsed during the early stages of its rehabilitation for the incoming business. Harrington and his wife, Ami, were displaced from their apartment as a result.
“It changed our lives. At first it was a nightmare, but it led to our current lifestyle of being nomadic. So, definitely a silver lining after the initial chaos,” said Harrington, describing the fallout from the event — and the opportunity it created when King G owner Eric Flanagan would later rebuild the structure and its prominent arts district facade.
“It definitely gave it a larger billboard, the old storefront wouldn’t have worked,” said Harrington, commenting on the building’s new look and composition. He and his wife once again live at the corner, now above King G.
Click here to read more about Flanagan’s journey to open King G in 2021.
The space would prove not only a resilient home for the duo, but the perfect spot for Rif Raf Giraffe’s latest high-profile mural: King Me.
The artist upstairs
Harrington is no stranger to the downtown art scene. He moved to the budding Crossroads area in 2013 shortly after graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago. As his art career really started to take off, he knew that it was the right place to put down some roots.
The nomadic lifestyle that followed their apartment’s collapse in 2018 opened a door to experiment, with Harrington eventually launching SpraySeeLA in early 2021, an expansion of the local mural festival, SpraySeeMO.
Click here to read more about Harrington’s work as Rif Raf Giraffe and with SpraySeeMo.
The couple balances each other out through such projects, they said. Working on the “King Me” mural was no different, added Ami.
“I always learn so much from him,” she said of Harrington. “I love being able to work alongside him.”
Sebastian Coolidge, local muralist, was initially slated to do both a mural inside the bar, as well as the corner facade. However, amid construction and scheduling conflicts, Flanagan had to pivot quickly.
When searching for someone to execute his vision effectively, he looked no further than the artist upstairs.
“I knew I didn’t want another king mural, but I still wanted it to be cohesive with the aesthetic and colors of the deli. Not a lot of people in town can do that,” said Flanagan.
When approached by the bar and deli owner, Harrington was initially hesitant to accept the project, he said, but he was up for the challenge.
All signs point to King Me
The mural not only tested the artist, but challenges restaurant industry norms for signage, said Flanagan.
“You hear a lot in the industry about needing a lot of signage. Why put up a sign when you can have it blend in with the neighborhood?” he said. “The mural is the signage.”
The opportunity for creativity is a key advantage of the restaurant’s location, Flanagan added.
“Our building backs up to Art Alley. I think pieces like this are important to bring people in,” he said.
The vibrant colors of the King Me mural grab patrons’ attention, luring them into the calm, moody scene on the space inside.
Harrington is big on full circle moments, he said.
After living in the building for eight years and being displaced numerous times, he’s excited to make a more permanent mark on the structure’s history.
“It’s just something different. I really like to have art for art’s sake. I hope to inspire the next generation of people,” said Harrington.
“I hope this can be a starting off point for other artists,” Flanagan added.