CAN Triennial Dealer Guide: Cleveland Skribe Tribe (CST)
Cleveland Skribe Tribe (CST)
The influential Cleveland graffiti crew CST (Cleveland Skribe Tribe) was active around the turn of the millennium until its members followed careers to Japan, Atlanta, California, China, and Brooklyn. They reunite in Cleveland in Summer 2018 for several mural projects, including one at CAN Triennial.
Tobias France, aka Bias, joined CST after meeting SANO at a mutual friend’s graduation from the Cleveland Institute of Art. Bias continued his involvement with CST through his high school years, and later graduated from CIA, earning a BFA in industrial design before landing a career as an automotive designer at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. He lived six years in Japan doing production and conceptual design for Mazda, where his design expertise contributed to the creation of both the Nagare and Kodo design philosophies. He currently resides in Irvine, California, visioning the future for Hyundai North America. He is the designer of the Hyundai N 2025 Vision Grand Turismo concept car, which debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show last year and will make its virtual world stage debut on Sony’s PlayStation 4 this November with the release of Polyphony Digital’s GT Sport.
Naijal “DAYZ” Hawkins has been an active member of Cleveland’s art scene for more than twenty years. His skills include drawing, painting, mural painting, graphic design, and tattooing. He began painting murals at age thirteen. In 1995 he was introduced to SANO and became a member of the Cleveland Skribe Tribe (CST). Within the crew DAYZ found guidance, knowledge and brotherhood through his older peers, who inspired him and helped define those skills. He is a graduate of the Cleveland School of the Arts. DAYZ’s credits include murals in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the voting rights murals in Selma, Alabama, and countless works of street art. In 2013, he opened Red Lion Tattoo, which is located minutes from downtown Cleveland. He is one of the most sought-after tattoo artists in the Cleveland area. DAYZ has worked with teens to produce murals for Cleveland summer youth programs. He has also mentored young adults who were inspired by tattooing. Today he continues to strive for greatness through his art, shared with the public on walls around the city and through tattoos on people’s skin.
Kevin “mr. soul” Harp is a graphic artist, illustrator, and painter born to Cleveland’s Lee-Harvard neighborhood. He established his career in Atlanta’s music scene through Patchwerk Recording Studios during the late 90s and early 2000s as a graphic artist working with Interscope Records, Def Jam, and a long list of affiliated recording artists and athletes who have grown to national and international brand recognition. Childhood experiences—including the allure of fast money from drug distribution, theft, and other criminal activity—informed mr. soul’s work. But art intervened. He became a member of Cleveland’s elite graffiti crew, DEF (Doin’ Everything Funky), which later evolved into CST (Cleveland Skribe Tribe), led by the city’s acclaimed “king,” SANO. When he moved to Atlanta, mr. soul was a founding member of the art collective City of Ink, which helped to build a foundation for underserved creatives there. Today mr. soul is back in Cleveland with family and with purpose, to help create opportunities for other artists in his hometown.
Ron Sims II was born in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland, and it was there that he discovered his love for art and painting. The neighborhood was a flourishing bed of creativity. During his childhood the hip-hop movement was booming, and its presence was reflected in the colorful graffiti pieces that decorated his neighborhood. These pieces had a strong influence on his artistic development. As a teen, Ron attended the Cleveland School of Science and spent his high school years laying the creative foundation for advanced graffiti styles in the Midwest. As a member of the Cleveland Skribe Tribe he helped elevate the art form by diligently painting the underbelly of the city with complex and abstract letter forms. Ron studied fine art, sociology and cultural anthropology at Ohio Wesleyan University. After graduating in 2000, he moved back to Cleveland, where he continued to produce art and helped prepare the youth of Cleveland for an academic future. In 2004, Ron moved to Fuzhou, China, to study the language and culture. There he connected with local and international graffiti artists to continue the evolution of the art form. While in China he produced a popular podcast, Black Man in China, that satirized his experiences of culture shock. Ron currently resides in Cleveland and continues to produce art, blog and teach coding.
Cleveland native SANO (SimplArtNiceOutlinez, SunnyAndNiceOutside) began tagging in 1983 after a trip to Japan, where he saw a graffiti piece that read, “Hiphop don’t Stop.” As one of the founding members of Doin’ Everything Funky, a well-known north coast graffiti crew, he left his mark on the walls of the city. His Panik Zone piece on the Red Line was a classic favorite. After a domestically turbulent childhood that resulted in the loss of both parents, he channeled his energy into graffiti and art programs. By 1992, SANO, Task, Twig and Script would link with Bias, DAYZ and Tace to form CST/RTA crew. For Serchlite Music, he designed a logo used in the liner notes of Nas’s Illmatic album. In 1999, he became an advisor to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s hip-hop programs. He was instrumental in Cleveland’s first aerosol art festival, City Xpressions. He relocated to Los Angeles, where he worked on commercial murals, taught, and organized educational programs, classes, and summer camps. In 2011, he was part of the Art in the Streets exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. In 2014, he collaborated with Rocking The Nations crew in Scratch, an exhibition of LA graffiti art legends at ESMoA, curated by the David Brafman of Getty Research Institute, where he was highlighted in the LA Liber Amicorum (“book of friends”) which became part of the Getty rare books archive. In 2015, SANO and RTN painted acrylic murals at the California African American Museum. He was selected as part of Next Level USA’s 2018 Team Cambodia, a hip-hop diplomacy and cultural exchange program sponsored by the US State Department. His graphic design, print, and production studio is in Los Angeles.
SWIMR CST, also known as Osman Alim Muhammad was born and based in Cleveland, taking the name Task38 of the Cleveland Skribe Tribe crew. Earning his place in “The History of American Graffiti,” his indisputable talent and creativity has been exhibited on a multitude of projects and has achieved multiple creative and advisory roles with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, among other momentous endeavors. His career has led him to collaborate with In Creative Unity, out of Los Angeles, on commercial mural work. SWIM is currently living in Cleveland and Austin, Texas, where he continues to share his cultivated ingenuity by producing live aerosol art and murals, designing graphic art, and leaving his permanent mark with custom tattoo work.
Vincent Ballentine is an Ohio-born mural artist who uses spray paint to create massive portraits and landscapes. Currently residing in Brooklyn, New York, Vincent has become a mural arts instructor for underserved and incarcerated youth. As a street artist, his work can be seen across the United States and internationally. Vincent’s artistic style is bold and impactful, with influences from graphic novels, digital imaging and graffiti. All of the credit for his success is owed to his humble beginnings as an underling in the legendary CST crew. After years of riding the RTA and being inundated by the works of DAYZ, Bias, Task, and Tacer he had a chance encounter with one of the crew members. Invited by DAYZ to the home of Doin’ Everything Funky, Vincent met with SANO and began his quest to become one of them. He actualized his dream in early 2000 upon earning a degree from University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Returning to Cleveland with a newly developed set of skills, Vincent adopted the crew’s style and techniques. Years later, he has become an influence to others, as his mentors were for him.