ESPO’s Beautiful Life

How Steve Powers, aka ESPO, went from graffiti wunderkind to public art visionary.

Most people don’t begin their careers as an art icon, but Steve Powers also isn’t most people. Working under the moniker ESPO, he made a name for himself in the early 90s Philly/NYC graffiti art scenes with his bold and vivid designs, also setting off waves as the publisher of hip-hop magazine On the Go. After an initial splash of success, Powers abruptly stepped out of the limelight — relocating his studios to Coney Island to develop his talents as a painter, also offering creative sign-making services to local businesses. Crafting a unique, easy-to-recognize aesthetic, composed of highly-saturated block letterforms inflected with pop-art and Americana inspired imagery, Powers is credited with popularizing the “Coney Island” style of painting. Through his work, Powers also breathes new life into the traditional art of hand-painted advertisements; his colorful calling cards dotting Brooklyn sidewalks and storefronts.

As part of his evolving, global public art project A Love Letter for You, Powers has sought to explore “the complexities and rewards of relationships” — all the while forging his own connections with groups like Creative Time and The Dreamland Artists Club.

Photographs by Scott Newman
Text by Laura Feinstein