Boston-born artist JB Snyder is no stranger to the creative spirit. By age 10 he was already dabbling with spray paint, but found his passion in the athletic art of rollerblading. By age 15, Snyder dedicated himself to becoming a professional skater. Traveling the United States, Snyder produced 3 films over 2 years, which were then picked up by Video Action Sports Distributing. From there, he followed an opportunity to continue his career and produce his videos in Los Angeles.
In 1998, Snyder moved across the country to begin his new life in fast-paced L.A. In addition to producing 2 more skate films, Snyder also edited and acted as a voice-over character in 52 episodes of Cosmo, a low-budget cartoon show. He met new people and made important connections in the 3 years that followed. In his spare time Synder traveled and began experimenting with other forms of artwork, ranging from second-hand acrylic paints on shopping bags to cans of Krylon on brick walls.
In 2001, Snyder escaped L.A. With the rollerblading industry in decline, the low-budget cartoon show not making any Saturday morning lineups, the traffic and an expensive city growing more pricey by the day, Snyder began to consider his options. Despite living near the ocean, having a fun job, smoking great weed on the daily and essentially “living the dream,” Snyder was fed up with the shady characters and competitive lifestyle in L.A. After seriously weighing his options, he decided to make the exodus. He packed up a U-Haul, said goodbye to the noisy, non-stop City of Sin, and traded it in for the City of Sun.
With family and friends beckoning him, the transition was an obvious one. I asked what was the most appealing aspect of coming to Phoenix. “Being able to do this right here” he replied, gesturing to his seat. “The accessibility to do what you want every day. In L.A., this ain’t happening.” Besides, he continued, “the weather is good year-round, it’s good for my health, and I like the heat.” Although Snyder continued to independently produce skate films, he sought a quieter life with less competition. He had an endless horizon of options to choose from, so when the offer to paint live at the Blunt Club came his way, he jumped at the chance.
Over the next 4 years, Snyder began to develop his colorfully contemporary style of juxtaposed geometric shapes, laden with looped line work; his work thrives in an after-party environment, rich with likeminded artists to collaborate with, and public clientele clamoring for his next piece. From there, Snyder took a more active role in the city art scene, including more collaborations, producing his own solo shows, and curating pop-up galleries such as The UM Gallery and The Quincy, where he began working with artists Quincy Ross, Zachary Dean Glover, Lalo Cota, Tato Caraveo and many more.
Snyder’s days were spent hanging out at local shops, bars and restaurants, while his evenings were filled with caps, cans, colors and collaborations in the city streets of Downtown Phoenix. As time progressed, so did Snyder’s career. His commissioned canvas work soon became commissioned mural work, and his local flavor spread beyond his tight knit neighborhood to surrounding areas, ranging from Scottsdale and the Navajo Indian Reservation to Denver and beyond. Before long, Snyder could afford a studio/gallery, The Allery, and eventually opened his own art supply shop, 5th Street Paint Supply, which carried everything a graffer could dream of.
For years, Snyder soaked up the sun and reveled in the tranquil world he created for himself. He went at his own pace and surrounded himself with a strong art community that he, in his own words, “lives and breathes for.”
Of course, we all know change is the only constant. Beginning in 2015, the gentrification bubble over Phoenix burst. With it came demolished buildings—many with murals on them—out-of-state developers, and a lot of construction. Much of the art district that Snyder spent the last 10 years of his life developing was wiped away in a flurry of jackhammers and bulldozers. Yet Snyder hasn’t given up. “I love Phoenix,” he stated. “It’s a matter of making it work as the city grows.”
Although Snyder doesn’t see himself pioneering the next Phoenix art scene, much can be learned from his passion for living locally, as well as his determination to create a colorful, thriving, healthy community everywhere he goes.