Steven Adams mural links New Zealand artist ‘Mr. G’ to OKC
By Erik Home
Wearing a Thunder blue Steven Adams jersey, Graham Hoete crouched down with a can of spray paint in each hand. He handed one to a 7-year-old Piedmont boy and his 5-year-old brother, then posed in front of his masterpiece.
As the sun bore down on hundreds of Thunder fans on Sheridan Avenue, Hoete granted their every photo request. Smiles. Thumbs up. Serious faces with sunglasses. Arms crossed. You couldn't tell the New Zealander was running on about six hours of sleep in three days.
A small sacrifice for such a large endeavor. The 37-year-old Kiwi invited Oklahomans to The Paramount in downtown Oklahoma City to see his finished work —a massive spray-painted mural of Adams that'll loom over the Film Row district for years to come.
“I'm just really stoked how the whole thing's come up, just naturally fallen into place,” said Hoete, who's become world famous for his graphic art.
“I'd love to spend a whole month so I can really do all the fine details and tweaking, but I only had a limited time frame here so I kinda had to do it to a point to where I was happy, but also work efficiently.”
Thursday morning, Hoete hopped on a 5:30 a.m. flight to Minneapolis to spray-paint a tribute to the late Prince. Due to the time zone difference between Oklahoma and his home base of Sydney, Australia (Sydney is roughly 15 hours ahead), Hoete's sleep schedule was off for the duration of his stay in OKC. A spotlight was turned on at The Paramount building at 701 W. Sheridan so he could work after sundown.
Between phone calls from his wife and New Zealand media requests, Hoete had little time to rest.
“I always try to respectfully cater to those interviews and stuff,” he said. “At the end of the day that's where my heart is. New Zealand is home for me.”
It's also home to Adams, the burgeoning Thunder center who became a national sensation this season with his affable personality, memorable quotes and standout postseason play. Adams is why Hoete felt he had to stop in Oklahoma before moving on to projects in Minneapolis and Louisville.
Last year, John White, a personal trainer and amateur rugby player in Oklahoma City, was contacted by a group of New Zealand rugby players via Facebook. Some of them were relatives of Adams. One was the brother of Hoete. A relationship was forged when the group visited OKC.
In the last month, White was contacted again. Could he help Hoete find a wall in OKC somewhere close to Chesapeake Energy Arena?
One of White's clients he trained, Mark Falk, just happened to be a part-owner of The Paramount. Falk said the owners' decision to have Adams on their wall was an easy one.
“We said ‘absolutely,'” Falk said. “Took us two minutes to make that decision.
“We really hope this kind of anchors this west side of downtown.”
As he went to spray black paint over his Facebook tag on the wall, Hoete's arms glistened with sweat, another day done in the early stages of Oklahoma's summer. From Sunday night on, Hoete worked tirelessly, wrapping up the intimidating mural of Adams on Tuesday. All the while, the city showered him with love as if he played alongside his fellow Kiwi.
As he spray-painted fans' shirts with his signature “Mr. G,” Hoete received offers for dinner and drinks. Hoete gathered all the attendees for a group photo as a drone flew overhead. Chants of “Mr. G, OKC” broke out in the parking lot.
Hoete said there are a lot of similarities between the people of Oklahoma and New Zealand.
“I like to try to feel people's hearts and the people of Oklahoma are down to earth, no pretense,” Hoete said. “They just keep it real.
“I naturally connect with people like this. Very down to earth, very hospitable, very kind.”