Stephen Powers was born and raised in Philadelphia, where in 1984 as an overgrown 16 year-old, started writing the name ESPO around his neighborhood and eventually around the world. In 1999 Powers stopped writing grafﬁti and tending bar to dedicate himself to being a full-time artist. In spite of early spite his work has been shown at Venice and Liverpool Biennials, as well as numerous shows at Deitch Projects. Powers was a Fulbright scholar in 2007. He used the grant to paint in the streets of Dublin and Belfast. His work in Belfast’s Lower Shankill area was inspired by the area’s political murals; Powers told the New York Times that he was “taking the form of the murals, which are powerful for all the wrong reasons, and trying to retain some of the power and use it in a really good way.”
Building on the ﬁrst Love Letter project started in Ireland, Powers executed a mural project about the complexities and rewards of relationships titled A Love Letter for You. In Philadelphia, Stephen (call him ESPO) and his crew (call them ICY) painted more than 50 walls along the elevated train along Market Street in West Philly. The project, sponsored by a grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage through the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, and produced with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, has generated positive reviews from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Art in America The Love Letter project has now grown to more than ten cities spanning the globe from São Paulo to South Africa.
He has published 5 books including his newest publication compiling the last 6 years of global public art projects, A Love Letter to the City (Princeton Architectural Press 2014). He lives and works in New York City where he makes and sells art at his store, ESPO’s Art World in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill