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NSFW: Philly Street Artist Installs A Jarring Portrait of Harvey Weinstein, One Year After the News of His Abuse Ignited #MeToo

October 17, 2018

Damn, this is a lot…

A gigantic, 8 foot wheatpaste of a nude Harvey Weinstein that depicts his penis severed has just popped up at Hope street and Cecil B. Moore avenue on the boarder of Fishtown and Kensington today.

It was one year ago this month that The New York Times and The New Yorker reported the accounts of dozens of women accusing Harvey Weinstein of rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse. That report, as we all know, worked to ignite the #MeToo Movement. I do not know who the artist of this wheatpaste is, but I have to assume that that date is at least part of the reason why this piece was created and installed now.

I found out about the installation via a text from a friend this morning, who told me that she saw it on her walk to work, mentioning how disturbing it was to run into. It lead us into a conversation thinking about the artist’s intent as well as how it will be interpreted by passersby, particularly those who’ve experienced assault and/or sexual harassment.

It is, of course, a jarring image. The scale is impressive, I rarely see wheatpastes in Philly larger than human scale. And it’s well done, the face is a spitting image of Harvey Weinstein. Clearly it’s been created by talented hands… I’m not sure, however, how I personally feel about it depicting violence, or about depicting an abuser, and having that in a space where people can’t choose to see it or not. But, I’m only one person, I’d be really curious to hear what y’all think of this installation in the comments.

If you’re the artist, I’d love to hear more for your intent with this piece, if you’d like to share please feel free to email me.

Read more…

Normalizing Vulnerability: A Streets Dept Oral History with Philadelphia Street Artist Blur

October 13, 2018

Post by Streets Dept Contributor, Phillip Reid, photos by Conrad Benner

Welcome to the Streets Dept Oral History Projecta new 20-part series created by Streets Dept’s first-ever intern, Phillip Reid. Over the course of this series we will be collecting and sharing the stories of a mix of 20 street artists, graffiti writers, muralists, and public arts leaders all working to shape and create the art in Philadelphia’s public spaces. Read more about this new temporary series in our announcement post here.

Read more interviews from the Streets Dept Oral History Project here.


Through her uplifting series of stickers and wheatpastes that combine striking visual art and emotionally forceful poetics, Blur has forged intimate connections with countless Philadelphia strangers and online fans. Recognizing that people experience daily silencing and oppression due to a variety of social prejudices and systemic inequities, she hopes to create unifying artwork that addresses each of our individual needs to be seen and heard. On a personal level, her creativity speaks of her struggles to be vulnerable in an emotionally-suppressed U.S. culture. As a form of social activism grounded in her experience as a woman living with a slew of chronic illnesses, her art resists sexism and the stigmatization of chronically-ill people by a society that frequently fails to acknowledge their limitless potential.

I lost the control I had with my body, and because of that I wanted to have some sort of control over my environment. And that was making the stickers and just peeling it off and sticking it on something, just that whole process. Every single time I put work up, I felt like I was regaining some sort of control of my life.

I grew up in New York, and then moved with my family to Pennsylvania, right outside of Philly. My older brother, in like 2008, he moved into the city and went to Temple. I would go down to visit him often and at the time he was really into Philly murals and he even worked for the Mural Arts Program doing mural tours, so he was a big influencer in my creative path towards street art. I had already been an artist my whole life, but that was my first experience seeing the murals and loving how you didn’t really even have to go to a museum to experience the culture of Philly and art.

I personally didn’t live in the city until I transferred to Temple in 2015. I’ve been sick since I was 16 years old, and so when I was 20 I moved into the city. I was going to Community College for a while, and at that point I was doing IV antibiotics every single day, I had a Port-a-cath in my chest and was self-administering all this stuff and it wasn’t working. I was in and out of the hospital all the time, so I pulled myself off of all of it. I thought, This doesn’t make any sense, why am I not getting any better? This is all making me more sick, I don’t get it. *Laughs* I definitely leaned into denial pretty heavily at that time, was just like, Uh, I don’t want to do treatment anymore. I’ll just do my best to try to live with all these symptoms, I’m gonna move out, go to school, and hope for the best. And if I’m really positive, it’ll all work itself out. So that’s exactly what I did, and it blew up in my face. *Laughs*

But before it blew up in my face, I was just doin’ my thing over the summer before classes started. I’d walk around Philly, soaking in my new independence, and I’d see all of these stickers all over the place and I would stop and read almost every single one of them. I loved how the sticker art would kinda take me out of my own bubble. I would read them and it would completely change my day. I got really interested in remembering the sticker artists names and seeing the same artists in so many different parts of the city. I’m a total romantic about Philly street art. Like, I just think it’s so amazing that you just put something as simple as a “Hello My Name Is” sticker on something, and walk away, and that sticker can be read by 5 people, by 20 people, and you can connect with each person. It’s, like, unbelievably romantic to me.

It was that fall that I got very, very sick. I had a couple seizures that brought on this slew of neurological issues, and I developed Cervical Dystonia, which affected my speech because of all the painful spasming of my neck muscles. Ironically that time is now kind of a blur *Laughs* And it’s also a blur now as to why I even thought of going and getting a packet of labels and started to draw and write on them. But it just kinda happened, and I loved the idea of, oh –’cause I couldn’t speak at the time – of just expressing how I felt, and have been feeling, for a really long time, and put them on a pole, a mailbox, and walked away from them. Feeling less heavy. I really only started documenting it on like Instagram because it was another way for me to write more and share more along with each photo that I took. It was all done for like myself, I didn’t really think about anyone else in the beginning of it. Like I just wanted to get some of the heaviness off of me and continue to share, it was so therapeutic. Read more…

My National Coming Out Day Story

October 12, 2018

(Mural by YOMI for To the Polls)

I knew I was gay at 14. Like many queer kids I chose not to gamble with getting kicked out of my house or having my parents hate me/try to change me, and I kept this huge part of who I was a secret from my family. My mom was quite literally my best friend growing up, so this hurt me a lot.

I started by telling a few friends first, and they all took the news well. While I got called faggot a few times in high school and even just walking down the street, I knew my friends were there for me.

I didn’t come out to my mom until I was 17, and when I did it was at 11:35pm on a Thursday (I remember) and I was shaking through the whole conversation. It’s impossible to explain this experience to people who’ve not gone through similar things. You know you’re killing the version of yourself that your parent has created for you. And you know they will always see you differently, if they accept you at all. I got lucky, unlike a lot of queer kids my mom responded with nothing but love, but I still begged her not to tell my brother or dad and she respected my wishes.

I came out to my brother a few years later and my dad not until I was 26. I wish I had told them both sooner though, because they’ve both shown nothing but love about who I am.

I get that some straight people roll their eyes at days like today, National Coming Out Day, and God knows I wish we didn’t live in a world where people just assumed your sexuality (or gender for that matter,) but that’s the world we live in… We come out to claim our power. We come out to bring those we love closer to us. And we come out to hopefully make it easier on the next generation.

I’m so fucking proud to be gay. I so proud of our history and our future. Growing up different, growing up gay, made me the creative person I am today, and I’m so freaking happy that that’s how I was made!

Conrad Benner, Founder and Editor of Streets Dept

International Artists Install Gigantic Inflatable Sculpture at The Navy Yard

October 8, 2018

(Photo above by Conrad Benner, photos below courtesy of Group X)

Freaking LOVE this!

This weekend I got a press release from an “anonymous group of local artists, curators, and organizers,” who are calling themselves Group X, giving me the heads up about this incredible new temporary inflatable installation at the Navy Yard! I was able to run down there quickly Sunday night to get the photo you see above, the rest of the photos below and all the information came from that press release…

Titled Sea Monsters HERE, the installation that’s just popped up at the Navy Yard was created by world-renowned artists Filthy Luker and Pedro Estrellas. Curated and organized by Group X and commissioned by the Navy Yard, this project is the first collaborative partnership between Group X and the Navy Yard, but the way their press release reads it seems we should expect more from them in the future.

Installed over the last week and completed just yesterday (Sunday, October 7,) the sculpture is not only the first time Filthy Luker and Pedro Estrellas have installed on the East Coast of the U.S., but it’s also the largest inflatable tentacle sculpture they’ve ever created and installed anywhere in the world!

Located at the Navy Yard’s Building 611 at the intersection of 13th street and Flagship avenue, Sea Monsters HERE will remain on view from the street (the inside of the building is an active warehouse) for six weeks, starting today through Friday, November 16.

Ironically, or I suppose not, today, October 8, is International Octopus Day!

Read more…

Philly Street Art Interviews: The Aftermath of 2016 and the Birth of Hope Hummingbird

October 2, 2018

(Photos by Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale)

Welcome to Streets Dept’s newest series of street artist interviews, created in partnership with Philadelphia’s own unofficial official street art museum, Tattooed Mom. Each month, Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale will sit down with one local street artist to ask them about their work. Together, we’ll learn more about the incredible artists getting up around Philly.

Hope Hummingbird didn’t set out to become a ceramic street artist. She just felt a personal connection to hummingbirds and decided to put a few on some porcelain tiles. But when she started hanging her tiles on the streets of Philly shortly after the 2016 election as a way to personally spread some hope, people began to take notice. So she kept it up!

I recently sat down with Hope to discuss her work, her message, and of course, the Kitty Shrine.

Streets Dept: You had been working in ceramics before starting to put your work on the street, correct? What caused you to make that leap?
Hope Hummingbird: Yes. Everything going on in the world was just getting really depressing and I was feeling really overwhelmed. I had a personal connection with seeing a hummingbird at the most perfect time ever, and it kind of gave me this moment of hope and snapped me out of a negative state. And I thought to myself, Wow, if that could happen to other people, that would be great. I never considered being a street artist, I just thought I was going to put these hummingbirds out, but you can’t work in a vacuum. And people started to notice and wonder who was putting them out. When I first started, the Hope Hummingbird had to do with this specific tile – it wasn’t my name. It became my name just out of that. I wasn’t going to go beyond the hummingbirds. It just kept evolving and changing and I got more into it.

SD: If you were to choose a different name now, what would it be?
HH: I thought I was going to use the name Phina, but I don’t know that I would choose it now. I don’t think my work matches the name. I signed a couple test tiles with Phina in the beginning and then decided I didn’t want to reference the artist. I only wanted to reference the theme. Funny how it all turned out. Now I am Hope.

SD: Are you comfortable sharing the experience you had with the hummingbird?
HH: I try not to share the story and this is why: I want everybody to have their experience attached to it. And I’m afraid once I tell the story, it takes away their experience. Once you have the bias of my story, then you see it through my lens. That’s one of the reasons I don’t want people to know me. I don’t want my personality or who I am to influence the way they experience the work. Read more…

Believe Us: Philly Street Artist Pays Tribute to Christine Blasey Ford and Anita Hill

October 1, 2018

New wheatpaste today by newer Philly street artist Symone Salib paying tribute to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Anita Hill, located at Broad and Wharton streets in South Philly!

In her Instagram post about this new installation, Symone comments: “In the words of Sara Erdmann, ‘I will never understand why is it more shameful to be raped than to be a rapist.'”

Sneak Preview: “To the Polls”, A Philly Mural Exhibition to Excite Voters Opening Wednesday

September 25, 2018

So thrilled to offer y’all a behind-the-scenes look at To the Polls, an exhibition I’ve curated and organized with my amazing partners/funders at Mural Arts Philadelphia. Featuring the work of 10 Philadelphia artists, the exhibition aims to excite the electorate, encouraging civic engagement in order to counter historically low voter turnout for midterm elections!

The 10 artists participating in #ToThePolls are:

Loveis Wise
Wit López
Willis “Nomo” Humphrey
Nilé Livingston
Marisa Velázquez-Rivas
Joe Boruchow
Alloyius Mcilwaine

JOIN US for the Exhibition Opening:
WHEN: Wednesday, September 26th from 5-8pm
WHERE: 448 N. 10th Street in Spring Arts 
No tickets or RSVP necessary, event is FREE!

Here’s a few of the artists’ statements to hopefully get you even more excited to come out on Wednesday night:

“This is a political statement. A call to rouse. A spiritual expression. Not just lines and blocks of colors that were conceptualized, sketched, vectored, printed, and painted. It’s a visual utterance of the persistent battles and achievements the Latino community has experienced since before the Mexican–American War. In this message there is camaraderie, community, and leadership—it is a plea to realize the weight of our voices and fight the good fight. We are here and we belong.” –Marisa Velázquez-Rivas

“We’re coming to a point in our history where a major paradigm shift could occur. During this shift, the momentum could swing towards growth, understanding, and prosperity…or we could fall down the rabbit hole. The midterm elections could change the face of American politics…so it’s incredibly important to let our voices be heard! My piece uses energy and historical benchmarks in American voting to show why voting is so important.” –Alloyius Mcilwaine

“The urgency is clear. Without true mass engagement our democracy will not survive. This election and every other, vote. Vote to protect your children. Vote to sweep away the rubbish. Vote to preserve your mental and physical health.” –Joe Boruchow

Read more…

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