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The Streets Dept Podcast Launches Today, A Talk with R. Eric Thomas

October 10, 2017

Today I’m launching something I’ve been working towards for the last five months, and something I’ve been wanting to do for the last two years. (Yes, I might literally be crying tears of joy right now.)

SO excited to launch the Streets Dept Podcast today! What is the Streets Dept Podcast? Great question, silent reader! The Streets Dept Podcast is a bi-monthly (that’s twice a month) interview podcast. I’ll be interviewing artists and creatives from around the world. From street artists to poets, activists to politicians, small business owners to community organizers. The podcast will feature one-on-one, 30-minute-ish interviews with the creative minds who are shaping the world around us.

And who better to launch the podcast with than R. Eric Thomas! R. Eric is a Senior Staff Writer for where he writes Eric Reads the News, which has quickly become an online humor staple with over a million social media shares. Since its inception, R. Eric’s column has been praised by such disparate personalities as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mariah Carey, Maxine Waters, Tamron Hall, and Tituss Burgess.

For this premier episode of the Streets Dept Podcast, R. Eric sits down with me to talk about his burgeoning career, his faith, what he’s missing most from the Obama presidency, and the possibility of spending an eternity in heaven with Cher:

Be sure to subscribe to the Streets Dept Podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud, or Google Play to receive episodes as soon as they’re published, and please feel free to rate and write a review of the podcast on those platforms to help others find it. (It really, REALLY helps when y’all rate and review, so it’d mean the world to me if you could do that!)

Season One of the Streets Dept Podcast is brought to you by our sponsors at The Navy Yard and Indy Hall! Each episode is mixed and edited by our Producer Mike Mehalick.

(The art in the recording studio we’re using, which you can see in the photo above, is a collab by Sean Martorana and Saul Rosenbaum.)

Art Imitates Life: It’s Tuesday!

October 17, 2017

Not sure who’s doing all these “Tuesday” tags around Philly (I’ve seen them mostly in/around Fishtown and Kensington,) but whenever I see one on a Tuesday I usually can’t help but smile a little. Like, somehow, the tag’s been waiting for me all week.

Brava, Tuesday! We meet again.

Tyree Guyton Creates a Monument to Hope and Empowerment in the Heart of Philadelphia’s Opioid Epidemic

October 17, 2017

At the heart of Philadelphia’s opioid epidemic in Kensington lives a new monument to hope and empowerment created by legendary Detroit artist Tyree Guyton of the famed Heidelberg Project. Tyree’s project, titled THE TIMES, is in fact a “prototype monument” and one of 20 such artist-created installations around Philly right now apart of Monument Lab. As a member of the Monument Lab Curatorial Team, I was lucky to sit down with Tyree in Kensington last week, talk with him about his new project, and record a short video interview that you can watch at the end of this post.

“What time is it? It’s now. It’s now to live. It’s now to find yourself. It’s now!” Tyree proclaimed when we met. Adding, “I think that this is the time to tap into your reality and to realize your greatness.”

And that’s what his prototype monument is all about. THE TIMES is a collaborative installation envisioned by Tyree Guyton along with the Mural Arts’ Porch Light program, Impact Services, and other locally invested civic partners. Together, they have updated the traditional clock tower with a massive mural of caricature-style timepieces on a former factory at A street and Indiana avenue in the Kensington neighborhood. It’s a powerful testament to recovery and resilience in the face of adversity.

The following is from Tyree’s Artist Statement: “Throughout my career, I have explored the concept of time from a visual perspective by playing with clocks. Caricature in style, these clocks often have no hands, or the numbers are traveling backwards, or are mixed up, or the clocks have no numbers at all. My goal is to help people explore how time factors into our lives and how it sometimes hinders our ability to progress, or accelerates our anxiety of not being productive at all. Both are centered on the illusion of time, to do and not do. Plato said, Time is the moving image of reality. What this means to me is that everything we do revolves around time and yet…the only time that we ever really have is the very moment we are in. My challenge with this project is to help people to appreciate the present time. A time to act, think, be and do, HERE and NOW. Yesterday lives only in our mind and tomorrow is not promised. I believe that we must make the most of time and the time to do that is NOW.”

Monument Lab is a citywide public art and history exhibition, produced in partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia, that’s asking the question, “What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?” Everyone in, or visiting, Philly is invited to add their response to that question at any one of 10 Monument Lab laboratories around the city. And the 20 artists invited to create work for Monument Lab are answering that question with their prototype monuments. While this question of the role of monuments and public art may seem new to some, many have questioned it before including Monument Lab’s lead curators Paul M. Farber and Ken Lum, who have been building Monument Lab for the last five years.

Unlike most of Monument Lab 2017 exhibition prototype monuments, Tyree’s is one of a handful that is now, due to their overwhelming popularity, sparking calls for it to be left permanently. Or, I suppose in the case of Tyree’s specifically, left as long as the building it’s on is still unused. Time will tell if his or any of the Monument Lab monuments are kept indefinitely. The rest will be deinstalled when the exhibition comes to an end on November 19th.

Read more…

7 Can’t-Miss Films of the 26th Philadelphia Film Festival

October 16, 2017

(Still from Faces Places, photo courtesy of Cohen Media Group)

It’s nearly time for the 26th Philadelphia Film Festival (October 19-29,) and today I’m excited to tell you that I’ll be partnering with the Philadelphia Film Society to share with y’all my seven can’t-miss selections of the festival and to host a panel discussion related to one of my picks!

One of the things I love about this festival, and something I honestly didn’t know until I met with the a couple of the organizers, is that there are many films that are screened for free. And as a blog concerned with the accessibility of art, I’m not sure how it’s never occurred to me to promote more films that are offered for free. Is this something y’all might be interested in seeing more of?

While not all of my selections are offered for free, those that are, I’m told, go quickly so if you’re interested get your tickets asap!

Now, in no particular order, here’s my seven can’t-miss picks of the 26th Philadelphia Film Festival:

1) Faces Places
“Although generations apart, it is readily apparent that Faces Places co-directors Agnès Varda, 89, and street artist JR, 34, are kindred spirits who share a love for the world and each other. The pint-sized, fashionably coiffed French New Wave director and ultra-hip young artist take to the road in a specially outfitted mobile photo truck, creating larger-than-life street murals.” -Philadelphia Film Society
TICKETS ($15): 10/22 at 12:15pm, 10/23 at 6:20pm

And, if you get tickets to the Monday, October 23rd showing at 6:20pm, you’re invited to join me for a short Talkback Panel Discussion after the screening with two Philly-area creators of art in the public space (to be announced shortly!) Read more…

Abandoned Pay Phones Around Philly Get A Little Makeover

October 13, 2017

Absolutely in LOVE with these abandoned pay phone murals by ljanet around Philadelphia!

The artist who painted these little murals did so while she was visiting Philly from Chicago a couple of months ago, so it’s unlikely we’ll see any more pop up anytime soon from her. Nevertheless, you can check out her Instagram here to see the handful of locations she put these up in Philly, including 9th and Locust streets (photographed above) and 15th and Sansom streets (photographed below!)

Read more…

Modern Trail Tour: Exploring Philly in 10 Stops

October 10, 2017


Y’all, as I announced last week, I’m so excited to be partnering with Timberland to highlight their green cities initiative, which will see Timberland matching the retail floor space of their stores in five different cities over five years with the creation or restoration of an equivalent amount of green space. They started this last year working with community members to transform a park in New York City’s South Bronx. This year, they’re in Philly working with the soon-to-be-open Rail Park on a similar restoration effort.

To celebrate this partnership, today I’ve created a Modern Trail Tour that explores a few of my favorite things to do and see in Philly on a walk from what will be the Rail Park to Timberland’s Rittenhouse Square store!

Stop 1: The Rail Park
The Rail Park, which will have an entrance at 13th and Noble street, is slated to open in just a few months. The park will transform a section of abandoned elevated rail that I and many others have explored countless times in Philly into a dynamic and fully accessible new green space for all Philadelphians to enjoy! Can hardly wait to see this space open.

Stop 2: Cafe Lift
Cafe Lift, on 13th street between Noble and Hamilton streets, is easily one of my favorite brunch spots in the city! Perfect for some coffee and eggs before a day of exploration.

Stop 3: Isaac Tin Wei Lin’s Mural
Isaac Tin Wei Lin’s mural at Juniper and Race streets at the edge of Chinatown is just a stunning half-block piece from the Philly-based artist. And, it’s not a bad selfie mural, if you’re looking for a new profile picture. Read more…

Philly Honors the Experiences of Our City’s Young Dreamers, Refugees, and Immigrants with Brilliant Installation in Center City

October 8, 2017

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram Stories, you likely saw my posts on those platforms about this incredible installation last month, but alas I’ve been a bit backed preparing to launch my podcast that I just finished editing these photos for the blog. Luckily, this installation is up for the next two months, so you’ll have plenty of time to see it, if you’re just hearing about it now!

In early Septmeber, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture installed large banners all around the Municipal Services Building in Thomas Paine Plaza (at 15th street and JFK boulevard) that explore and honor the immigrant experiences of many young Philadelphians. The public art installation, titled An Immigrant Alphabet, features the work of artist Wendy Ewald (photographed above) in collaboration with Northeast High School students, and it will remain up through December 2017!

Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture is a Philly-based organization dedicated to presenting and teaching Arab culture through the arts and language. Wendy Ewald is an internationally renowned photographer who has collaborated for over forty years in art projects with youth and adults worldwide — from South Africa, India, Morocco, Palestine, Israel, Holland, Mexico, and Colombia, to numerous cities and rural communities within America. Wendy’s known for her documentary investigations of places and communities, probing questions of identity and cultural differences.

Their installation was created during the spring of 2017, when 18 Northeast High School students reflected on their immigrant experience through a collaboration with Wendy Ewald. The students chose words to represent letters of the alphabet that gave insight into the complexities of immigration in America, then they worked with Wendy to create photographs in the school courtyard.

Wendy and Al-Bustan worked with students from Northeast High School because it’s the largest and most ethnically diverse public school in Philadelphia where 59 languages are spoken! This school not only reflects the rapidly changing community of the Northeast, but is often referred to as a “microcosm” of Philadelphia’s growing diversity.

The An Immigrant Alphabet installation also comes with a series of free participatory events, including weekly Arabic classes, that go on through December 2017. Be sure to learn more about those events here!

Below, explore more photos of the installation, and hear from the artist herself, as well as from Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture’s Founder and Executive Director Hazami Sayed, in a short video:

Read more…

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