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Streets Dept Podcast – SN 2, EP 13: Beating the Establishment, A Talk with Philadelphia City Councilmember-elect Jamie Gauthier

June 17, 2019

It’s the Season 2 Finale of the Streets Dept Podcast today, y’all! Where has the time gone? And I honestly couldn’t have a better guest with me to say goodbye to this particularly Philly-focused season.

Today we’ll be chatting with Councilmember-elect Jamie Gauthier! As anyone who’s paid any attention to local news or social media over the last month likely knows, Jamie was recently elected in a historic win against an establishment backed 27-year incumbent for the City Council seat of Philadelphia’s quickly gentrifying 3rd District. A rare feat in Philadelphia, where the establishment holds a lot of sway with the folks who actually vote in municipal elections.

From her childhood and growing up in West Philly to her career choices as an adult, to how she plans to work to address gentrification, the environment, and the fact that in a city that’s majority Black only 2.5% of Philadelphia’s businesses are Black-owned (a fact recently reported by Philly Magazine’s Ernest Owens,) we talk about a lot.

Check out my conversation with Councilmember-elect Jamie Gauthier below, or on any major podcast streaming platform by searching “Streets Dept Podcast”!

Be sure to subscribe to the Streets Dept Podcast on Apple Podcasts/ iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayStitcher, or any major podcast streaming platform to receive new 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. (Truly, rating and reviewing podcasts, particularly on Apple Podcasts, helps us so SO much, so thank you for doing that.)

Season 2 of the Streets Dept Podcast is brought to you by our brilliant sponsors at Temple University! Each episode is mixed and edited by our Producer Mike Mehalick and recorded at the legendary Indy Hall coworking space in Old City, Philadelphia.

JOIN ME: 2nd Saturday Philly Art Walks

March 30, 2019

Welcome to Streets Dept’s 2nd Saturday Philly Art Walk, a new kind of guided tour that aims to explore the art around Philadelphia’s public spaces one neighborhood at a time. Each month, join us for a two-hour walk around different parts of the city in search of some of Philly’s most inspiring murals, street art, independent galleries, exciting exhibitions – and more! Each tour is hosted and led by’s founder Conrad Benner.

Get your tickets for one of our next tours now at the links below…

April 13 – Center City West
May 11 – Spring Arts/ Eraserhood
June 8 – Queen Village/ South Philly
July 13 – Fishtown
September 14 – South Broad
October 12 – Gayborhood
November 9 – West Philly/ University City

Hope to see y’all soon!

Gianni Lee on Race Street

June 18, 2019

Just spotted some new Gianni Lee on Race street off 2nd street in Old City…

If you’re not familiar with Gianni Lee, he’s a visual artist, music producer, DJ, and fashion designer who’s Philly-bred and truly just a powerhouse in the international art scene right now (seriously just Google him.) For perhaps obvious reasons, he feels a bit like a 2019 Keith Haring to me, and I love that!

According to the bio on his website, “[Gianni] uses painting as a language to tell the story of a people fighting for their home and their existence. This story takes place in a distant dystopian future. His canvas and color choices are a platform for him to express inner-feelings on issues he can’t put into words. He tells stories that speak about social issues in America and abroad.”

Can someone offer Gianni a big outdoor mural in Philly, please? Thank you!

See past works by Gianni Lee around Philly here!

A Wheatpaste to Chronic Illness, Blur Puts Up A Self Portrait in Kensington

June 18, 2019

I’ve been lucky to know Blur for a while now. First as an artist I documented, now as a friend. For years she’s been creating some of the most interesting street art work in Philly, much of which I’ve blogged about. She was an artist in my To the Polls exhibition. And in 2018 we recorded her life and career thus far for our Streets Dept Oral History Project. So, when Blur texted me a couple weeks ago letting me know the locations of some new work she just put up, I ran out to shoot it as quickly as I could!

Located at Philip and Oxford streets in Kensington, when I came across the illustration/ wheatpaste photographed above I texted her immediately for more context. I was really in a bit of awe. For one, the paste itself was bigger than most of her street art work and to my memory this was the first self portrait she’s ever created. I figured there was more to this paste, and knowing Blur I thought she’d like to share. The following is what Blur sent me about the piece:

Detached is a self portrait of how it feels to struggle with my physical illnesses. Deeply personal, but relatable to nearly anyone who sees it. Chronic illness affects approximately 133 million Americans, representing more than 40% of our population. Chronic health issues are so common we are currently dealing with the largest opioid epidemic in history, and we see a lot of the ramifications here in Philadelphia, and we feel them in our homes. The mental grit it takes to manage and cope with painful symptoms also has consequences, the one I’ve felt the most has been using detachment as a coping skill. In the portrait I’ve depicted electrical outlets that land at my wrists where my hands are missing. My eyes purposely covered with two brush strokes express the choice of closing my eyes when it becomes too much. All in all, I created it to share my experience in hopes to connect with someone else who may feel the same, because I know they’re out there – and to those of you who are going through something big, you’re doing a fucking great job.”

Blur ended her email with me by adding the poem she wrote that inspired the illustration:

Stiff joints and high pain levels
I leave my body often and only return when the coast is clear
Anxiety turning me inside out while I sit here seeming calm
Unplug me please, turn off the aching in my bones
Body, let’s push through and carry our bruised weak limbs to the bathroom to brush my hair.
Look in the mirror and say it’ll be ok.
Keep taking the pills
Keep doing whatever you can too slow it all down. – Blur

At the corner of Blur’s installation above, I also caught this new sticker from her (photographed below.) This was all photographed the same day I shot the other recent work of Blur’s at Berks and Frankford in Fishtown, if you missed that, where she installed a sticker relating to her wheatpaste above.

It’s The End of An Era: The 5th and Bainbridge Freewall Is Dead; Long Live the Philly Freewall

June 16, 2019

This weekend marks the end of an era in Philadelphia, truly. The construction wall that stood for three years at the corner of 5th and Bainbridge streets in Queen Village and served as a defacto freewall space for Philly artists began to come down on Friday. Installed around a new build that seems to have stalled for a while but which is now nearing completion, that construction wall did what a lot of our city’s abandoned buildings and construction walls do: it became a space for street art. But as most street artists and street art lovers would likely attest, this wall in particular seemed to stand apart from the rest. And as it’s removed from the landscape this weekend, I propose that any of those like myself who are interested in art, artists, and the public space take a big lesson away from the years-long success of this wall.

Outdoor, free and accessible at anytime day or night, and completely un-curated, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that for the last three years the 5th and Bainbridge freewall has served as one of our city’s more interesting and experimental art spaces. If you’re not familiar with that word, “freewall” is the general term for a wall whose owner permits street artists or graffiti writers to use it. These types of permitted free spaces are as you might imagine super rare, and they can take many different forms.

In the case of 5th and Bainbridge, that permission was decidedly loose and nearly nonverbal in where the building owner and construction folks who worked on the new building would not stop any artists they saw installing. And it seems they never, or rarely, buffed the wall or called the city for the wall to be buffed either. I was even out shooting an install at 5th and Bainbridge with Joe Boruchow in July of 2016 when a team of people came out of the building, looked Joe up and down, then just asked him questions about his art before letting him finish his installation and going back to work themselves. (To be clear, I can not speak for every artist’s experience installing or trying to install at this intersection over the last three year, only what I have heard from artists and saw for myself, and generally this hands off approach was the vibe.) Read more…

New Wheatpaste from Kimi Tallant in Queen Village

June 13, 2019

In love with this new wheatpaste by Philly-based artist Kimi Tallant located at 5th and Bainbridge streets in Queen Village! (Note: literally like a day after I took these photos some movie posters went over the entire wall, so this paste is no longer there.)

Kimi is the woman behind KWT Designs, which since 2016 has been creating pins, apparel, and assorted flare available for purchase online. “KWT Designs is constantly inspired by travel, tattoos, nature, and small moments of beauty in the world, striving to make all work small pieces of wearable art,” her website reads.

And as you can tell from the photos in this post, Kimi’s recently got into wheatpasting, and I’m very excited for that considering how much I love her designs! I’m generally a fan of figurative work when it comes to street art, and when you add Kimi’s surrealist spin on the human form it just grabs my eye. Not to mention, of course, the empowering feminist undertones/ overtones of a lot of her work, which I also find super refreshing to see in the public space.

Hoping to see more from Kimi around Philly soon!

Artist Dora Cuenca Paints Her First Outdoor Mural in Northern Liberties

June 12, 2019

Love this new mural from Dora Cuenca located at 2nd and Brown streets in Northern Liberties!

“I am a Costa Rican artist,” Dora’s bio reads on her website. “My journey with motherhood and its many layers is deeply woven into my process and my art itself. I create to cultivate joy and empowerment.”

While she’s recently created a number of permanent indoor murals in the restroom area of Mission Taqueria (unrelated to the Streets Dept curated courtyard series of rotating works called Art at Mission,) this Northern Liberties mural is in fact Dora’s first outdoor mural! It was created with support from Freedom Apothecary, whose building the mural is on.

Here’s hoping we see more outdoor murals from Dora around Philly soon!

Artist Andrew Herzog Examines Empathy and Engagement with New Interactive Art Installation at Race Street Pier

June 8, 2019

Very excited to hear about this new interactive installation, titled Blue Sky or Sky Blue?, by artist Andrew Herzog that’s up now through July 8 at Race Street Pier!

I was (and still am) excited because it was curated by one of our city’s best public arts curators, Ryan Strand Greenberg. Because it was created with support from the Philadelphia Science Festival. And because it seems to me that it’s an installation that’s asking us to investigate what we choose to see in the world and to work to understand that what we choose to see informs what we choose to empathize with, which ultimately informs what we choose to take action on.

Here’s the info I got about the installation from Ryan: “Blue Sky or Sky Blue? contains four large-scale mirrored sculptures. Each mirror is elevated at a different angle to reflect the sky. The mirror’s surface contains a subset of blue dots… As viewers walk through the installation, viewing the sky from different perspectives, the structures are used as instruments of measurement. Ever changing, this public art exhibition offers an opportunity for its visitors to explore the sky changing color dynamically throughout short periods of time. Through this self guided exploration, Blue Sky or Sky Blue? reconnects its visitors with the shifting natural rhythms and dynamism of our inhabited environment.”

On its surface and in that info about the installation, it seems fairly straightforward. But after reading Andrew’s artist bio on the project’s website, it’s hard for me not to interpret this installation as having concurrent observations on our choices as constant observers and how that relates to what we choose to see and the implications that follow those decisions. That artist statement reads: “Andrew Herzog investigates the idea of prioritized sight. Valuable, yet malleable, prioritized sight is how we choose, consciously or unconsciously, the things we see; what we engage or empathize with; and what we understand or misinterpret, with varying degrees of implication.”

Maybe I’m reading into it too much. Maybe that’s what the artist and curator want. Either way, I really enjoyed checking this installation out and learning about it. What do y’all think?!

If you’re just as curious as me, you can meet the artist and curator Saturday, June 8 from 11am-3pm at the installation: more info here!

Read more…

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