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Join Us for An Artist Talk with #ArtAtMission’s First Exhibiting Artist, Calo Rosa

July 19, 2018

Join us for an afternoon chat between Art at Mission‘s first exhibiting artist, Calo Rosa, and curator Conrad Benner (aka me)!

WHEN: Saturday, August 11 from 2-4pm
WHEREMission Taqueria (1516 Sansom Street, 2nd Floor)

We’ll have some small snacks available, you can grab a marg (or two!) – and we’ll hear from Calo about his life and career, including his mural work around Philly and his stunning new four-paneled mural, titled “Tropicalizada,” that’s currently installed in the outdoor courtyard at Mission Taqueria.

Calo will also have prints and a few small works on paper available for purchase! Read more…

Rebel Propaganda and Deep Doodles by a Wild Pessimist: A Streets Dept Oral History with Marisa Velázquez-Rivas, Philadelphia Street Artist On the Rise

July 15, 2018

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

Welcome to the Streets Dept Oral History Projecta new 20-week 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.


Since she began wheatpasting a few months ago, Marisa Velázquez-Rivas has been turning heads on the streets and social media with her bold, uplifting artwork. Her pastes bring an array of important voices to the public space, shining a light on immigrants, queer communities, and women who stand in resistance of hate during the Trump era. Marisa’s narrative focuses on her multinational upbringing, her strong family, and the role that those influences have played in shaping her as a person and creator. She also delves into the more intimate side of her creative practice, how she doodles as a way to capture memories and cope with the stresses of her day-to-day.

It’s kind of cool what happens when talented people stay after graduating and work their asses off in local agencies before running off. We’re doing this city a disservice by leaving immediately after graduating. So I stuck around.

I was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Venezuela. Spent 8 years or so in each country. Caracas felt like New York to me, y’know? Huge, colorful, stocked full of art in every block—Puerto Rico doesn’t fall behind either. Street art down there is insane. Both Venezuela and Puerto Rico were very huge influences for me. So many great artists—Jesus Soto, Gerardo Fernandez, Alexis Diaz. Art was unavoidable throughout my upbringing.

I lived through a coup in Venezuela that changed my life—our daily activities revolved around protests, uncertainty, violence. Going to school was a gamble sometimes. A lot of anti-govt street propaganda during that time became a huge influence for me. Learned the importance of voting back then. A lot of people I know have fled Venezuela—I’d say “moved”, but it doesn’t seem like it was a choice for many. It’s a dictatorship down there. Food became scarce, violence increased, you can feel the anger and desperation in the atmosphere. I was raised in a beautiful, thriving place that became a nightmare for many in just a few years after Chavez came to power.

I first lived in Blue Ridge, Georgia when I moved to the US. It’s a few hours away from Atlanta, a bit in the boonies, where people say “Git R Done”, call toilets “commodes” and use other terms I had to look up at first but learned very quickly by how frequently they’re used. I was not allowed to speak Spanish at my boarding school and was asked multiple times if we lived in teepees down in Venezuela. I came out (quietly) as queer and had my first real relationship with a woman down there—so despite all its ignorant fucked up shit, it’s an important place for me. I haven’t lived outside a major city since. Read more…

New WRDSMTH Wheatpastes in West Philly

July 12, 2018

(Photos by Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale)

New wheatpastes around Philly this week by LA-based artist WRDSMTH!

A big fan of Philly, WRDSMTH has been putting up work around the city for many years. In fact, I first photographed him installing around town way back in 2014! (You can see photos from that visit here.) This time around, Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale joined WRDSMTH as he installed namely around West Philly.

The locations to all of the new WRDSMTH wheatpastes featured in this post (in the order they’re posted) are as follows: 54th street and Montgomery avenue, 52nd street and Larchwood avenue, 49th and Catharine streets, 53rd and Warren streets, Fairhill and Kater streets (behind Tattooed Mom!)

Much more below…

Read more…

Curating Art, Curating Life: A Streets Dept Oral History with Philadelphia Street Artist and Muralist NDA

July 3, 2018

(NDA mural inside Honeygrow Headquaters, 2016)

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

Welcome to the Streets Dept Oral History Projecta new 20-week 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.


NDA began doing street art with his friends when he was living and working at a print shop in New York City in his mid-twenties. One of his best friends and primary mentors — the Reno, Nevada based muralist and street artist Over/Under — taught him the tricks of the trade and and encouraged him to pursue a career in public art.

I went to school when I was 19 for animation. I thought I wanted to be a 2-D, hand drawn, classical animator, and then I realized that was too much work and just didn’t do it. But I think as a kid I just always drew comics and stuff like that. Afterwards I went to Brooklyn College to finish up a BFA. But honestly my best training was my friend who got me into muralism. He would just show me how to do things with street art, show me how to do murals and we would work on stuff together. His name’s Erik Burke, but he goes by “Over/Under”. He’s great. And he has skill sets that I don’t have, so I watch him and it’s like watching an alien do something. But we have similar tie-overs in our work, so he was able to help me just by my watching him paint. I’m always jealous of people that have left and right brain. ‘Cause I’m 100% right, I feel like, and technical stuff is a struggle for me. And he just sees it, on both ends, and can also be adaptive and creatively fluid, as well as understanding scale with actually using math *laughs* So, he’s a bit of a wunderkind type. He was a good teacher to have.

When I met Erik I was working at a print shop in SoHo, and his girlfriend at the time was working with me in the press. I can’t remember how we got into talking about art, but she was like, “My boyfriend’s an artist and I think you guys would get along.” Then we were talking about doing some project together, and I think at first I was like, “I don’t know about this guy.” And then we started hanging out and it was just, like, very easy, y’know? And then I think he realized that I could probably do this thing, and pushed me towards it, ‘cause it was not ever something that I had thought about in terms of a context for myself. I didn’t know anything about street art at all. Like I moved to New York, I didn’t know who Banksy was or, like, any of it. Y’know what I mean? And I still don’t, really, I’m a little oblivious *laughs* Like I keep blinders on a little bit. But at that time it was a whole thing that I had never even considered or put much thought into at all, like what it is or how to do it or any of that.

(NDA ‘Ad Takeover‘ at 22nd and Chestnut streets, 2015)

When I was starting out, a lot of it was just fun, drunk nights of just painting at my buddy’s house and then going to put that stuff up. And I’d never really thought of myself as being—I wasn’t into street art, I had no understanding of it when I first started. It was like this weird thing that I fell into. And then once it started happening, I started realizing that working in a large scale, in public work, opened me up socially and creatively. Art for me, before public art, was always a thing that was done in my studio or a room by myself, and then eventually when there was an end product, I might show it to people and I might not. And then public art just opened me up in this way where now I’m totally fine with showing work to people as it’s happening, I’m not self-conscious about it. It’s given me this confidence that I didn’t have before, and it’s been able to link the thing that I feel is my main skill set in life with social stuff, because I’ve gone and travelled and been able to paint murals while I’m working. Really, overall, it’s been one of the more positive things that’s happened to me as an artist.

(NDA wheatpaste at Leithgow street and South street, 2016)

NDA’s creative practice is the most vital part of his strategy for managing depression. For him, the accessible and egalitarian nature of creating in the public space helps to forge meaningful bonds between people and opens up channels for creative expression that larger sectors of society can benefit from. Read more…

Join Me for July’s ‘2nd Saturday Street Art Tour’

July 3, 2018

Excited to announce that for this month’s 2nd Saturday Street Art Tour on July 14 we’ll be checking out the street art, murals, and much more of Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood!

Learn more and get your tickets now – here!

Mural in the featured photo by artists Dietrich Adonis, Carlos Vasquez, and Glenn Hill.

Enchanting New Wheatpastes Hope to Add A Bit of Magic to Philly’s Streets

July 1, 2018

New wheatepastes around Philadelphia hope to bring the concept of ‘animism’ to our urban environment.

A continuation of his his work from 2016, the installations are by Philly-based artist, Doug Nox (aka Harleqvin.)

The definition of animism, by the way, if you’re like myself and weren’t sure, is: 1) The attribution of a soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena. 2) The belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe.

I reached out to the artist over email to learn more:

“Each piece in the series is my representation of different spirits connected to what I think of as quintessential aspects of Philly…or at least the aspects that I think have the most…character? Vacant lots, abandoned factories, the rivers, and the space between high things.”

“I hope that people get some enchantment out of them…a little bit of magic from the old world resurfacing in the concrete jungle. In one sense they’re intimately connected to the land and it’s history, and in another sense they exist in one’s imagination, and hopefully stir things up there.” Read more…

Interviews with Street Artists: Hunting for the Purrfect Canvas with Sixteen Cats

July 1, 2018

Post/interview and photos by Streets Dept Contributor, Eric Dale.

Stickers are popular among street artists because they’re inexpensive to obtain, easy to write or draw on, and inconspicuous to put up. If you want to get your work or your name out on the street, stickers are probably the fastest way to do so. But some artists are redefining the medium by creating their stickers in more labor-intensive ways.

​​​​​​​​​​Sixteen Cats, new to the Philly sticker scene, is one of them. She’s using her X-Acto knife to slice out a cat-shaped niche for herself: stickers made from actual painted canvas! I met up with Sixteen Cats for a chat as she searched a South Philly thrift store for new canvases to cut up.

Streets Dept’s Eric Dale: Hey, Sixteen Cats! Thanks for doing this interview!
Sixteen Cats: Yeah, of course!

SD: I have to say, it’s always a treat to spot one of your cat stickers around the city. When did you start making them?
SC: I started in August 2017, but I’ve collected terrible paintings for years now. I had too many of them, and I kept trying to figure out what to do with them, and came up with this concept.

SD: Can you walk us through your process?
SC: Yeah! Basically, I like to collect the canvases that are made at those paint and sip nights. They normally have a lot of color on them, and they weren’t made by someone who put their heart and soul into them, so I don’t have to feel bad about ripping them up. They’re normally pretty bad, which I love. Sometimes I’ll even get two of the same series, which is really exciting because the cats end up similar but still very different. Read more…

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