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Streets Dept Podcast – SN 2, EP 6: Fighting for Fairness, A Conversation with City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart

February 5, 2019

The city of Philadelphia’s newly elected City Controller, Rebecca Rhynhart has spent her first year in office working to make our city government more transparent and accountable, auditing Philly’s 10-year tax abatement, uncovering unfair property tax assessments, and advocating for better sexual harassment prevention policies and procedures.

Today, we chat with Rebecca about the role of a City Controller as a crucial check and balance to government. We talk about her historic election. And we hear what she’s discovered so far and what her office plans to investigate this year. This is an incredibly insightful conversation with someone who’s working hard to create more equity and fairness in our local government, and I truly feel so lucky to have had Rebecca as a guest! Whether you’re from Philly or not, you’ve got to give this one a full listen, it’s so illuminating to hear first-hand how city governments work and can work better.

Check out my conversation with Rebecca Rhynhart 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/ iTunesGoogle Play, 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 and Lyft! Each episode is mixed and edited by our Producer Mike Mehalick and recorded at the legendary Indy Hall coworking space in Old City, Philadelphia.

“No Thank You, Have A Nice Life!” by Inphltrate

February 14, 2019

Love this little wheatpaste from Inphltrate found on Front street between Girard avenue and Thompson street in Fishtown!

“Surround yourself with only people
who are going to lift you higher.”
Oprah Winfrey

When I spotted Inphltrate’s wheatpaste the other day, it immediately reminded me of the famous Oprah quote above. Which then reminded me of Abbi Jacobson‘s character on Broad City and her obsession with Oprah as a near God-like figure. Which then made me think about God and if God exists for like a split second before I quickly started thinking about what a profound impact Oprah has had on the elder Millennial generation. Which then made me wonder, When did Oprah even leave ABC to create her own network, because maybe her impact was on ALL Millennials? Which I then Googled and found out. It was May 25, 2011.

The point of this story is that brains are funny and streams of consciousness can be easily jumpstarted by what we see and experience. It’s one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about thinking about what’s in our public space, so much so that I work on projects that encourage conversations around the topic. It’s also why, as Oprah affirms, it’s good to surround yourself with as many of the most supportive people as you can and do your best to leave the rest.

Thank you Oprah, thank you Inphltrate! Now please excuse me as I YouTube old clips of Oprah’s show to seek further wisdom and to further avoid folding my laundry.

Read my past interview with Inphltrate here, and see past work from the artist here!

Transforming SEPTA’s Walnut-Locust Station Into An Underground Art Gallery: Announcing #TrackTakeover

February 12, 2019

So excited to announce today that our 2018 Trashcan Takeover initiative has evolved this year into Track Takeover, transforming SEPTA’s Walnut-Locust Station into a temporary underground art gallery by replacing all 110 advertising spaces with artwork from 30 Philadelphia artists!

The brainchild of Brendan Lowry (of @Peopledelphia fame) via his creative consultancy, Rory Creative, with funding and support again this year from the folks at City Fitness, I’m pumped to join the project for a second year as well as Media Partner.

Aside from the fact that we get to support and elevate the work of local artists in a big way, my favorite thing about these takeovers is that they invite a citywide conversation. Both #TrashcanTakeover and now #TrackTakeover ask us to think about the value of our pubic space. It asks us to think about what we see and experience as we move through our city, and what we want to see. I think of it as an exercise in civic awareness and empowerment!

The 30 final artists were curated by Rory from an applicant pool of 506 after Peopledelphia and I shared a “Call For Artists” on our Instagrams in December.

Here’s the full list of the incredible artists participating in Track Takeover: Aaron Ricketts, Morgan Smith, Loveis WiseSean 9 Lugo, Margo Hurst, Dewey Saunders, Gianni Lee, Zach!, Ali Williams, Marisa Velázquez-Rivas, Darren T. Burton, Nikki Volpicelli, Lisa Conn, Tony Trov and Johnny Zito, Jordan Moss, Mabel Luu, Jordan Plain, Rachel Joy Victor, Bij Lincs, Blur, Saeed Ferguson, Allegra Yvonne Gia, Marcus Branch, Nero, Kim Lincon, Renitent, Ryan Evans, Nick Massarelli, Oh Gee Woh Gee, and Glossblack! Read more…

Joe Boruchow Installs New Piece Criticizing the Union League on South Broad

February 10, 2019

A new installation tonight from Joe Boruchow holds a light up to the Union League of Philadelphia. Titled, The Union League of Philadelphia, 2019, the piece has been installed over a bus shelter ad at Broad and Spruce streets on the Avenue of the Arts.

So, pretty much every time I walk by the Union League building I get a little eye roll-y. The Union League is easily one of our city’s most prominent, outward displays of generational wealth and privilege. The building is always flanked by what looks to be some of Philly’s most affluent citizens. Even the few times I’ve gone to see the Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day and walked down South Broad street, I’ve always took notice that you can walk for blocks and blocks and blocks passing countless people bundled up and generally dressed (if they’re not a Mummer themselves) in “regular” clothes like jeans, sweatpants, sweaters, winter coats, and the such; but when you walk by the Union League you’d see their stairs neatly packed with suits and tuxes holding cocktails and champagne glasses. It just makes me cringe! I remember the first Mummers Parade I walked by this display I literally felt like I was one of Leonardo Dicaprio’s (aka Jack Dawson) friends on the Titanic headed to steerage walking by First Class. And it’s, of course, much more than the looks of it. Whenever a national Republican candidate comes to Philly to raise money, they head straight to the Union League. Mike Pence’s 2018 visit is probably the latest example of that. The Union League has always felt to me like a gross building full of systemically rich people looking to protect their generational money from, I guess, being taxed fairly.

Needless to say, when brilliant Philly street artist, Joe Boruchow, texted me tonight that he had just installed a piece about the Union League and that he installed it within eyesight of the Union League, I was excited to go photograph it! This type of installation, if you’re not familiar, is typically called an “ad takeover,” and you can read much more about how it got started and see other Philly artists who’ve done them over the years by clicking here.

To explain more about the inspiration and thought behind his Union League installation, Joe emailed me the following:

“I first started thinking about this piece in the early days of the Trump Administration, when I participated in a bunch of marches and rallies protesting the president and his administration when they visited Philly. When marching, we would almost always pass the grand, Second Empire, the Union League of Philadelphia. Practically no one noticed that there on the balconies and in the windows, chomping on cigars and derisively smirking, were the objects of our outrage delighted by the spectacle of their vanquished subjects passing before them unaware.”

“So, my fellow irate Philadelphians, the titans of industry, polluters, and tax shirkers that make specious claims to be of the party of Lincoln but are really the party of Trump, birtherism, and white male supremacy – they have a club. Right downtown. At Broad and Sansom… Their motto in latin is ‘Amor Patriae Ducit’ or ‘Love of Country Leads,’ but I changed it to Amor Pecunia Ducit – Love of Money Leads.”

If you like Joe’s work and want to show your support, he’s created a limited run of zip-up hoodies with this Union League design. You can purchase those on his Big Cartel here! Joe will be donating $5 from each sweatshirt purchase to Emerge America, a program that helps elect democratic women. Love it, Joe!

See more of Joe Boruchow’s work around Philly here!

Philly Street Art Interviews: A Conversation with Punk Artist Low Level

February 6, 2019

(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.

This month, I set out to interview Low Level, a street artist best known for his plywood installations featuring punk rock lyrics. But what emerged from our meeting was less of an interview and more of a free-flowing conversation. Low Level kept throwing questions back at me, and both of us kept interjecting. Rather than editing the hell out of our conversation to force it into an interview format, I decided to preserve our back and forth. I try to make all of my interviews conversational, but this one really took it to a whole new… level.

Read on to hear Low Level’s thoughts on what punk means, why graffiti writers deserve respect, and how to travel in style.

Streets Dept: First off, what does the name Low Level mean?
Low Level: When I first started making t-shirts, probably about 15 years ago, just spray-painting stuff, I called myself Subterranean Culture. It was very short-lived, and not really a thing. So Low Level was just kind of a progression of that name, for me to take my art more serious and get into more things. I don’t love the name, but I’ve been using it for art for so long that there’s no turning back now. I could use my real name for a lot of my earlier art stuff, but maybe 3 or 4 years ago, I decided to go full force and just use an art name.

SD: Yeah, it can be intimidating and overwhelming to try to rebrand something that’s been around for so long. I just rebranded my own freelance business, and it was, like, an effort!
LL: Yeah. And I also have a zine called Low Level.

SD: Oh! Tell me about that!
LL: I’ve been doing the zine sporadically probably for about 6 or 7 years. It’s copy machine cut-and-paste, with lots of writing, and it’s similar to some of the art that I do for the paste-up stuff, but that’s more just for the cover art. It’s mostly just full of writing.

SD: Your writing, or other people’s?
LL: I write all of it. Which I’d like to get back into more. You gotta commit a huge amount of time to making a zine, just to gather so much information to put in there. That’s the hard part.

SD: How can someone get their hands on that? How do you distribute it?
LL: Haha, I don’t really distribute it. I don’t have it available online. I’ll have it at pop-up shops, or just bring them and leave them places. Like a lot of my art, I’ll make stuff and leave it at shows or at bars. Like pin packs—I’ll make three or four of a very limited edition-type thing and just leave it somewhere.

SD: So people should keep their eyes out!
LL: Yeah, you just gotta be in the right place at the right time.

SD: That’s how it is for street art in general lots of times!
LL: Yeah.

SD: So I think your spray-painted wooden coffins that you screw onto to telephone poles are surely your most iconic work. Can you tell me about that series? Do you agree that it’s your most iconic?
LL: I agree that it’s my most iconic, and that’s like the only reason I still do them. That’s what people recognize. I first started doing them as… like, a plea to get an ex-girlfriend back. It was like six or seven years ago—I made ten or twelve of the same coffin and hung them all up around South Philly, hoping that someone would see.  Read more…

Philly is About to Get A Big New Neon Mural, “Electric Philadelphia”

February 4, 2019

(Mural mock-ups courtesy of David Guinn/Mural Arts Philadelphia)

Last week I noticed these two Instagram posts from Philly-based artist David Guinn that showed a much larger, several-storied version of his Electric Street mural co-created with fellow artist Drew Billiau. The Electric Street mural, you might remember, was created in South Philly in the summer of 2016 and quickly caught the attention of Philadelphians and people around the world alike. Seriously, the installation was written about by dozens and dozens of national and international news outlets and blogs, which you can imagine is pretty rare for a single mural in Philly or elsewhere.

When I noticed that David and Drew were creating a massive version of their collaborative work in Toronto, Canada, and not in Philly, I got a little bummed. Pumped for the artists, of course, who are getting paid and getting to do big things! But bummed that, it seemed, Philly couldn’t or didn’t find the funding or will to scale this amazing idea the way another city could. Then I got a direct message. The message was from Visit Philly’Britney Norman, who reminded me that I was actually invited to a press conference a few months ago that announced such a project upcoming in Philly. (Thank you for the reminder, Britney!) And while I do remember that I couldn’t go to that press conference, I’m surprised I didn’t quickly hear more about the project afterwards, considering just how incredible it’s going to be.

Ok, enough pretext for why I’m only talking about this now, but I imagine many of y’all didn’t hear about it either, so I wanted to write a post on it. Better late than never, right…

Titled Electric Philadelphia, David Guinn and Drew Billiau’s next neon mural is slated to be complete by the summer of 2019 in Philadelphia’s Historic District. In total, the artwork will be 8,500-square-foot and sit adjacent to Franklin Square, filling the 6th Street Bridge underpass that’s under the Ben Franklin Bridge. Like Electric Street, it will be painted with bold color in addition to being lit so that the mural illuminates day and night.

Read more…

“Who Change the World?” New Wheatpaste Series by Amberella

February 4, 2019

“Who change the world? Girls!”

New wheatpaste by Amberella found on Chestnut street between 10th and 11th streets in Center City… This looks to be apart of a new series for the artist, so keep your eyes out!

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