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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 StreetsDept.com’s founder Conrad Benner.

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

“2ND SAT” 2019 TOUR SCHEDULE
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!

Announcing Streets Dept Walls: A Mural Project Celebrating Philly Artists at Fashion District Philadelphia

September 10, 2019

(From top to bottom, Streets Dept Walls in-progress by artists: Symone Salib, then Nicole Nikolich)

So exited to officially announce a new project from Streets Dept: Streets Dept Walls, opening September 19, 2019 at Fashion District Philadelphia!

Streets Dept Walls is a celebration of art, our beloved city of Philadelphia, and ourselves. Featuring a collection of 10 new temporary murals by 11 Philly artists, our project works to honor Philly’s status as an arts capitol and a place for creatives. Streets Dept Walls was created by curator Conrad Benner (founder of StreetsDept.com) with support from Fashion District.

The artists creating murals for Streets Dept Walls are: Marian Bailey, Uriah Bussey, Dora Cuenca, Manuela Guillén, Tim McFarlane, A’Driane Nieves, Nicole Nikolich, Quinn Rodriguez, Symone Salib, Chad States, and Meg Wolensky!

Two things I’m particularly excited about curating this project are, first, the array of artistic practices represented here. With our 11 artists we have gallery and street artist, we have artists that work with acrylic paint, oil paint, light, yarn, and poetry. It’s an incredible collection of work from a brilliant mix of established and up-and-coming Philly artists. The second thing, that for a number of the artists apart of Streets Dept Walls this is their first mural or their largest piece of art to-date and/or their first work displayed in a public space. I find that really exciting, and I think y’all will too!

(From top to bottom, Streets Dept Walls murals by: Dora Cuenca with A’Driane Nieves’ peeking on the left, then Marian Bailey)

Philly, as far as I’m concerned, is the arts capital of the United States. We have some of the country’s best art schools, museums, and institutions. We have more public art and murals than any other city in the country. And we have an incredible community of artists living and thriving here that make it all happen. This project celebrates 11 of those artists and brings their work to one of Philadelphia’s most exciting new quasi-public spaces.

It’s undeniable, art is such a powerful tool. Art can connect us to ourselves, our communities, and our world in ways that few other things can. And art in the public space is a tool that’s well used when it reflects our humanity in all its beauty and complexity.

These are Philly artists. And these are our walls!

Streets Dept Walls will be on view on the Concourse Level of Fashion District through the end of 2019. Fashion District Philadelphia opens Thursday, September 19, 2019 and will be open 10am – 8pm Monday to Saturday and 11am – 6pm Sunday.

Be sure to follow @StreetsDeptWalls on Instagram for more details as all the murals are finished and installed over the next week!

Philly Street Art Interviews: Morg the Toilet is Keeping Sticker Art From Going Down The Drain

September 8, 2019

(Photos by Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale)

Welcome to Season 2 of 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.

In 2006, as eighth grade drew to a close, a 14-year-old kid in Philly started drawing on stickers with his best friends. The fledgling artist named himself Morg, and started drawing—what else?—a toilet. He soon found himself slapping up hundreds of stickers a week, exploring the city as he did. But as high school drew to a close and he began pursuing other interests, Morg stopped putting up as many stickers. Eventually, he stopped altogether.

 

Then, this past spring, Morg created an Instagram account and started drawing toilet stickers once again. It’s one of several times he’s found the sticker culture pulling him back in. There are many reasons he keeps returning, but chief among them is the role he sees sticker art playing in the overall health of the public art world.

Yes, the guy who draws a cartoon toilet character on Priority Mail stickers actually has a very nuanced understanding of art in the public space. Beyond his sticky origins, Morg also dabbled in graffiti, did a high school research project on Philadelphia Mural Arts, and studied sculpture in college, leaving him with a robust understanding of how art is inextricably connected to its environment. And sticker art is what kicked it all off!

When we met up for this interview, Morg started talking before I could ask him about any of this. Flush with memories of Philly’s early sticker art scene, he plunged right into stories of his heyday. So that’s where our conversation today begins—not with a question, but with Morg sharing some reflections on the early days.

Morg: In my mind, the evolution of stickers was: you start out with Bob and Toro, who basically had developed logos, like a brand. And they obviously played with it, but it was almost like a tag. Then, basically through collabs, we would all get together and draw. Those sessions of drawing were just amazing. Everyone was trying to draw better than the person [before them]. And it just kind of ratcheted up. Nose was such a spoiler, cause he would show up to those and spend an hour on one sticker. He’d just be there working, and everyone would be kind of curious about what he’s doing—and it’s like, he would have been using his finger to feather all the colors… it would be this masterpiece of a sticker! And he’d be like alright I gotta go now, and everyone would be like well I don’t want to draw on this! There’s no way I’m going to even come close to what you’ve just done! But it was that kind of spirit.

We were young—everyone else was probably in college or just out of college, and Malic, my buddy Bloopa, and I were all freshmen in high school. Which gave us such a leg up, in a certain respect because… Read more…

How Did Philadelphia Become Home to One of the World’s Best Sticker Shows? A Chat with Tmom’s Robert Perry

September 4, 2019

Tattooed Mom (TMoms or Mom’s for short) is an institution for Philly’s artist community. Not only is it truly Philly’s officially unofficial museum of street art, the bar and restaurant also host a variety of events and programing with artists from an array of practices including poetry, comedy, drag, and much more. And soon TMoms will again host its bananas successful international sticker show, Characters Welcome!

Events like Characters Welcome, the general loving and inclusive vibe that’s always on tap at Mom’s, the fact that TMoms even supports this blog’s street artist interview series, it all starts with the mind and heart of one Mr. Robert Perry. The owner of Mom’s, Robert is an absolute gift to this city, and I don’t say that lightly. He’ll go down in Philadelphia folklore for generations. There’s not a street artist in Philly who doesn’t have a Robert story. And while he’s without a doubt a pillar in this community, somehow I’ve never interviewed him before. This changes today!

Check out my chat with Robert below, we talk about the 8th annual Characters Welcome and how you can still participate, and how Tmoms has become one of the largest, longest running collaborative art experiments in Philadelphia…

Streets Dept’s Conrad Benner: As Characters Welcome turns 8, I’m curious about how it got started. What inspired the first Characters Welcome?
Tattooed Mom’s Robert Perry: Characters Welcome, our international sticker art show, was born in 2012 but its roots really go back much further to the beginning of TMoms art history. Long before it was even called “street art” the upstairs space here has always been a place for sticker artists to meet, draw, and put up work. If you look hard enough you may see decades old work by OG legendary Philly sticker artists like Bob Will Reign, Nosego, Under Water Pirates, El Toro, Ticky, Soma, Question Josh, and more on the walls. We wanted to celebrate this art that was such a vibrant part of our story so we asked Bob Will Reign and Under Water Pirates to help us spread the word to organize the first show. This was just before the explosion of Instagram so we were inviting folks by word of mouth and on Flickr and Tumblr. To honor the strong hand drawn, character based sticker culture of Philly we called it Characters Welcome, but so many different forms of sticker art are represented: hand drawn, screen printed, stenciled, collaged, stamped. The response was amazing – stickers from all over the world came pouring in. The first show was the biggest gathering ever of sticker artists in Philly and set the model as an event to meet, celebrate these little portable adhesive canvases, and raise money for local youth arts organizations. In addition to the big night time 21+ event we made sure to host a Saturday afternoon all ages edition since many of the participating artists were under 21.

 

SD: How has Characters Welcome grown over the years? Who are some of the artists that’ve participated?
RP: The show has stayed true to its original mission: to showcase the work of sticker artists from all over the world, to provide a space to celebrate that work and meet the artists behind the sticker or character. Thousands of stickers are generously donated by hundreds of artists and 100% of all sales of sticker art boards, framed stickers, sticker packs, and raffle prizes go to help support youth arts programs at our local art education heroes The Village of Arts and Humanities and Fleisher Art Memorial’s Community Partnership in the Arts.

The show has grown every year with more stickers, new artists, and exciting new work that pushes the boundaries of art on a piece of paper with a sticky back. We’ve added new elements to the mix of visuals: mini photo prints of the history of sticker art at Mom’s, full floor to ceiling sticker wall installs, a Characters Welcome Hall of Fame with a selection of boards from all the previous years, and some new special edition boards (custom built by our NY sticker art friend City Kitty) that we’re excited to share this year.

We’ve been so fortunate to have been able to include the work of so many sticker artists in the show over the years. From legendary sticker icons like Robots Will Kill, Stikman, RXSkulls, Hiss, Sleep Is Famous, and countless others to the very rich and deeply diverse community of Philly sticker artists, Characters Welcome really is an international sampler of sticker art. Read more…

Anthony Bourdain Gets A Little Street Art Tribute in Fishtown

August 26, 2019

New installation this week honoring the late Anthony Bourdain by artist Jes (aka @JesPaints) at Front and Oxford streets in Fishtown.

Really love this piece and others by Jes, excited to learn more about this artist!

“End the Abatement” Street Art Installations Pop Up in Philly Neighborhoods

August 26, 2019

Over the last week or so, at least two street art installations popped up in two Philly neighborhoods calling for the end of Philadelphia’s 10-year Tax Abatement. The first, photographed above, a sign installation on Frankford avenue at Belgrade street in Fishtown. The second, photographed below, a wheatpaste at 22nd street and Washington avenue on the border of Graduate Hospital and Grays Ferry. Both read “End the Abatement” in the same font, so it’s safe to assume these were created by the same artist. The wheatpase adds the line of text: “Fund Our Public Schools.”

The Abatement, if you’re unfamiliar, is an increasingly unpopular Philly law enacted in the year 2000 that provides a tax exemption for all new construction for 10 years. It’s a super blunt tool that was created at a time when Philadelphia’s population had been decreasing for decades, and City Hall created it to incentivize development. The Abatement offers the same tax break to those building glass towers in Center City and those building single family homes and everything in between. Nearly two decades later, most people are asking for the Abatement to come to an end altogether or at the very least for it to be refined.

How unpopular is the Abatement today? So unpopular that most of the At-large Philadelphia City Council candidates that ran for election in 2019 ran opposing it. In fact, sitting City Council Member, Helen Gym, who won her primary reelection by one of the largest margins in recent local political history, just retweeted the 22nd and Washington “End the Abatement” wheatpaste last night before this post even when up.

At the core of the issue is the idea of fairness, and the reality that Philadelphians need the wealthy and better off to pay their fair share. It’s hard for many, including myself, to square away the fact that people with means can buy a $600,000 new construction home and then not pay taxes on it for a decade. That’s a decade’s worth of tax money that could go to our public schools, public transit, parks and recreation centers, and generally go to support the neighborhood that they just moved in to. It feels widely unfair, because well it is unfair. And it needs to change now.

The 2000 law was a bandaid that should have been redressed a long time ago. It may have been useful to kickstart some new development, but one quick walk through almost any Philly neighborhood today will well enough assure you that the boom has boomed and is booming like any boom has ever boomed before.

A lot has changed since the year 2000, Philly’s 10-year Tax Abatement for new construction should too.

P.s. If you’re the artist who created these pieces and you’d like credit, please hit me up

Artist Jason Andrew Turner Creates Mural with Lutheran Settlement House to the Women Who Helped Build Fishtown

August 20, 2019

UPDATE (8/21): A few people on social media were asking why a woman artist wasn’t hired for this mural, so to offer as much info as possible I just want to add at the top of this post that the artist (Jason Andrew Turner) was hired to paint a mural portrait on that wall and he chose the idea/concept. To put that another way, it’s not that the idea was created, and then an artist was hired to execute that idea. The idea came from the artist. Hope that clears things up for people wondering!

Artist Jason Andrew Turner honors the past, present, and future women of Fishtown’s Lutheran Settlement House with gigantic new mural, titled Persistence, created with Mural Arts Philadelphia and located on Frankford avenue at Master street!

“Persistence​ is an imagined portrait by artist Jason Andrew Turner that was created in collaboration with women at the Lutheran Settlement House (LSH) in 2019,” project curator Ryan Strand Greenberg explained over email. “The portrait does not portray an existing person in the present, but rather one deeply inspired by the oral history of long-time community members and the history of LSH. In 1902, LSH was started by women in service to women and families through social, advocacy, and educational services.”

“The portrait does not depict an existing individual but rather one that is inspired by the community of the neighborhood and the history that gave it light,” Jason chatted with me about his new mural over text. “The figure is central to the wall, looking over her shoulder to engage with the past and moving forward to embrace the future. Her expression is firm and hopeful; she has helped build this community with dignity and determination. As the neighborhood grows and evolves, it is important to acknowledge what came before and to carry the rich history of our past forward.”

Read more…

Pure Nonsense: Philadelphia Museum of Art Announces Record-breaking Fundraising, Then Ends Free Admission for College Students

August 18, 2019

Over the last several weeks, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) has made news with two strikingly different announcements. On August 7, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the PMA had announced a record-breaking fundraising campaign to support big changes coming to the museum. Then on August 14, Billy Penn reported that the PMA was ending its 40-year policy of allowing local college art students into the museum for free. These opposing announcements make me wonder, who exactly is the museum changing for?

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is currently in the midst of some big transformations. So far they’ve raised more than $455 million to pay for those physical and program changes. It’s awesome that the PMA has the connections and support to fund these sorts of exciting updates. It’s a great thing for the museum and the city. I only wish they took that same spirit of fundraising to inspire their donors to support programs that create greater access to the museum.

Honestly, I’m not sure how anyone at the PMA could have taken a look at the world right now and seen, for example, the majority of the top-polling Presidential candidates talking about the undue financial burdens on students and then thought that it’d be a good idea to add to those burdens by eliminating a program they’ve had for 40 years. And frankly, I’m surprised there’s not been more pushback, but I suppose that may come when school is back in.

As the Billy Penn article sites, many students rely on this policy because their courses require museum visits. And at least one student only found out about the change when she went to the museum for a visit. That’s because the announcement of the policy change came out at the beginning of the summer when most students are away. The PMA goes on to explain their thinking in that article, which you can read in full here, but it just seems like a lame excuse to me. And the fact that they buried the announcement in the summer shows me they know it’s a lame excuse too. In short: too many students needed or wanted to use the program, so instead of finding ways to expand it they’re eliminating it.

It deserves to be noted that, at least for now, the museum will still allow grade school students from the local area in for free.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will be changing a lot over the next few years, I just hope those changes work to bring more Philadelphians into the museum, not create more barriers for entry.

I am rooting for you, PMA. We are all rooting for you. Please, do better!

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