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Streets Dept Podcast – SN 2, EP 10: Eliminating Poverty, A Conversation with PA State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta

April 12, 2019

So honored this week to welcome Pennsylvania State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta to the podcast! Malcolm Kenyatta is a 3rd generation Philly activist (like y’all, his grandfather ran for mayor against Frank Rizzo.) And on November 6th, 2018, he became the first openly gay person of color elected to statewide office in PA.

In today’s episode, I talk with Rep. Kenyatta about the challenges of the PA State House and about his work to help eliminate poverty in the state. And as an elected Democrat, we end by exploring some of the current 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and how he thinks the Dems could take back the White House.

Check out my conversation with Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta 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 PlaySpotifyStitcher, 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!

Sneak Preview: Tiny Room for Elephants 2019

April 18, 2019

Let me be clear: Tiny Room for Elephants is hands down one of the best art things to happen in Philly in the last number of years…

Tiny Room for Elephants (TRFE) is, at its core, an incredible mix of pop-up murals from some of Philadelphia’s most talented and active artists. And this year’s exhibition, its 4th iteration since 2014, will be held at Cherry Street Pier, becoming the biggest (and arguably best) TRFE yet! Not only will there be temporary murals from dozens of Philly artists, but there will also be a couple really dynamic art installations, as well as TRFE’s first ever sticker wall.

Tiny Room for Elephants 2019
WHEN: Friday 4/19 (Opening Party 6-10pm, Tickets Required – $25 w/ open bar); Saturday 4/20 (9am-9pm, FREE); Sunday 4/21 (12-6pm, FREE)
WHERE: Cherry Street Pier, 121 North Christopher Columbus Blvd (aka we will always and forever call this Delaware Ave)

Read more…

Desiree Guinn Wheatpastes “The Future” in Queen Village

April 15, 2019

New wheatpaste from Philly-based artist Desiree Guinn at 5th and Bainbridge streets in Queen Village!

The paste depicts a family of elk dressed in people clothes with the youngest of two kids wearing a tee shirt that reads, “Gritty’s Titties,” and the older of two kids griping a Donald Trump doll and sporting a necklace that reads, “The Future.” In her Instagram post about the paste, the artist wrote: “Daddy elk and his two ladies. I like to think the doll is saying, ‘Oh no!'”

Read into it (or not) however you’d like, but one thing is for certain and that that’s Gritty’s overwhelming popularity literally everywhere else has slowly begun to be cemented as a regular Philly street art call out/trope, even in perhaps now more subtler ways like in this wheatpaste. I’m not sure why, but I find it interesting that in less than a year Gritty has gone from the central focus of a couple of street artists’ installations to now being so enveloped in Philly culture that a Gritty reference like this just lives organically in the background.

Have Y’all Spotted Tom Lincoln’s Little “Angel” Mural in Rittenhouse Square?

April 15, 2019

At the end of February, an artist tagged me in an Instagram post about their latest public work. That work was a small mural installed on what looked to be a boarded up basement window of an active Center City church. The mural’s fine detail and painterly qualities caught my eye, so I screencapped the post as a reminder to myself to go see it. And a couple of weeks ago, when I was walking around with my camera, I grabbed these photos!

Titled Angel, the mini-mural was created by artist and former appellate attorney Tom Lincoln and is located on Trinity Memorial Church at 22nd and Spruce streets in Rittenhouse Square upon the invite of its rector, Rev. Donna Maree.

I suppose it goes without saying because I’ve created this post about it, but I really like this little mural. It made me smile to see online, and it certainly didn’t disappoint to see in person.

Ps. While I do have a Call to Artists for artists who create in the public space who are interested in being featured on this blog (and in that I ask any interested artists to email me,) clearly tagging me in an Instagram photo works as well if you’d like to nudge me about your new work!

ICYMI: Isaac Tin Wei Lin’s Stunning Abstract Mural on North 7th

April 12, 2019

“ICYMI” is a newly created series aimed at documenting, archiving, and celebrating works of art around Philly’s public spaces that I didn’t catch or blog about when they were new! (Read my first ICYMI post here for a fuller explanation on why I am creating this series.)

I am just in love with mural, titled Primary Dispersion, from Philly-based artist Isaac Tin Wei Lin. Completed in October of 2018 with Mural Arts Philadelphia, the mural is located outside the former Electric Factory (now Franklin Music Hall) on 7th street between Willow and Spring Garden streets.

On his website, Isaac describes himself as an artist who, “explores the realm where representation and buzzing abstraction meet.” Awesome work as always, Isaac!

See other murals from Isaac Tin Wei Lin around Philly here and here!

Philly: Will You Help Gritty Prevent Street Harassment?

April 11, 2019

Gritty says, “Only you can prevent street harassment!”

New wheatpaste series this week from Philly-based feminist street art collective Pussy Division. Created for International Anti-Street Harassment Week, these Gritty wheatpastes are the latest in the group’s years of work to bring greater attention to street harassment around Philadelphia that goes back to their start in 2013.

Currently installed at a number of locations across Philly, the two I spotted are at 10th and Arch streets in Chinatown and on Chestnut street between 10th and 11th streets in Washington Square West. Of course, you can (and should) follow Pussy Division on Instagram to see other locations as they’re installed this week.

And if you like the work Pussy Division has created over the years, they’re now asking for your financial support to keep their efforts going. So please feel free to contribute what you can to their fundraiser here!

See pervious work by Pussy Division around Philly here!

Bridging The Gap, A Joint Statement on Dilworth Park

April 9, 2019

(Photos courtesy of Center City District)

An Introductory Note from Conrad:
What you are about to read is a jointly written blog post from Center City District President Paul Levy and myself, Streets Dept Founder Conrad Benner. As many readers of this blog have likely noticed, over the last several weeks I have very publicly objected to the selling of Starbucks coffee via new Starbucks-branded kiosk leased by Center City District in Dilworth Park. I wrote an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer about it, and I even started a petition against it that many of you signed. I did this because, as I’ve talked about many times over the eight years of running this blog, I believe that our public space is too valuable to not have regular conversations about it. And frankly this Dilworth Park situation seemed, in the grand scheme of issues in need of our attention, a relatively easy problem to fix. As I’ve learned in the last couple of weeks, however, it’s not so easy. But the opportunity has presented itself to work to address one of the fundamental reasons this happened in the first place.

I won’t sugar coat it, this kiosk is going to happen and it’s going to sell Starbucks. This became clear to me after reaching out to Paul Levy to discuss our disagreement, to understand where we agree, and to work to see what we can do about this issue. The simple fact is that breaking this contract with Starbucks now would create many legal and financial penalties, both time and money that is ultimately better spent on creating services in the park itself. Personally, of course I will not be thrilled to see that kiosk selling Starbucks, but as you’re about to read I am satisfied that Paul and I can agree to agree on a number of key issues around the future of Dilworth Park. I think anyone who joined me in signing my petition can take solace in the fact that while this kiosk will happen, that together we have worked to push for more transparency and ultimately to make sure a similar decision isn’t made in the future.

The following is a joint blog post from Center City District (CCD) President Paul Levy and Streets Dept Founder Conrad Benner:

When the original Dilworth Plaza opened in 1977, Philadelphia was losing 200,000 manufacturing jobs, population was in free fall and one of us was 30.

The first full year the new Dilworth Park was open, 2015, Philadelphia was adding jobs and population, but the poverty rate was over 25% and one of us was 30.

That same year, Philadelphia government was spending less on parks and recreation than 26 of the 30 largest cities – just $69 per person, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts (page 11). Both of us agree on the need for quality public spaces and support increased funding. We disagree on how to do that.

The Kenney Administration is now spending more, but many other needs still compete for limited public funding. Private sector resources can supplement scarce public funds, but the presence of a multinational coffee chain in our central public park offends some.

After disagreeing in virtual space, we came together for the first time last month in real space (over coffee, of course) to discuss how to bridge the gap. We agreed on several things:

  • No public space is being sold; the kiosk in Dilworth will be publicly owned, operated and staffed by a local company, licensing the right to use the Starbucks name. To break a contract after going through all approvals would create many legal and financial penalties, both time and money that we ultimately believe is better spent on creating public services in the park itself.
  • Civic spaces are special, our local business should be celebrated, and excessive corporate branding in public spaces should be avoided.
  • We should support local businesses, artists, artisans and merchants, scores of whom appear regularly at events in Dilworth Park. We can work together to attract even more local talent and better communicate future opportunities.
  • With the Starbucks lease, CCD followed its standard public outreach and the formal public approval process. However, it is clear in the wake of this controversy that we can do better, and moving forward, CCD plans to work at communicating in ways that increase transparency and inclusiveness about contemplated major, physical changes at Dilworth Park. In doing so, we are confident that we can avoid similar disagreements in the future.
  • You can make change by hiring Philadelphians to eliminate litter and help pedestrians throughout Center City and by raising funds to remake derelict space. You can celebrate the improvisational art of the streets and mobilize change through the power of social media. Working together, we can make Philadelphia an even more vibrant, collaborative, and inclusive place.

Dilworth used to be a place that relatively few Philadelphians sought out. Now it is everyone’s park, attracting 10.8 million in 2018. Office workers and toddlers enjoy the fountains, usually in different ways. Students, residents, families, tourists and shoppers, come to eat, drink, read, work or simply sit alone and watch the crowds. Everyone is welcome at free concerts, movies, events and the holiday light show. It is a sign of success that people are so passionate about the place, even if they sometimes disagree on specifics. We value that passion, and we will work together to give voice to all who love Dilworth Park.

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