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History Lesson: Philadelphia (Not New York,) the Birthplace of Street Art

August 1, 2012

I’ve been asked many times, “Why did you create a blog that focuses solely on the street art scene in Philadelphia?” And every time I answer I seem to surprise at least a few people. I think I’m expected to reply that it’s because Philly has a lot of young, driven artists, which it does. Or that Philly has a lot of abandoned or dilapidated spaces (read: canvasses) in otherwise vibrant neighborhoods, and it has that too. But the best reason Philly deserves to have its own blog devoted to documenting and discussing street art — aside from the fact that we have a ton of it — and the reason I always mention first when asked that question, is that Philadelphia is, in fact, the birthplace of street art! That’s right, not New York, not L.A., not London — Philadelphia is were it all began. And it began with the now famous writing on the wall: Cornbread.

“Cornbread,” the tag of one Mr. Darryl McCray, a Philadelphia native and the so-called Godfather of Graffiti, was, in fact, the world’s very first graffiti artist. While graffiti wasn’t really talked about and recognized on a larger scale until the 80s (and by then it was typically associated with New York artists,) it did, in fact, start here, in the City of Brotherly Love, in 1967 when Cornbread began tagging his name across the city, building a name for himself, and igniting the now world-wide phenomenon for guerrilla self-promotion/expression.

While Cornbread started to get talked about locally after his tags began popping up around the city, he became more internationally known after writing his name on an elephant at the Philadelphia Zoo and on the side of the Jackson 5’s private jet.

So there you have it… One more thing to be proud of Philadelphia!! Good on you.

Interesting side note: One of the houses I documented in my Apartment Complex series had a Cornbread tag in it…

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How fucking awesome is that!?!

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 1, 2012 4:01 pm

    Hey Who knew? Not me! Thanks! Philly First are the best!

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