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Manufacturing Intent: Building Streets Dept as A Purpose Driven Blog

November 2, 2016

conrad-benner-photo-by-pano-k-2

So thrilled to announce that I’ll be partnering with 3M this week taking over their Instagram Stories to explore the 2016 Net Impact Conference (Nov 3-5) in Philadelphia. 3M works to improve lives through purpose-driven business. And today, in a bit of a celebration of working with 3M, I’d like to invite y’all behind-the-lens and into my thought process on the purpose of this blog.

From its beginning I’ve been clear about the focus of Streets Dept: to discover and celebrate art on the streets of Philadelphia. And over the last five years as the blog has grown in audience so has its purpose. Like art itself, blogs and social media are powerful tools for effecting change. And using these tools meaningfully to create a positive impact has been an ever-important goal of mine.

Art has the power to change things — especially art that’s in the public space, free and accessible to all. Art has the power to prompt people. The power to inspire people. And the power, ultimately, to change the world.  

Since I was a kid growing up in Fishtown, I have always been interested in street art and the effect it has on me. In a neighborhood that many at the time avoided, the constantly rotating array of stickers, wheatpastes, murals – and more – were exciting and needed reminders to me that things can change. That my environment is more fluid than it can seem sometimes. And that at the end of the day I do have control over what’s around me.

When I originally started this blog it was simply to call attention to the art and artists that inspired me, but today it’s turned into much more. Once I hit 10k followers on Instagram I started to feel a greater sense of purpose, that I should use the soap box I’ve built for myself to call attention to issues and to try and create change. That started in January of 2014 with a successful online petition, called #SEPTA247, which pushed the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) to reintroduce overnight weekend service to Philadelphia’s elevated and subway trains. And since then it’s involved projects like Next Stop: Democracy, a campaign which hires local artists to create eye-catching “Vote Here/Aqui” signage for polling locations around Philly to help increase voter turnout. And #AmICutOut, a pop-up art installation I created with Covenant House Pennsylvania to help raise awareness and money to end youth homelessness in Philadelphia.

From clever ads created to convince you to purchase something to colorful murals created to elevate your mood, the butterfly effect is real and what we view affects our behaviors and state-of-mind. With this blog and my social media channels I hope to push that butterfly effect in the direction of positive change. To change the world, and my city, for the better. Because when art is everywhere – whether on your walk to work or in your Instagram feed – the mundane doesn’t stand a chance. And when people’s minds are excited, there’s no telling how much good can come from it.

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