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Philadelphia’s Top 10 Street Art Moments of 2017

December 20, 2017

(Collaborative Mouth Series by Blur and Yuienglingblingbling)

Welcome to Streets Dept’s annual wrap-up of all the most talked about, engaging work created by street artists around Philly this year!

This year, like last year, there was so much great street art work as well as murals and public art installations that I’ve decided yet again to create two separate ‘Top 10’ lists. So if you’re reading this be sure to also check out the Philadelphia’s Top 10 Public Art Moments of 2017 list!

And if you’re asking what’s the difference between street art, murals, and public art: murals and public art are commissioned, legal forms of art in the public space. And street art is not commissioned (aka illegal) but it’s usually (or at least often) either done on buildings/walls that are abandoned or on construction walls. And sometimes street art is even done in temporary ways that are completely non-destructive, like most yarnbombing for example.

This list and its order were primarily decided by you and your engagement with artists’ and artworks’ related posts on and Streets Dept’s social media channels (aka clicks, likes, comments, and shares,) with just a pinch of curation from me. So without further ado, here’s Philadelphia’s Top 10 Street Art Moments of 2017

10) #UnbrokenByBars Wheatpaste Series Addressed the Effects of Mass Incarceration on Mothers and Their Children

This spring, a new wheatpaste series appeared in Kensington. Titled #UnbrokenByBars, the series addressed the effects of mass incarceration on mothers and their children, creating works of art from the messages that previously incarcerated mothers of color shared with their children during their incarceration. As the project’s website goes on to explain:

“Many women are incarcerated for non-violent offenses related to drugs or self-defense and have been victims of relational abuse or race-related violence and poverty. Women are the fastest growing prison population, but incarceration affects female migrants of color and Black-Americans at the highest rate.”

See and read more about this project here!

9) Ryan Strand Greenberg Filled SEPTA’s El and Subway Stations with Art

Starting this summer, a local Philly photographer by the name of Ryan Strand Greenberg quietly began installing his artwork around SEPTA’s City Hall and 15th street subway stations in pre-existing and unused notification frames.

“I sort of think about this as a project where everyone pays the same (including myself) and they can interact with the work (or not) in the way that is suited to them, and if people feel compelled to take the work than they can. Surely some of the photos get taken down or are thrown away, some of them get taken by people, and some of them stay up for a while and people can see them.”

Read my interview with Ryan about this project, titled Photography Starting at $2.50, here!

8) Kid Hazo Installed ‘Filthadelphia’ Emoji Reaction Meters at Illegal Dumping Sites Around Philly

This is now the fifth year in a row that Kid Hazo has made it on my list of top street art moments of the year, including when he came in first for two consecutive years in 2013 and 2014! And that’s all for one simple reason: Kid Hazo knows how to create work that connects with people.

This year, Hazo’s most talked about installation called attention to illegal, hazardous trash dumping in lots and alleys around Philly neighborhoods. See and read more about this installation here!

7) Bruno Guerreiro’s Inspiring Stickers Provided Light to A Dark Year

With quotes from Black Thought, Carl Sagan, Maya Angelou, and many more, Bruno Guerreiro‘s new series of stickers featuring his illustrations of some of humanity’s most enlightened thinkers alongside a quote from that individual were exactly the sort of shots of encouragement I needed walking around Philly this year. (Subtext: With Trump in office and our phones constantly buzzing with bizarre and disheartening news from D.C., it was nice to see these and be reminded of better people, ideas, and ideals.)

See more of Bruno’s stickers from this year here and here!

6) More Yomi, Please!

With a number of brilliant collaborations, his own pointed solo work, and one eye-popping mural, Yomi was without a doubt on the top of his game this year.

See more of Yomi’s work from this year here, here, and here!

5) Sheldon Abba Connected Philadelphians with Abandoned Pay Phones

Every once in a while an artist has an idea that is so smart and so well executed that it leaves me a bit in awe. This was one of those ideas.

This year, photographer Sheldon Abba created a project titled Cross City Communication that aimed at highlighting ephemeral moments in our quickly changing city and connecting Philadelphians across neighborhoods.

“I wanted to offer people the opportunity to view single moments of life in a changing city. I really want people to take a moment to appreciate that things are changing fast out here and that the character of the city is found in its people, places, and simple moments that we often overlook or look right past… And a lot of these moments and places might not be around much longer. I want people in different parts of the city to see images of people and things they don’t know and might not even like and realize that regardless they are all apart of it. That being a Philadelphian isn’t defined by supporting a team, it’s done by seeing yourself as a small piece of a much larger community.”

Read my interview with Sheldon about his project here!

4) Blur Empowered Herself and All of Us

Blur’s work is about empowerment and making yourself seen and heard. And she’s garnered a ton of love and attention over this last year, including recently being invited to partner with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The center of her work this year focused on empowering herself and other women, and the result was a collection of powerful series and collaborations.

“I’m hopeful because I’m seeing women becoming fed up with a world that does not care about their voice, opinions, and bodies, and who’ve decided not to put up with this shit anymore. Which is exactly how I felt when I started my work as Blur, and had my own pushing point to speaking up. The growing numbers of women and men being fed up with our sexist, patriarchal society gives me immense hope for the improvement of life for all people in the future.”

Read my full interview with Blur here, and see other work from her this year herehere, and here!

3) Ephemeroh’s Painterly Touch Stood Out

Ephemeroh has easily become one of Philly’s most exciting-to-watch new street artists over the last couple of years. His painterly, abstract style is unique amongst our city’s current roster of talented street artists, and as any reader of this blog knows there are many talented street artists right now.

“I knew nothing about street art when I began putting my work up. I was excited about the idea of changing a public space, creating a new way of seeing something familiar.”

Read and see my full interview and studio visit with Ephemeroh here, and see other work from him here, here, and here!

2) Pussy Division’s Street Art Series for International Anti-Street Harassment Week

In April, feminist activist group, Pussy Division, created a much talked about new series of street art installations around Philly for International Anti-Street Harassment Week.

“We want people to realize that street harassment isn’t just inconvenient, but frightening and degrading. Our hope is that when people see the tape, they’ll relate the idea of caution with safety for those who are targeted by street harassment but also use it as a warning to not harass people in the street.”

Read and see more about Pussy Division’s installations here!

1) Joe Boruchow Blasted Trump (Again and Again)

For the second year in a row, Joe Boruchow has captivated Streets Dept readers (myself included) with his incredible, ongoing series holding a mirror to President Trump. Last year, his work reflected on the rise of Trump in the Republican ranks and his divisive general election campaign. This year, his work commented on the many issues and concerns that have popped up in Trump’s first year in office from his frantic tweeting, to Wall Streets’ apparent love of Trump-era policies, to the Republican’s immoral sanctuary of Nazis and other hate groups, and our deepening divid as a nation that’s only spurred on by our president.

See more Joe’s work from this year here, here, here, here and here, and check out the first time I ever photographed Joe installing around Philly the year this blog launched back in 2011 here!

What an amazing year for Philly street art… Can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!

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