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Philly Artists Replace ‘Cheap’ Barbera Ads with Art to Take Back the Public Space: Announcing #TrashcanTakeover

August 19, 2018

(Photos by Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale; artwork above by Iris Barbee BonnerGianni LeeMarisa Velázquez-Rivas, and Santiago Galeas)

If you’ve been through Philly this summer, chances are good you’ve seen those endless ads for Gary Barbera Autoland selling “Cheap Jeeps.” Overnight, it seemed, the ads were on hundreds of trashcans in Center City. In June, I wrote about how bummed I was about these ads and the apparent lack of thought on the City’s part about the worth of our public spaces, not to mention that the 5% the City actually earns from these ads goes right back to maintenance of the trashcans and that Philly’s pervious City Controller Alan Butkovitz publicly stated that these high-tech trashcans are a costly waste and don’t provide the city the kinds of benefits over regular old mesh cans that we were originally promised. So today, I couldn’t be more thrilled to announce #TrashcanTakeover, a temporary art intervention that’s replacing 18 Center City trashcan ads with art from local artists!

#TrashcanTakeover is the brainchild of Brendan Lowry (of @Peopledelphia fame) via his creative consultancy, Rory Creative. It’s being funded by the folks at City Fitness to pay the artists for the use of their artwork and to buy the ad space. And because of my advocacy against the Barbera ads, I’m not only joining the project as one of the artists but also as collaborator and Media Partner to help get the word out about it and the work of these Philadelphia artists!

There’s nothing cheap about our public spaces. I believe deeply in the value of public space and that what we put there has an effect on the ways we think, feel, and behave. Replacing a number of ads around Philadelphia with art from local artists is big step in the right direction for returning the public space to the public. And it’s a growing trend in cities, following the inspiration of other such projects like the #YeahWeGotKeysForThat ad takeover campaign and New York City’s Art in Ad Places. What can happen when we replace ads with art? When we use our public spaces to center less on consumerism and more on the human experience? I think these are questions worth asking.

Scroll down to see a list of all the artists and artwork involved. And check out the #TrashcanTakeover Map to explore these temporary installations for yourself. The art will be up for at least one month, through September 18, but if y’all are liking this project we may be able to secure it for longer and maybe even grow it to takeover more trashcan ads!

1) Marisa Velázquez-Rivas

2) Gianni Lee

3) Saeed Ferguson

4) Aubrie Costello

5) Santiago Galeas

6) Sheldon Abba

7) Nilé Livingston

8) Najeeb Sheikh

9) Alloyius Mcilwaine

10) Conrad Benner

11) Vi Vu

12) Amberella

13) Brendan Lowry

14) Alex Kuhn

15) Iris Barbee Bonner

16) Kelly Smith

17) Sean Martorana

18) Stefan Suchanec

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Christie permalink
    August 20, 2018 12:26 am

    Also see the billboard project, mostly in New York.

  2. August 20, 2018 5:58 pm

    This is frickin awesome!

  3. Hannah permalink
    August 20, 2018 7:05 pm

    This is awesome!! Please do the cam on the north side of Swann Fountain at Logan Circle. That ad is so ugly against the backdrop of the fountain.

  4. August 22, 2018 1:04 pm

    This is utterly fantastic but…I find it amazing that there is such a rich desire for public art and communication and yet we still are baffled by how to fund these programs. The fact that you have to buy back our public space from GreenCityMedia in order to adorn your city in art is deeply disturbing. While I am a proponent for a publicly operated public visual infrastructure that uses public funds to create networks of artistic and other public communications, I think a good place to start would to turn GreenCityMedia into a not for profit that spearheads a bi monthly art program funded by advertising. 1 month of ads fund 1 month of art.


  1. Street Dept Presents: Philadelphia’s Top 12 Street Art Moments of 2018 | Streets Dept
  2. Call for Artists: Philly’s #TrashcanTakeover is Coming Back, Here’s How to Apply | Streets Dept
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