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Streets Dept Presents: Philadelphia’s Top 12 Street Art Moments of 2018

December 16, 2018

(Photos by Conrad Benner and Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale)

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

Over the last two years, I started breaking this yearly list up into two separate lists, one with the top street art (aka non-commissioned/ “illegal” work) and one with the top public art and murals (aka commissioned/ “legal” work.) But for this year I’m going back to how I used to do it when I started this blog, and I’m not going to break up these lists. I’m doing this after some thought about how all this work is viewed by you and I in the public space. In retrospect, it seems more appropriate to view all the top artwork together on one list just as you’d see street art next to murals on the street.

This list and its order were primarily decided by you and your engagement with artists and artworks’ related posts on StreetsDept.com 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 12 Street Art Moments of 2018

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First up, this stunning abstract mural by artists Brad Carney and Michael Konrad. Created in October with Mural Arts Philadelphia, the mural is titled Expanding Perspective: Infinite Movements and is located at the intersection of 12th and Walnut streets in the Gayborhood!

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In April, Sean 9 Lugo installed this series of life-sized wheatpaste tributes to Philly creatives all around town! “It was based off people who motivated, inspired, and showed me love.” Sean responded, when I followed up about the series over email.

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This powerful installation by YOMI advocating for greater gun control took place little more than a month after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

“It’s my hope that this piece will continue the conversation between students, teachers, and parents about stricter gun laws and school safety,” YOMI commented. “That students will continue to be passionate about making a change for the better and not be intimidated by greedy politicians and their ineffective and inadequate policies supported by powerful gun lobbyist such as the NRA.”

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Absolutely loved this temporary mural homage to James Baldwin by artist Nilé Livingston outside The Fillmore on Richmond street at Frankford avenue in Fishtown: “Painting a portrait of the iconic James Baldwin felt fitting amid our present cultural and political climate. Baldwin reminds me that maintaining benevolent curiosity for fellow humans is how we hold on to our own humanity.”

(One quick note: while this mural was technically completed in late 2017, it stayed up through winter and spring 2018, which is when I was able to see and photograph for this blog and my social media. And the reaction this mural received in terms of clicks and likes was so positive that I’d feel silly leaving it off this list, and I can’t go back and add it to last year’s list. So here we are!)

Another interesting thing about this roll gate is that it used to be curated by Mural Arts Philadelphia, who created this mural with Nilé, as well as other rotating murals over the years by NDADiego Romero, and Nether, but it now just seems to be an advertising space that The Fillmore uses to promote shows they’re having. So, that sucks a bit. The rotating murals before gave up and coming public artists a chance to work commissioned at a larger scale than wheatpaste or canvas. I like what they had going on, and I’m not sure what happened. I reached out to The Fillmore Philly, but didn’t get a response back.

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By far the most recent artwork on the list, this wheatpaste by Marisa Velázquez-Rivas gave us the Kenzinger bearing Santa that Philly needed and deserved in 2018, the year of our Gritty.

And Marisa has had quite a year herself, quickly becoming one of the most talked about street artists in Philly after only starting to wheatpaste this year. Check out our summer 2018 interview with Marisa here to learn much more about her life and work!

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In anticipation of the Philadelphia Eagles heading to the Super Bowl to play against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, artists Meg Saligman and Lizzie Kripke painted this temporary mural outside the Meg Saligman Studio on Bainbridge street between 8th and 9th streets in Bella Vista.

After the Eagles won the Super Bowl, a crowd funding petition was created to paint a version of the mural permanently somewhere in the city. And even while the petition never reached it’s stated goal of raising $60k, it was painted in September on the Hale Building near Broad and Chestnut streets with funding from the Eagles themselves.

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In May, nationally acclaimed graffiti crew The CDC organized this two-day outdoor exhibition in Fishtown with High Art Productions​, a Philly-based arts organization who specialize in pop-up art events and installations.

The exhibition marked the official book release of ​Create Destroy Conquer, ​a 12-year retrospective based on CDC! “[The book] will highlight the art of lettering in graffiti culture, give depth to the crew’s history, explore their relationship with freights and showcase their growth as individual artists,” High Art’s director and curator Terasina Bonanini emailed me. “This 200 page narrative tells the stories of young vandals – the friendships they develop, and the troubles they encounter while painting freights.”

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This wheatpaste from street art newcomer Symone Salib stood in solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Anita Hill. Pasted at the hight of the Brett Kavanaugh vote and hearings, the installation stood for weeks at Broad and Wharton streets in South Philly where it was photographed and Instagrammed a ton and even attracted this collaboration with another street art newcomer before it was ultimately buffed.

Symone’s installation and the love it got on the internet ultimately worked to help inspire this article by Bethany Ao for Philly.com about Philly’s female street artists who got political in 2018. The article also included Marisa Velazquez-Rivas (who’s on this list as well) and Blur (who we interviewed for our Streets Dept Oral History Project this year!)

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As a longtime fan of NDA, it was so exciting to see him experiment this year with what non-commissioned street art can be by creating this series of mobile street art sculptures!

“The idea of sculpture came to me and it leant itself to a bit of improv,” NDA explained about his new series. “A lot of these pieces were pre-planned a bit, but the real excitement for me was the idea that I really didn’t fully know what the end result was going to be. Cutting and gluing pieces together would then give me ideas on colors and patterns. And when one was completed it influenced what happened with the next one. The idea was to create as many different shapes, colors, and patterns between each side of each piece so I could maximize the amount of possibilities the sculptures could produce together.”

I found this work so bold, so refreshing that I wrote a very long post breaking down why I thought it was truly unique. A post that ends with a long interview with NDA. So if you want to check that out, you can here!

P.s. NDA’s sculptures ended up catching the eyes of some folks at the Barnes Foundation where they were temporarily installed on two different occasions this year.

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I guess it should come as no surprise that things that reflect the zeitgeist will earn a lot of love an attention on the internet, and this ongoing series of tile installations from Mpeachhim reflect the hopes of many in this Red State’s Blue City of Philadelphia.

“While I dabble in mosaic murals, this is my first street art,” the artist responded over email about her installations. “The ‘Mpeachhim’ tile project is an act of political desperation. Over the past winter after each morning bout of reading the newspaper sent me, like many, into anguish, I began to fantasize about making and placing these tiles. Everyone around me was depressed and the despondency was contagious. We know that genocides and lesser evils happen because decent folks, feeling hopeless, quit paying attention. So, I wanted to do something that was part of a circulating script about alternatives to the present, that this dark moment is not something to adjust to, that we must keep vigilant against numbness.”

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This surprise installation by world-renowned artists Filthy Luker and Pedro Estrellas at the Navy Yard was not only the first time the artists installed on the East Coast of the U.S., but it was also the largest inflatable tentacle sculpture they’ve ever created and installed anywhere in the world!

The first collaborative partnership between Group X, a newly form group of anonymous Philly-based arts curators, and the Navy Yard, the installation was the talk of the town for weeks, even earning nation and international press like being published in the Wall Street Journal.

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Truly, could this year end any other way than with Gritty? This spooky Halloween Gr-“IT”-ty installation by Kid Hazo caused so much excitement. Honestly, I saw so many comments from people tagging their friends on Instagram eager to hunt down the installation to see and photograph it in real life. For a day or two Hazo’s installation became like a proxy for the real Gritty, which I imagine few of us will likely ever get too close to. Hazo’s Gr-“IT”-ty was brilliant and creepy and weird and fascinating and it just encapsulated this year for Philly in a lot of ways, just like Gritty himself.

At this point it also deserves to be mentioned that Kid Hazo is apparently unstoppable. As Philadelphia’s premier (and only?) self-described comedic street artist, he’s always had the ability to tap into Philly’s local culture, as well as our broader national culture at times, to grab people’s attentions and make them laugh. This is far from an easy task, but he does it with the kind of perceived ease that can only be accomplished through great thought and effort.

When Kid Hazo first popped up on the scene in the spring and summer of 2013, he was creating and installing a LOT. (Examples here, here, here, here, herehere, here, here, here, and here!) But in recent years, he’s seemed to take a more considered approach of installing just a couple times of year, while making those fewer installations more unique. As a conscience, despite incredible work by many, many fellow artists creating in Philly’s public spaces, Kid Hazo has topped Streets Dept’s end-of-year list for now a third time!

Hazo first topped this end-of-year list in 2013 when he ticketed the PPA, then again in 2014 with his take on those Visit Philly XOXO ads. And he’s not alone in topping the list more than once, as Joe Boruchow did in 2016 and in 2017, and Ishknits did in 2011 and in 2012! Holy shit I’ve been running this blog a long time! 

Congrats to Kid Hazo and all those who did and didn’t make the list this year. I feel so grateful to live in a city with such skilled and thoughtful artists, and I can’t wait to see what y’all bring in 2019! By the way, if you’re an artist or writer reading this post and you’re interested in having your work featured on this blog, please reach out.

Now, last but not least, there was SO much great work this year that my Top 10 list ballooned a bit to a Top 12 list, almost becoming a Top 20 list, but to avoid an endless scroll I’ve decided to include this list of honorable mentions, including a few (more) projects I’ve worked on this year!

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Art at Mission: The Streets Dept-curated ongoing series of art exhibitions opens GLOW, neon light installations by Amberella
Trashcan Takeover: Philly artists replace those “Cheap” Barbera ads with art
To the Polls: A mural exhibition I organized and curated this fall with Mural Arts Philadelphia and 10 local artists to inspire the electorate ahead of the 2018 Midterms
Santiago Galeas and Eva Wǒ: Awesome new mural that celebrates queer femme identity
Inphltrate and Nicole Nikolich: Collaborative street art installation about hope and growth
Glossblack: A series of Phila Unite neighborhood murals for the Philadelphia 76ers
Amberella: Artist’s new Fortunate wheatpaste series addresses anxiety and depression
My Dog Sighs: Eye-catching new mural on South Street created with Haha x Paradigm
Artes Ekeko: Families Belong Together mural created with Mural Arts Philadelphia pops up amid the scandal around the Trump Administration’s regressive immigration policies and separating and imprisoning families at the U.S./Mexico boarder
Jesse Krimes and Russell Craig: Artists create an interactive public art installation advocating for criminal justice reform with Mural Arts Philadelphia
Pussy Division: Feminist activist group creates a newspaper exclusively for men in the #MeToo Era

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2018 6:19 pm

    These are fantastic, what a great city

  2. Que Lo Que permalink
    December 16, 2018 7:45 pm

    Trashcan Takeover was my favorite

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