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Philly Has A New Street Art Superhero Who’s On A Very Specific Mission

February 2, 2020

A awesome new series of wheatpastes from a new Philly-based street artist aims to inject Philly’s public space with the power and love of a legendary singer-songwriter.

That street artist’s name is Olivia McKnight, and for them this new series is really personal. “On August 6th, 1973, Mr. Stevie Wonder was in a car accident right after the Innervisions album came out,” Olivia explained to me over Instagram direct message. “My mother had a car accident the same day. She’s ok now, but she loved Mr. Stevie so much I thought somehow the accidents were connected. I kinda still do.”

So far, each new wheatpaste from Olivia’s series features a figure bringing to the streets imagery of music and/or of Stevie Wonder’s work itself, like his Innervisions album. That figure is Olivia, they’re self portraits.

“Some people’s music just affects people and can help people in more ways than we can understand,” Olivia added. “I think Mr. Stevie is kinda the best example of that. He helped my mom and other people, so I want to help his music stay alive forever even if he can’t. Art in the street seems like a good way to remind people to listen to Mr. Stevie. His music is powerful and it’s full of love.”

The two wheatpastes documented in this post are located in South Philly at 26th Street and Washington Avenue and 15th Street and Washington Avenue, respectively.

I was really drawn to these wheatpastes for a few reasons. First, the illustrations themselves are really well done. But also, the confidence of the character’s gaze just pulled me in. I’ve been reading a lot of comic books lately that center less conventional heroes, including Paper Girls (which I recommend highly), so I couldn’t help but make the connection that the person or character in these wheatpastes was on some kind of mission. And it seems my intuition was correct. I’m so glad Olivia responded to my enthusiastic request to learn more! I can’t wait to see where this series goes. And yes, the artist has confirmed they’ve got a lot more to come!

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