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New Philly Art Billboard Questions U.S. Military Spending

November 18, 2021

“Imagine what our country would look like if the government didn’t spend so much on the military,” asks a new art billboard at Christian and South Broad Streets! This artwork was developed through a project called Messages to Our Neighbors that was created by artist Aram Han Sifuentes with support from Mural Arts Philadelphia to uplift young people’s concerns.

From the project’s website: “Throughout the summer of 2021, Aram Han Sifuentes worked with high school youth in the Mural Arts Education program on Messages to Our Neighbors, a project exploring the intersection of citizenship, immigration, and belonging. Sifuentes’ art practice sits at the intersection of fiber, social practice, performance, and pedagogy. She creates socially engaged and materially rich projects that are accessible to those who are disenfranchised, particularly dispossessed immigrants of color. Messages to Our Neighbors included protest banner making that uplifts young people’s concerns, and the creation of citizenship test samplers, which highlight the arduous process of becoming a U.S. citizen.”

As the art billboard credits, this message comes from MJ and Gideon, who are both 16 years old. This project included a number of artworks turned into billboards like this that were installed around the city for the month of October. Unfortunately, that means that I caught this artwork on one of its final days. It’ll be coming down soon, as will the rest. But you can see them all in this Mural Arts’ Instagram post.

What a powerful message. One I’m sure so many folks have thought about before considering just how much of our federal budget goes to the military. And how little of it goes to support current and potential domestic crisis like housing, addiction, food insecurity, healthcare, and the list goes on.

You know, I’ve talked many times about the idea of ending outdoor advertising. You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed about that opinion here. What could replace profit-drive art in the public space? Things like this! Thoughtful, civically engaged art and messages from our communities. I think there’s way more value in art like this in our public space, than ads!

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