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Philly Scientist Uses Street Art To Deliver Facts

September 7, 2022

(Most photos in this post courtesy of the artist)

If you’ve been around Philly recently, there’s a good chance you’ve come across a new street art project aimed at delivering facts about a specific sea creator. Created by popular Philly-based scientist, Sarah McAnulty, this “SquidFacts” project installs small hand-drawn squid wheatpastes around Philly that prompt its viewer to text a number or scan a QR code to get facts about squids. Yes, squids!

“I’m all about making science accessible to everyone in positive, silly, and interactive ways,” Sarah wrote to me over email. “The SquidFacts project is all about bringing delight into people’s experiences with science. Especially in the last two years, a lot of science-associated information we’re getting is an extreme downer. Climate change is here, and our governments aren’t doing enough to address it. Covid is still everywhere and killing more people than it had to. Monkeypox is coming, and again, our governments aren’t doing enough to address it. I want SquidFacts to balance that negativity out and remind everyone that there’s still plenty of wonder left in the world to experience.” 

So why a street art project? “Social media silos us so badly and it’s really hard to break through to new people. I love street art for that reason. You don’t need an instagram to play with the squid facts hotline. It reaches anybody walking by the pole I just glued a squid to. I love that. Squid for everyone.”

“I want people to feel like they’ve found a little invitation just for them when they see a SquidFacts wheatpaste or the SquidMobile [Sarah’s car that’s decked out Squid Facts painted in liquid chalk]. So much playful science content is for kids–this one’s (mostly) for adults. Like this Squid Fact: During mating, Bigfin Reef Squid display ‘accentuated gonads’ where they make their skin see-through so their reproductive organs are more visible. What a bunch of creeps! I love that Squid Fact. If the SquidFacts project reminds people that there’s still good things to explore in our world, I’ve succeeded. I’ll never know it, but I hope some of them watch a squid video when they get on the El and text some weird thing they learned to a friend.” 

“Squid are my absolute favorite thing to talk about,” Sarah added. “Nothing makes me happier than witnessing the joy of discovery when people learn something surprising about the weird, cool, badass, and totally gorgeous squid in our world. Also (this is kinda stupid) BUT, there’s so much octopus art and not enough squid art out there. It’s my personal mission to fix that. It’s not capital-I ‘Important,’ but it’s still a motivator.”

And what Sarah is learning with this street art project, she’s taking back to her larger education work: “At my day job, I’m the Executive Director for an informal science education nonprofit called Skype a Scientist. We’re all about making science accessible to everyone, and the SquidFacts Project is a little playground for me to see what works and what doesn’t when doing informal science education on the street.”

What a fun project! I can’t help but wonder if Sarah’s working to bring any SquidFacts murals to the city. Time will tell! 

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