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Former Art Teacher Uses Multimedia Street Art To Navigate Pandemic Career Transition

January 26, 2023

By Eric Dale, Streets Dept Contributor

A ton of unusual street art has popped up on Meredith Street between 24th and 25th Streets in Philly’s Art Museum Area/ Fairmount neighborhood in recent months (and years).

Nearly all of it was created by a Fairmount resident named Jodi, who is a performance artist, sculptor, art director, yoga teacher, and member of the artist collective Space 1026. But today’s story begins in 2020—so you might be able to guess where this is going.

For 17 years, Jodi worked as an art teacher. When the pandemic began, she continued teaching virtually for a while, experimenting with things like sidewalk chalk art to get her students outside again. In a way, she had been preparing students for something like the pandemic shutdown for years. “I studied art therapy and sculpture in college,” she told me. “I did a lot of movement-based art meditation with them.” But eventually, she realized that her time teaching art had to come to an end.

In the months that followed, Jodi found that the very same art projects she had made with her students were therapeutic for her, so she decided to continue making some of them. That body of work ended up leading to a group art show with two other former art teachers.

Jodi’s children and neighbors joined in on the artistic outpouring. “It was an outlet we all needed,” she said. It all began with sidewalk chalk. One neighbor in particular took to drawing comic book characters with chalk. But Jodi was drawn to paint, which she used to apply geometric designs directly to the street.

Disappointingly, some neighbors were less than thrilled. Jodi says that some residents called the police and CLIP on her multiple times. But when cops or buffers did show up, they were kind of bewildered, and told her they wouldn’t stop her or remove her work. “They said it looked more like beautification than graffiti,” Jodi recalled. Neighbors have since relented.

As the pandemic dragged on and life started to feel like it came from a cardboard box, Jodi began a unique project using something that was now ubiquitous in her life: packing tape. Piece by piece, she “cast” her own body in packing tape, then assembled the forms into a complete female figure. And what did she do with it?

She hung it from a street light, naturally!

If the pose of this sculpture looks familiar to you, you might be a Grace Jones fan: Jodi’s assemblage of her cast limbs is an homage to the album cover of Jones’s Island Life.

In a wonderful turn of events, this sculpture led to Jodi getting some work as an independent artist, and to her displaying some of her figures around Philly.

“Then I started exploring art production and direction in the TV and film industry,” Jodi said. Specifically, she’s now working in special effects. “Which I never would’ve imagined would be my next step career-wise, but I love the work and the people that I have the opportunity to work with.”

More than a year after installation, Grace is still hanging over Meredith Street—but she’s gold now.

”We took her down for a checkup and she held up really well,” Jodi said. “In the spirit of loving the gilded Joan of Arc statue, I painted her gold before putting her back up.”

Speaking of arcs, I personally think Jodi’s is an incredible example of the good that comes from following your intuition. If you’ve been holding off on beginning something creative, however big or small, now’s the time.

Happy belated new year.

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