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It’s The End of An Era: The 5th and Bainbridge Freewall Is Dead; Long Live the Philly Freewall

June 16, 2019

This weekend marks the end of an era in Philadelphia, truly. The construction wall that stood for three years at the corner of 5th and Bainbridge streets in Queen Village and served as a defacto freewall space for Philly artists began to come down on Friday. Installed around a new build that seems to have stalled for a while but which is now nearing completion, that construction wall did what a lot of our city’s abandoned buildings and construction walls do: it became a space for street art. But as most street artists and street art lovers would likely attest, this wall in particular seemed to stand apart from the rest. And as it’s removed from the landscape this weekend, I propose that any of those like myself who are interested in art, artists, and the public space take a big lesson away from the years-long success of this wall.

Outdoor, free and accessible at anytime day or night, and completely un-curated, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that for the last three years the 5th and Bainbridge freewall has served as one of our city’s more interesting and experimental art spaces. If you’re not familiar with that word, “freewall” is the general term for a wall whose owner permits street artists or graffiti writers to use it. These types of permitted free spaces are as you might imagine super rare, and they can take many different forms.

In the case of 5th and Bainbridge, that permission was decidedly loose and nearly nonverbal in where the building owner and construction folks who worked on the new building would not stop any artists they saw installing. And it seems they never, or rarely, buffed the wall or called the city for the wall to be buffed either. I was even out shooting an install at 5th and Bainbridge with Joe Boruchow in July of 2016 when a team of people came out of the building, looked Joe up and down, then just asked him questions about his art before letting him finish his installation and going back to work themselves. (To be clear, I can not speak for every artist’s experience installing or trying to install at this intersection over the last three year, only what I have heard from artists and saw for myself, and generally this hands off approach was the vibe.) Read more…

New Wheatpaste from Kimi Tallant in Queen Village

June 13, 2019

In love with this new wheatpaste by Philly-based artist Kimi Tallant located at 5th and Bainbridge streets in Queen Village! (Note: literally like a day after I took these photos some movie posters went over the entire wall, so this paste is no longer there.)

Kimi is the woman behind KWT Designs, which since 2016 has been creating pins, apparel, and assorted flare available for purchase online. “KWT Designs is constantly inspired by travel, tattoos, nature, and small moments of beauty in the world, striving to make all work small pieces of wearable art,” her website reads.

And as you can tell from the photos in this post, Kimi’s recently got into wheatpasting, and I’m very excited for that considering how much I love her designs! I’m generally a fan of figurative work when it comes to street art, and when you add Kimi’s surrealist spin on the human form it just grabs my eye. Not to mention, of course, the empowering feminist undertones/ overtones of a lot of her work, which I also find super refreshing to see in the public space.

Hoping to see more from Kimi around Philly soon!

Artist Dora Cuenca Paints Her First Outdoor Mural in Northern Liberties

June 12, 2019

Love this new mural from Dora Cuenca located at 2nd and Brown streets in Northern Liberties!

“I am a Costa Rican artist,” Dora’s bio reads on her website. “My journey with motherhood and its many layers is deeply woven into my process and my art itself. I create to cultivate joy and empowerment.”

While she’s recently created a number of permanent indoor murals in the restroom area of Mission Taqueria (unrelated to the Streets Dept curated courtyard series of rotating works called Art at Mission,) this Northern Liberties mural is in fact Dora’s first outdoor mural! It was created with support from Freedom Apothecary, whose building the mural is on.

Here’s hoping we see more outdoor murals from Dora around Philly soon!

Artist Andrew Herzog Examines Empathy and Engagement with New Interactive Art Installation at Race Street Pier

June 8, 2019

Very excited to hear about this new interactive installation, titled Blue Sky or Sky Blue?, by artist Andrew Herzog that’s up now through July 8 at Race Street Pier!

I was (and still am) excited because it was curated by one of our city’s best public arts curators, Ryan Strand Greenberg. Because it was created with support from the Philadelphia Science Festival. And because it seems to me that it’s an installation that’s asking us to investigate what we choose to see in the world and to work to understand that what we choose to see informs what we choose to empathize with, which ultimately informs what we choose to take action on.

Here’s the info I got about the installation from Ryan: “Blue Sky or Sky Blue? contains four large-scale mirrored sculptures. Each mirror is elevated at a different angle to reflect the sky. The mirror’s surface contains a subset of blue dots… As viewers walk through the installation, viewing the sky from different perspectives, the structures are used as instruments of measurement. Ever changing, this public art exhibition offers an opportunity for its visitors to explore the sky changing color dynamically throughout short periods of time. Through this self guided exploration, Blue Sky or Sky Blue? reconnects its visitors with the shifting natural rhythms and dynamism of our inhabited environment.”

On its surface and in that info about the installation, it seems fairly straightforward. But after reading Andrew’s artist bio on the project’s website, it’s hard for me not to interpret this installation as having concurrent observations on our choices as constant observers and how that relates to what we choose to see and the implications that follow those decisions. That artist statement reads: “Andrew Herzog investigates the idea of prioritized sight. Valuable, yet malleable, prioritized sight is how we choose, consciously or unconsciously, the things we see; what we engage or empathize with; and what we understand or misinterpret, with varying degrees of implication.”

Maybe I’m reading into it too much. Maybe that’s what the artist and curator want. Either way, I really enjoyed checking this installation out and learning about it. What do y’all think?!

If you’re just as curious as me, you can meet the artist and curator Saturday, June 8 from 11am-3pm at the installation: more info here!

Read more…

Philly Street Art Interviews: Through Thick and Thin, Under Water Pirates Continues to Evolve

June 5, 2019

(Photos by Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale)

Welcome to Season 2 of Streets Dept’s newest series of street artist interviews, created in partnership with Philadelphia’s own unofficial official street art museum, Tattooed Mom. Each month, Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale will sit down with one local street artist to ask them about their work. Together, we’ll learn more about the incredible artists getting up around Philly.

With nearly 15 years under his belt (or, should I say, beanie), Under Water Pirates is a true OG of Philadelphia sticker art. Since day one, he and his sticker crew, known as 33, have abided by several values that are core to all forms of street art: quality, innovation, and dedication. Just last month, he received a well-deserved acknowledgement of his achievements when he was featured (together with New York’s Jayel) in Tattooed Mom’s Sticky Art Machine, curated by Bob Will Reign.

Unfortunately, the hand-drawn stickers of Under Water Pirates, or UWP, have become a rare sight in Philly. In the artist’s own words, “you have a better chance of seeing Bigfoot than one of [my stickers] nowadays.” It’s not due to a lack or interest or time, though. Ironically, the thing slowing him down now is the chronic pain that brought him to sticker art in the first place. But regardless of how bad the pain is, UWP is still drawing, still evolving, and still—when he can—stickering.

Streets Dept’s Eric Dale: Let’s start with your origins. The story I’ve heard is that you got into stickers when you were stuck in bed after a skateboarding injury—is that true?
Under Water Pirates: Yeah. I skated my whole life, and I was, like, getting sponsors and doing contests with local skate shops and all my buddies that I grew up with, and we started traveling around and all this shit… I started getting some shoes from iPath—nothing crazy, but, you know, you had to supply them with videos. We were filming for… maybe a skate shop video? Anyway, I broke my foot trying to crooked grind this handrail. I didn’t go and get it checked out; you know, you just figure shit’ll heal up and it will feel better in a month. And in a month of trying to, like, hobble it off, I totally blew out my other arch. So basically, by the time I went and got it checked out, I had ripped my arches off of my heel bones. The doctor was basically like don’t walk for six months, and it will be ok-ish. And now I have these inserts, and nerve damage, and can’t skate anymore…

So anyway, yeah, I was in bed, doing nothing. My sister, Ticky—she worked at CVS, and brought me home Sharpies and labels that were in the clearance section. And was just like draw on these! And then I could stick them for you! Coming from skateboarding, it seemed like holy shit, why have I never made my own stickers before, you know? Read more…

Loveis Wise Drops Six Large Mural Banners at Philly’s Navy Yard

June 5, 2019

Love these!

Just about four weeks ago, artist Loveis Wise dropped six large mural banners from the Navy Yard’s Building 101, a former marine barracks located at 4747 South Broad Street. Together the series celebrates the human connection with nature, each 19-foot banner featuring an individual joyfully immersed in a different type of forested area! The temporary project was made possible by Mural Arts Philadelphia with PIDC and curator Ryan Strand Greenberg, and will likely stay up for a year weather permitting.

It goes without saying that Loveis has been on a well-deserved roll lately: Click here to learn more about Loveis Wise in our interview for the Streets Dept Podcast this season. Honestly, the way Loveis moved from high school to college to the cover of the New Yorker (twice) before the age of 25, it’s an incredible story that I hope y’all listen too!

Read more…

“RiverRoad” Creates A Two-night-only Floating Visual and Performance Art Event This Week on the Delaware River

June 3, 2019

As a Whitman at 200 partner, this weekend I got a little behind-the-scenes look at one of the rehearsals of RiverRoad, and y’all I can not recommend this more, if you’ve got the time to see it this week…

Creating a two-night-only floating visual and performance art event on the Delaware River, RiverRoad is a collaboration between artists Carolyn Healy and John JH Phillips with performer James Osby Gwathney Jr. A multimedia work based on Walt Whitman’s Poem of The Road, the piece takes place on a large industrial barge on the Delaware River and features video, sculpture, lighting, and electronic sound in an environment in which James performs the entire text of Whitman’s poem!

The audience boards the barge at Penn’s Landing and a tugboat guides it downriver and back during the performance. “The artists hope the experience of being afloat on an unusual vessel in the middle of the wide river under night clouds and stars creates both a sense of unease and exhilaration that resonates with the poem. Whitman frequently made the crossing from Camden to Philadelphia, especially to hear opera, one of his favorite art forms. The artists wish to create a unique tribute to Whitman that can be experienced both from the waterfront and by the audience on board the barge.”

While all the tickets are FREE, all of the reserved tickets have been taken. But, that leaves roughly 10-20 “first come, first serve” spots for those who line up at the start location before any show’s start time, so be sure to get there early if you want to see it! That start location is the South of the Ferry Dock at Penn’s Landing, 211 South Christopher Columbus Blvd Delaware avenue. And there are two performances each night on Tuesday and Thursday June 4 and 6, the first starting at 8pm and the second at 10pm. Learn more about RiverRoad here, and about Whitman at 200 here! Read more…

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