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Four Questions with Philadelphia Fellowship for Black Artists Fellow, Z the Rat

February 28, 2023

(Photo and artwork by Z the Rat: self portrait and “I watched the sky fade in ur eyes, the sparse clouds, red, blue, green the whole fuckin rainbow”)

The 2023 application for Mural Arts’s Philadelphia Fellowship for Black Artists closes in less than one week, on Monday, March 6th! And while this application window is still open, we’ll be talking with a couple past fellows to learn about their involvement with the fellowship and see what they’re working on now.

First, about the fellowship: The Philadelphia Fellowship for Black Artists was designed in 2020 to fund, foster, and elevate the important work of emerging Black artists residing within the city of Philadelphia. This year, the 2023 Fellowship will support 15 artists of any medium with $2,000 in unrestricted funding to support their art practice. In addition to the financial award, this year’s fellows will have the option to access: networking opportunities convening past and present fellowship cohorts, local artists and art professionals; career development workshops; exhibition opportunities; 1:1 consultations with renowned curators; and opportunities to create new work.

Today, we’ll be talking with Zeinab Diomande, otherwise known as “Z the Rat,” An artist readers of this blog will know because we worked with Z on their first-ever mural created in Fishtown last summer, created with Living Walls Atlanta and Adult Swim.

Z the Rat is a Philadelphia-based multidisciplinary artist. Z was born in 1999 in Virginia. Her family left the United States to relocate back to their home in the Ivory Coast where she grew up and spent most of her life. In 2018, she moved to Philadelphia where she is currently studying, majoring in Fine Arts Painting and Drawing at The University of The Arts. Z was a 2021 AXA Art Prize finalist, and she has been a part of exhibitions internationally and across the country, in Abidjan, London, New York and Los Angeles.

Conrad: What have you been most excited to work on recently? 

Z: I have been working towards my first solo exhibition, and I am finally at the last stages of preparation as I am currently finalizing my last piece for it. A lot has changed with my work and I cannot wait to release this new body of work!

(Photos by Conrad Benner, Streets Dept)

Conrad: Last year, you created your first-ever mural, can you tell us about that experience? 

Z: I have LOVED the experience. I could’ve never done it without the amazing team that I had by my side to assist and also teach me. I saw a dream come true and this is permanent. I have struggled with things being permanent for a good chunk of my life and making this mural was definitely healing a that side! To Angela, Kristen, and Ash: thank you! And big thanks to the Living Walls team and Streets Dept as well as Ginger Rudolph! 

(Artworks by Z the Rat: “Lave Tet: returning home” and “Does It Ring A Bell?”)

Conrad: What’s a big goal you have for your career? 

Z: A goal that I have for my career is to see it prosper, have longevity. I am big on longevity, because you do not want to be seen now, hyped up only to be forgotten 10 years down the line. This is one of the reasons why I work as much as I do: I want things to last and they will. 

(Artworks by Z the Rat: “It’s a Sardine Situation and “Self soothing”)

Conrad: What’s been your experience with the Philadelphia Fellowship For Black Artists? Have you found it useful in pushing your career forward in any specific way? 

Z: I have loved being a fellow! It has definitely been helpful in terms of pushing my career forward especially with the making of the mural! This was the highlight of my year and something I hope to do again in the future!

Philly Mural Legend, Meg Saligman Finishes “Bird Feed 2023” Mural Ahead of The Big Game (GO BIRDS!)

February 12, 2023

(Photos above by Conrad Benner; Photos below by Streets Dept Contributor, Eric Dale)

In 2018, Philly mural legend, Meg Saligman had a premonition that she put in to the form of a mural. That ultimately correct vision, was of the Philadelphia Eagles beating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to claim our city’s first ever Super Bowl title! And being the superstitious lifelong Eagles fan that she is, she knew she had to recreate the magic for our 2023 return to the Big Game against the Kanas City Chiefs.

This 2023 mural is titled (perfectly), Bird Feed 2023, and can be found at 5th and South Streets!

“My best projects start from a place of love, and I truly love the Eagles,” Meg said in a press release sent to us earlier this week. “I created a mural before the Super Bowl in 2018, so I’m wearing my good luck pajamas and creating a new mural to do our part to clinch this win. Philadelphia is the mural capital of the world, so we should definitely show the world our dedication on a large wall. It’s a Philly thing!”

See pervious work by Meg Saligman around Philly here; and listen to a special podcast interview between Streets Dept’s Founder/Editor Conrad Benner and Meg Saligman about how she got her legendary mural career started on Mural Arts’ Art Ignites Change Podcast here!

Artist Symone Salib Puts Up Two New Eagles Wheatpastes (GO BIRDS!)

February 10, 2023

Two new wheatpaste installations today from Philly-based street artist, Symone Salib. And with just hours until the Super Bowl, you guessed it–both new artworks celebrate the Philadelphia Eagles!

The first, which depicts the classic 1987 Eagles logo of a soaring eagle gripping a football, is located at Broad and Fitzwater Streets. The second, which depicts Eagles’ center, Jason Kelce and the correct phrase, “Philly, truly the best city in the world,” is located at Broad and Pine Streets.


See previous work from Symone Salib around Philly here.

Philly Art History: Celebrating 10 Years of Art At Elixr Coffee with New “Heart On Your Sleeve” Poetry Project

February 7, 2023

Words/interview and photos by Conrad Benner

This post originally premiered on Streets Dept Patreon. Subscribe to our Patreon to support the work we do with Streets Dept and to receive early access to certain content as well as a number of other benefits!

Today we’re excited to offer y’all an interview with Ryan Strand Greenberg, Molly Gross, and Jonai Gibson-Selix

2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the public art program at Elixr Coffee. Originally created/curated by then barista, Ryan Strand Greenberg, the program saw some of Philly’s most sought-after artists create incredible murals both inside and outside of the coffee shop’s Center City location at 207 S. Sydenham Street. 

Over those years, Streets Dept was invited to meet with and document many of the participating muralists. And as the effort moves into its second decade, Ryan has teamed up with poet and cultural producer, Molly Gross and visual designer and art director, Jonai Gibson-Selix to bring to life a six-month-long celebration of local poets! 

Titled, Heart On Your Sleeve, this Elixr-led poetry and public art initiative is focused on care and renewal for Philadelphians. From November 2022 to April 2023, a new poetry sleeve will be available with the purchase of a beverage at Elixr Coffee’s four area-locations. The poems at the centerpiece of the six sleeve series are by Philly-based poets Sojourner Ahebee, Dilruba Ahmed, Husnaa Haajarah Hashim, Sham-e-Ali Nayeem, Ursula Rucker, and Eleanor Wilner.

To learn more about this project and the larger scope of Elixr’s 10 years and supporting local art, we talk with Ryan Strand Greenberg, Molly Gross, and Jonai Gibson-Selix: 

(Ryan and artist Miriam Singer painting at Elixr in 2016)

Conrad: How does it feel to hit this monumental 10 year anniversary?

Ryan: I cannot believe Elixr’s Art Program is in its 10th year! It has been a privilege to be able to work with so many talented artists and artisans on over 50 commissioned public art works at Elixr. It’s been incredibly rewarding to work with artists at all stages of their careers who want to shift their work into public space or experiment with new ways of working!

Read more…

Philly Mural History: MOMO Paints The City’s Tallest

February 3, 2023

Did you know Philly is home to some 5,000 murals and the city is known around the globe as the “Mural Capital Of The World”? Welcome to this new video series I’m making to explore old and new public artwork around Philadelphia!

Starting today with Philly’s tallest mural created in 2015 by a New Orleans based artist named MOMO and Mural Arts Philadelphia, the nation’s largest public arts program!

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