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New Asian Arts Initiative Exhibition Celebrates Queer and Trans Artists

March 25, 2021

Y’all I am absolutely in love with this new exhibition at the Asian Arts Initiative, Unity at the Initiative. Open now through May 1, 2021, Unity is a multi-site multimedia visual exhibition and in-home experience centered on the work of artist and skater Jeffrey Cheung and their UNITY initiative out of Oakland, CA.

Unity at the Initiative was envisioned as a means to increase representation of queer and trans artists of color; to embellish the gathering spaces of queer – community centers, city parks, art galleries – with more diverse representations of queer and trans bodies. In light of the Pandemic and in response to the nation’s reckoning with racial equity, Cheung and Asian Arts Initiative have re-imagined the project as a pathway to the artistic integrity and freedom of queer and trans Philadelphians of color. Unity at the Initiative endeavors to protect continuity for a creative sector whose ‘2020 troubles’ are compounded by under-representation and outright injustices.”

In addition to showing new site-specific work by Cheung, Unity at the Initiative also showcases the work of over twenty Philadelphia-based artists around the themes of racial and queer identity, physical movement, and resistance. Anchored by an immersive indoor-outdoor exhibition at Asian Arts Initiative, Unity at the Initiative features:

The 1223 Skate Park & Wheatpaste Gallery featured in many of the photos above allows visitors to skate inside an art gallery, collect some free prints from the exhibition, and learn to wheatpaste! This room is available by appointment only though, so please click here to learn how to make that appointment.

And y’all, don’t miss Unity at the Initiative Artist Town Hall taking place virtually this Monday, March 26 at 7pm! Event is free, and you can RSVP here for the Zoom link.

Tiny Rowhome Installation in South Philly is Just Plain Adorable

March 16, 2021

Loving this tiny rowhome installation by Klapaucius Frink (and friends?), located on Percy Street in South Philly. According to Klapaucius the tiny house was “built by the tiny alley gnome people.” And I take Klapaucius at their word.

By the way, the one small sticker in the window that a lot of folks think looks like Anne Frank is not Anne Frank, it’s a sticker promoting a clothing line by a group calling themselves the Anti Flower Show Movement.

Artist Khari Johnson-Ricks Celebrates Queer Skate Communities with Center City New Mural

March 8, 2021

In love with this new mural by New Jersey-based artist Khari Johnson-Ricks! Located outside The Attic Youth Center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth at 255 South 16th Street in Center City, the mural was commissioned by the Asian Arts Initiative as part of their Unity at the Initiative exhibition that’s celebrating the work of Jeffrey Cheung and queer/trans artists of color in Philadelphia.

“I’ve been thinking about ways to make images of queer and trans people that centers their personhood,” Khari responded over email about the inspiration behind his new mural. “More often than not when images get made of queer people it centers sex or gender visibility. I want to see more images of the ambitions of queer people and the nuances of there lives.”

Unity at the Initiative is a multi-site multimedia visual exhibition and in-home experience centered on the work of artist and skater Jeffrey Cheung and their UNITY initiative out of Oakland CA. (I’ll be talking more about the exhibition more widely on this blog very soon!) And for Khari’s part in the exhibition and this mural, Jeffrey’s work and skating became a big inspiration: “It has felt beautiful to come here and meet some of the queer skate community in order to do this project. When I was younger and I was interested in skating, but I hadn’t really seen any queer skaters and I always wonder what might I be like if I had found queer community through skating. I wanted to visualize that for the kids that might be coming to The Attic. You have so many options and opportunities to do and be whatever you want to be and there are people that want you to be apart of that.”

This is Khari’s first piece of public art in Philly, but hopefully not his last: “The public art I want to make reflects the communities they are apart of and opens up spaces for radical imagination.”

Artist Shanina Dionna Depicts Black Lives Matter Protest In New Port Richmond Billboard Installation

March 4, 2021

Love this new temporary installation from Philly-based artist Shanina Dionna that’s replaced an ad with art at Lehigh and Aramingo Avenues in the Port Richmond/ Kensington area!

This is one of a series of art takeovers presented by SaveArtSpace‘s Whistling in the Dark project, a cross-media, tri-city, public art exhibition curated by Caledonia Curry (aka Swoon) and Gianni Lee that’s currently displaying art on billboards in New York City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

Shanina’s artwork, titled “Show Up” (2020), depicts COVID-masked protesters standing in front of a line of police outside Philadelphia’s MSB Plaza with some of those protesters holding up their fists and/or signs. Based off the context and timing of this work, it’s presumable that it depicts a Black Lives Matter protest. And of the two protest signs being held up by individuals illustrated in the artwork one reads, “Enough is enough,” the other, “RIP Christopher Ridley.” The latter being the name of an off-duty police officer who was killed by on-duty police officers when he tried to break up a fight on the streets of White Plains, New York in 2008. Christopher Ridley was a 23-year-old Black man in plain clothes, the officers who killed him were found not liable by a federal grand jury.

If you’re interested in supporting the artist, Shanina is selling prints of this artwork starting at $25 on her web-store.

P.s. You may remember that Shanina is currently exhibiting a mural with us at Streets Dept Walls, if you haven’t checked that out yet. And Caledonia Curry (Swoon) was one of the first people I ever interviewed for my Streets Dept Podcast, and you can listen to that episode here.

Announcing Streets Dept’s “10 Years Photo Show”

March 2, 2021

What better way to celebrate 10 years of my photo-blog StreetsDept.com than with a photo show! Over the next two months I’m thrilled to be hosting an open exhibition at BOK‘s new Workshop space, a new commercial, food, and artistic corridor that’s now open to the public and currently home to Two Persons coffee, Miles Table restaurant, and DNA Flora!

Streets Dept’s 10 Years Photo Show celebrates a decade of art on the streets of Philadelphia. Started in 2011 by photographer and curator Conrad Benner (that’s me), StreetsDept.com is an award-winning website that documents and celebrates Philly’s street art and public art. 10 Years Photo Show offers a visual look back at some of the most memorable moments from the blog’s history. From photographing artist Ishnikts yarnbombing the former Frank Rizzo monument in 2012 to commissioning artist Loveis Wise’s beloved temporary “Your Voice Has Power” mural during the 2018 midterm elections, this photography exhibition will recall fond memories for longtime Streets Dept followers and offer new folks a glimpse at the ephemeral side of Philly’s walls.

10 Years, 68 Photos

UPDATED 3/4: 10 Years Photo Show now opens March 11 through April 25, 2021; open hours are Thursdays and Fridays from 10am to 5pmSaturdays from 9am to 6pm, and Sundays from 9am to 2pm; enter BOK’s Workshop spaces through the entrance at 821 Dudley Street

Please note that BOK is following all current COVID safety guidelines, and that the exhibition space for Streets Dept’s 10 Years Photo Show will only allow a limited number of people in at a time. That just means you may need to wait for a few minutes before entering the exhibition. And as always, masks are required at all times inside BOK and this exhibition.  

Excited to share these photos and memories with you all, hope you’re able to make time for it over the next number of weeks! 

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