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Sean 9 Lugo Installs New Decapitated Wheatpastes off South Street

September 17, 2018

Captivating new animal head wheatpastes by Sean 9 Lugo at 5th and South streets in Queen Village this weekend!

“It all falls in to the misconceptions that people have for things… someone sees a rat and thinks of filth, someone thinks of using them for testing, someone thinks of a pet, someone thinks of a cokehead, someone thinks of food and so on,” Sean 9 responded over text when asked about the inspiration behind the new installations.

Love these! Read more…

Happy Accident Leads To a New Pair of Murals in Queen Village

September 16, 2018

Words and photos by Streets Dept Contributor, Eric Dale

In August, two murals appeared in an alley off of South Street. Painted by artists Bear215 and Evan Lovett, they show an owl and a mouse sitting on some books. I love the warm colors and the way the artists hid their names on the spines of the books. But the best part might be the story behind them: one of these murals was an accident! Bear recounted the story.

In late July, Bear’s friend Evan asked him to find a wall for them, saying, “We are going to paint for free and just have fun.” He started asking around in some Facebook groups, but no good spots were popping up – they really wanted it to be visible from the street.

So Bear started thinking more locally. “Working at Tattooed Moms, I frequent the ally behind it and always thought the big garage door [across the street] could use a mural, so I went in to speak with the owners.” The building in question was Mostly Books, and both the owner and landlord loved Evan’s concept sketch. So they approved the idea, excited to have some art on their building!

Bear and Evan got to work painting. Towards the end of their session, Evan had to head out, so when Bear finished up the piece, he ran around to the front to show the owner his new mural. But when they returned to the back of the shop, the owner told him, “I love it, but that’s not my building.”

It turns out that Mostly Books had been split at some point. So even though a giant sign advertising “books, furniture, & more” remains above the garage door they had painted, it was now actually the back of Marathon Embroidery!

Embarrassed, Bear frantically gave his contact information to the clerk at Marathon and asked for the owner to call him as soon as possible. Then he called Evan. “At first he didn’t believe me. Then when he knew I wasn’t kidding, he said ‘Well fuck, you need to figure this out!’” Read more…

Philly Street Artist Amberella Takes Aim at Anxiety and Depression with New “Fortunate” Series

September 16, 2018

Arguably one of the better-known streets artists in Philly these last couple of years, Amberella’Goth Heart series can be found in almost ever corner of the city. Her latest street art series, titled Fortunate, started popping up this year and offers positive predictions and affirmations.

After spotting this You Will Allow Yourself to Begin Again piece at 2nd street and Girard avenue in Northern Liberties, I reached out to Amberella to ask more about her Fortunate series:

“The fortunate series speaks to mental health and the importance of self care. I’ve been working on this series off and on again for years. It wasn’t until this spring that I dedicated an entire vacation to finishing the designs, because I felt them to be that important to share. I have about 20 to release when the timing feels right.”

“I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression in the past and have seen others throughout my entire life that have been affected as well. I battled heavily to get a grip on my mental and emotional health and succeeded. It was far from pretty. These were tremendously painful, grueling times, even times when I was so depressed (just gone) that I actually felt nothing at all. How devastating. But the fight was worth it.”

“I want people to know that they aren’t alone and it’s possible to feel like yourself again or how about feel even better than ever before? FYI though, it’s a lifetime of caring for yourself – so get on that. You may feel so foreign in your very own skin and as if you will never feel joy or light again. The darkness is so thick, debilitating, and painful. Your stomach in knots, your heart heavy, you literally feel physically ill. (It’s all connected!) That is the dark hole. And you can get out.” Read more…

Nurturing Identity and Interculturality: A Streets Dept Oral History with Hazami Sayed, Executive Director/Founder of Al Bustan Seeds of Culture

September 5, 2018

(Hazami Sayed; Photo by Dana Scherer)

Post by Streets Dept Contributor, Phillip Reid

Welcome to the Streets Dept Oral History Projecta new 20-week series created by Streets Dept’s first-ever intern, Phillip Reid. Over the course of this series we will be collecting and sharing the stories of a mix of 20 street artists, graffiti writers, muralists, and public arts leaders all working to shape and create the art in Philadelphia’s public spaces. Read more about this new temporary series in our announcement post here.


Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture began work in 2002 with the inception of an Arabic language and cultural day camp that has served over 1,000 Philadelphia youth. Under the leadership of its Executive Director and Founder Hazami Sayed and with essential help from a rotating cast of staff members and collaborating artists, the organization has undergone a variety of creative expansions over the years. The most recent of those expansions is an emphasis on exploring community and identity through creative interventions in the public space. In 2017, Al-Bustan worked with visual artist Wendy Ewald and students from Northeast High School to install “An Immigrant Alphabet” at Thomas Paine Plaza in Center City. In the same year, the organization brought internationally renowned artist el Seed to West Philadelphia for a community mural project. Hoping to learn from and build upon the success of those two projects, Hazami and the Al-Bustan team remain devoted to utilizing public space for the purpose of fostering inclusivity and cross-cultural exchange.

I was thinking of youth and education and what does it mean to raise two young Arab boys in America, and how do we help them navigate their identity and place here?

(Al Bustan Seeds of Culture’s annual Ahlan/Welcome open house event, 2016; Photo by Chip Colson)

I love cities. I would only live in cities. I have never lived in the suburbs and never intend to. We lived in New York City about nine years and then moved twenty years ago to Philadelphia. So Philadelphia’s home now, it’s been for some time. Our older son Mazin was born in New York City and our second son Jad was born in Philadelphia. At first I kept comparing it to New York City because we had lived in Manhattan and I thought This isn’t anything like Manhattan! I wanted more density and I wanted more activity, more “eyes on the street,”  and initially I really wanted us to live in Center City. But my husband, Omar Blaik, and I ended up moving here in West Philly and buying this house twenty years ago. The city gradually grew on me. Being that it’s a college town, I found that there’s a lot of interesting people that come through—whether students, academics, administrators, visiting scholars—this always creates an interesting mix of people to meet and types of events to attend. I also quickly discovered that West Philly is both ethnically and socioeconomically very diverse, and I appreciated that. And as our boys started school, I found an ease in getting things done that would’ve been much harder in a bigger city. There’s a different pace of life and network of people here that I started to appreciate more. Read more…

Celebrating Queerness in Philly’s Public Spaces: Announcing “Queer in Public”

September 2, 2018

For a community that had to spend countless generations in the closet, putting art created by queer individuals in the public space is a truly revolutionary act…

Streets Dept and Mission Taqueria are excited to announce​ Art at Mission’s Fall 2018 exhibition, Queer in Public.

Queer in Public​ celebrates the work of Santiago GaleasMarisa Velázquez-Rivas, and Ryan Psota, three queer Philly artists who create work in our city’s public spaces.

Queer in Public – Exhibition Opening
WHEN: Tuesday, September 18th from 5-7pm
WHERE: Mission Taqueria, 1516 Sansom Street, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102
HASHTAGS: #ArtAtMission, #QueerInPublic

The artists featured in ​Art at Mission​’s fall exhibition are among only a small handful of LGBTQ artists that currently have work in the public space around Philly. With our exhibition, I hope to highlight the work of these three brilliant, up-and-coming artists as well as to inspire keyholders, those with the access and ability to hire artists for public arts projects, to hire more queer artists in Philly!

Running this blog the last seven and a half years, it’s always truly bummed me out how few queer street artists and muralists there are showing and installing work out around Philly. And as I have hopefully begun to illustrate this year with my Pride Month Instagram post and Caldera Magazine article, as a gay man myself I’m becoming more and more aware of how little I’ve used my own platform to highlight my own queerness.

As a curator, I have been so in awe of the work and drive this past year of Santiago, Marisa, and Ryan. And thanks to this unique opportunity that Mission Taqueria has afforded me in allowing Streets Dept to curate art in their outdoor courtyard, we’re able to work with these incredible artist to build Queer in Public!

Santiago Galeas 
Santiago Galeas was born to parents from Peru and El Salvador, and currently lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His work uses a diverse range of subjects that address varying concepts in portraiture, often including LGBTQ and racial issues. Galeas believes that the contemporary figurative painting scene is severely lacking in its diversity and his work brings a light to those who are often underrepresented. Many of his figures dissect the diaspora of Latino race and culture, and question our place within American culture. Galeas has exhibited in a number of group and solo exhibitions in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Colorado, and has an upcoming exhibition in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Recently he was invited to attend artist residencies in Mexico, Ecuador, and Philadelphia. Aside from exhibiting, several media sources have been showcasing his work including The Huffington Post, the cover of Poets and Artists Magazine, and the Streets Dept blog.

Marisa Velázquez-Rivas
Marisa Velázquez-Rivas is a digital artist and graphic designer born in Puerto Rico and raised in Venezuela. She received her BS in The Art Institute of Philadelphia where she met a lot of talented individuals—teachers and students alike—and currently works as Senior Designer in a marketing agency where she’s garnered multiple awards for digital campaigns she’s art directed. Having lived thru a deadly dictatorship in Venezuela, countless disasters that go unnoticed in Puerto Rico and Trump in the USA, Marisa has found comfort and safety in illustration and is now sharing this with the public through her wheatpasting. Though new to the game Marisa intends to continue inspiring people to pay attention to the social and political issues that revolve around us daily thru her illustrations and street art.

Ryan Psota
Ryan Psota is a painter/illustrator/designer living in Philadelphia, PA. Ryan works with a variety of mediums to create illustrations and fine artwork that combine urban textures with fresh, contemporary subject matter. His mural work, under the moniker “Lemon Sparkle Fantasy,” can be seen in several locations across the city. His eclectic style has been applied to an array of visual markets and appeals to a diverse clientele. He received his BFA from the University of the Arts where he studied illustration. His inspirations include urban art, natural patterns, lasers, drag queens, old man skin, pyramids, ancient scrolls, ornate sweaters, seaweed, and the aurora borealis.

Please join us for our opening, and invite your friends too: Check out our Facebook event page here!

Announcing “To the Polls,” A Warehouse Mural Exhibition to Encourage Civic Participation in the Midterm Elections

August 29, 2018

(Wheatpaste by Marisa Velázquez-Rivas, banner by Alloyius Mcilwaine,
sticker by Blur; photos by Conrad Benner)

So excited to announce To the Polls, a pre-election mural exhibition featuring the work of 10 Philadelphia artists in the warehouse space at 448 North 10th Street in Spring Arts, created in partnership with Mural Arts PhiladelphiaTo the Polls aims to excite the electorate, encouraging civic engagement to counter historically low voter turnout for midterm elections.

Curated by’s founder Conrad Benner (aka me), all 10 artists participating in To the Polls have a history of using their work to promote activism, empowerment, and engagement:

Loveis Wise
Wit López
Willis “Nomo” Humphrey
Nilé Livingston
Marisa Velázquez-Rivas
Joe Boruchow
Alloyius Mcilwaine

Each artist has been asked to create an 8×8-foot temporary mural that rallies the Philadelphia community around civic participation through the act of voting. The exhibition will be on view from September 26, 2018 through October 3, 2018, with viewing hours and on-site voter registration from 12-5pm with the exception of September 29. Two public events will activate the exhibition space:

Wednesday, September 26, 5–8pm
To the Polls Exhibition Opening, FREE
Find the Facebook Event Page here, if you’d like to invite your friends!

Monday, October 1, 6–8pm
To the Polls Artist Panel Discussion with Curator Conrad Benner, FREE
Panelists to be announced.
Find the Facebook Event Page here, if you’d like to invite your friends!

The problem is clear, people aren’t voting. Even in the hotly contested 2016 Presidential Election, ​only​ 64% of registered voters in Philly went to the polls. To make matters worse, about 346,000 of Philadelphia’s 1.2 million residents of voting age are not currently registered to vote ​[S​ource, Philly Mag]​.​ But it seems things might be turning around and there are some good early signs that people are starting to participate again. For one, voter turnout was 69% higher in Philadelphia for the Primaries of the 2017 Municipal D.A. Election than it was in the last D.A. race in 2013​ [Source, Philly Mag]. And as of right now, PA leads the nation in a youth voter registration surge [Source, New York Times].

Our temporary mural exhibition will create a space for visitors to share inspiring and critical ideas with their friends, family, and loved ones, all through the lens of art. The artists have been encouraged to create artwork that explores the many complex issues affecting Philadelphians today, as well as rallying civic engagement and voter participation more generally.

To the Polls will investigate whether art can effectively illustrate the stakes of national issues, and remind people of the power of collective action. The exhibition opens two weeks before voter registration closes for the Pennsylvania midterm elections on October 9, and will act to encourage and excite Philadelphians about their capacity to influence the world around them.

Hope y’all will join us!

A Philly Tradition Under Threat: Harold Burnett’s Ode to Saving Block Parties

August 26, 2018

Welcome to the 8th installment of Streets Dept + WeFilmPhilly’s 12-part, collaborative #PhillyMinute series… We took a quick break over the summer to get inspired, but we’re back to round out this series documenting slices of life in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection!

For our latest video, we’ve teamed up with Harold Burnett, whose op-ed this month for the Philadelphia Inquirer went Philly viral. Harold’s article was a personal ode to Philly block parties, as a widely criticized and newly announced rule from the City will soon require neighbors to get pre-approved for a block party by their local Police District before they can submit an application with Phila. Streets. “This adds an unnecessary layer to the process, and in my opinion, it is unfair to ask citizens to act as a coordinator between two city offices who should be able to communicate among themselves,” Harold writes in his article.

Harold’s piece ends with a call-to-action, asking anyone who feels similarly to sign a petition started by Philadelphia 3.0, a political reform organization. The petition asks Mayor Kenney to reverse the policy change, saying it creates “unnecessary red tape … [and will] weaken this important part of Philadelphia’s culture.”

I couldn’t agree more with Harold and Philadelphia 3.0 on this and encourage anyone reading to join me in signing the petition to Mayor Kenney now.

Special thanks to Harold for joining us and orating an abbreviated version of his Inquirer article for this video. Be sure to read his full article here!

See the rest of the Streets Dept + WeFilmPhilly collaborative #PhillyMinute series here:
Part I, Rush Hour at City Hall
Part II, Comcast Technology Center and Philly’s Growing Skyline
Part III, Rolling Through Philly on the Market–Frankford Line El
Part IV, Sunrise at Graffiti Pier
Part V, The Miracle On South 13th Street
Part VI, Philly Goes Green
Part VII, Winter in Philly

WeFilmPhilly is a Philadelphia-based (duh!) video production company that specializes in high quality drone aerial photography, aerial 4K video, and video production. Since August of 2017, Streets Dept has been working with WeFilmPhilly to create a 12-part video series that explores Philly’s public life, public art, and public architecture from new angles. Each video is shot from above with aerial drone footage and sound recorded from the ground.

If you’re interested in collaborating with WePhillyPhilly, reach out to them here.

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