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Artist Quinha Installs A “Portal” of Celebratory Streamers in Philly to Lift Your Spirits

September 1, 2021

Beautiful new installation this week from Philly-area artist, Quinha (Érica Mukai Faria) along the pedestrian-only Chestnut Walk at East Market! The artwork features mixed use of colorful streamers and draws from the artist’s love of working with the sky.

“When I first moved from Brazil to New Jersey as a child, I loved to watch tall grasses swaying beside the highway, clouds billowing past tall buildings, and car lot streamers rippling in the wind,” Quinha wrote over email. “Streamers are used around the world from Carnaval to family birthday parties to huge seasonal sales—they are celebratory and inviting. In a plaza of metal, glass, sirens and honking, I wanted to offer Philadelphians a portal to something else.”

Quinha used more than 120,000 feet of car lot streamers—a material that has been important in her practice since 2016. Project is supported by East Market with Mural Arts Philadelphia and curator Andréa Grasso, created with assistance from Michael-Rhian TJader. Absolutely love this!

Eye-mazing New Wheatpaste from Artist NDA in Philly’s Gayborhood

September 1, 2021

Love this new wheatpaste from Philly-based artist, NDA located at Juniper and Drury Streets in Philly’s Gayborhood!

See past work from NDA around Philly here!

Stunning New Installation in Philly by Artist Miguel Antonio Horn

August 30, 2021

A new Philly public art landmark has been installed!

Absolutely stunned by this incredible new artwork installed this week on Cuthbert Street between 12th and 13th Streets in Center City, Philadelphia by Philly-based artist Miguel Antonio Horn, titled “Contrafuerte”! Huge thank you to Streets Dept follower, Paul/Anthony Brown who hit me up on Instagram this morning about this new work. (If y’all ever see anything you think is new, let me know!)

“Suspended 20 feet over an alley in Center City, Philadelphia, two groups of entangled bodies grapple with the task to sustain, or raise up a bridge that spans the width of the street,” the artist’s website reads! “The artwork is comprised of thousands of aluminum plates which topographically construct the sculpture’s surface. The artwork is meticulously designed to integrate into the existing built environment as part of the city’s renown Percent for Art program.”

From its interaction with its surroundings and scale on this tiny Philly alley to the detail, power, and vulnerability of these absolutely mesmerizing forms that make it up, I love this new Philly public art landmark so damn much! Wow. WOW!

Philly Street Artists Are Dipping Their Toes Into NFTs

August 22, 2021

Written by Streets Dept Contributor, Eric Dale

When was the last time a visit to a gas station made your day? If you said “never,” we’re in the same boat—at least, we were until last week, when I went to the Sunoco in East Falls. There, at the intersection of Ridge and Midvale, I spotted a piece of street art by “well-known saxophone player and artist” Butter and Salmon (as they asked to be identified).

Actually, on its face, the piece hardly qualifies as street art—it’s nothing more than a large QR code sticker with the words “Butter and Salmon” in the middle. But when I held up my camera and saw where the code led, it immediately clicked as the perfect evolution of Butter and Salmon’s work. It was a link to their OpenSea profile—a platform for buying and selling NFTs.

You’ve probably heard about NFTs by now. And you probably still don’t understand them. That’s ok! For the purposes of this post, all you need to know is that an NFT is basically a unique digital artwork that can be bought and sold online and whose ownership can be proven and traced.

NFTs experienced a large bubble this spring and summer as they were discovered by artists and consumers, many of whom were stuck at home with a lot of stimulus money lying around. NFTs haven’t been in the news as much recently, but they are slowly growing in popularity. To me, the whole concept still feels highly experimental and slightly rebellious right now—which makes it ripe for adoption by street artists, naturally!

“I decided to hop on because it’s another avenue for an artist like me to get paid doing what I already like doing,” says El Toro, one of Philly’s first two sticker artists. “Digital art is in a weird space where I can upload it to IG, but it doesn’t have any return value to me besides some likes and comments.”

He’s right—digital art, like street art, is difficult to sell. But NFTs solve one of the problems purchasers can encounter: ownership. “Proof of ownership is important to collectors,” Butter and Salmon told me. “[I’ve] done digital art now for 10+ years and no matter how big or nicely framed my prints were, people refused to place a value in my work anywhere close to [that of] a painting.”

Another Philly street artist who has started creating NFTs is Kyle Confehr. He has different reasons for exploring this new way of selling art. “The biggest appeal for me is the momentum that explodes from creators surrounding each project. The other appeal is the low barrier to entry. Unlike the physical exhibition space, NTFs allow artists to create and curate their own body of work.”

There may be a low barrier to entry in terms of what can be created and sold, but there are currently some pretty extensive technological barriers that might stop the average person from buying or selling an NFT. “I was hesitant about getting into NFTs initially,” acknowledges Confehr. “The process can be complicated, but if you do the research, there’s ways of creating and selling work that have little to no environmental impact, and you can make some profit without having to ‘sell your soul.’”

Wait—environmental impact? Confehr is referring to the sometimes staggering amounts of electricity required to process NFT creation and transaction. NFTs are built on blockchains, the technology that also underpins Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. And right now, many blockchain systems are afflicted by a very energy-intensive digital mechanism that’s used to process transactions. Luckily, engineers are working on how to reduce these costs in the future.

So, back to that original Butter and Salmon sticker. Why did it make my day? Well, as any Butter and Salmon aficionado knows, the value $20,000 holds special significance for them. They put it on stickers, they write it on sidewalks, and they paint it in huge block letters on the sides of buildings. $20,000. No more, no less. Why? I’m not sure—the artist denied the explanation that I had been told anecdotally. But it’s their number.

So how much are their NFTs listed for? $20,000. Of course. Perfect.

“I certainly will sell multiple pieces for $20,000 a pop because I know my worth,” said Butter and Salmon.

I love that Philly street artists are experimenting with NFTs. If they take off the way some people predict, now might be the time to join the party. El Toro is certainly onboard. “I believe the future is all about having digital collectibles,” he said. “I just want in on the ground floor where the space is so new and anything is possible.”

See past work around Philly from Butter and Salmon here, and from Kyle Confehr here; read our 2020 interview with El Toro here!

New Mural Reflects Feelings of “Futility” In Our Continually Unprecedented Times

August 21, 2021

New mural completed this month by Brooklyn-based artist, Alex Derwick and legendary Philly-based muralist, Meg Saligman located on Bainbridge Street between 8th and 9th Streets in Bella Vista reflects on our continually unprecedented times.

Titled “Futility,” at a quick glance the mural appears to represent a simple scene of nature with flowering tree limbs in the wind. But a longer look drew my eyes to the inorganic materials to the right of the piece: blue painter’s tape holding up one of the dislodged tree flowers in a top corner and a note near the ground that reads, “What remains?,” in a bed of windblown petals.

I reached out to Meg over text to learn more, and she responded: “It is about how we are feeling right now in summer 2021. Things are not gonna go back to the way they were before, we can try to piece things together – yet we are now somewhere unfamiliar.” Meg added, “Oversized art supplies try to hold together a billowing blossom, yet it is not working. Same tools, different world.”

Alex elaborated further over Instagram direct message: “Meg Saligman and I were going back and forth figuring out what we were feeling and what imagery helped frame that tone. We ended up talking about loss, and Meg plucked part of an old design I was working on, and we collaborated from there. We felt the Dogwood Flower blowing in the breeze was bold, a bit cartoony and still pretty sad feeling. Honestly we were also excited to make a mural about sadness and loss and the futility of trying to fix the passing of time, most murals are about uplifting messages and celebration, but I totally feel seen listening to a sad song. Let’s acknowledge we are sad sometimes! And it’s okay.”

This mural is the latest in the series of sporadically rotating murals that have adorned this wall outside of the Meg Saligman Studios over the past several years. Some of those previous murals include 2020’s “Hugging Pile” and “Vote” and a 2018 artwork that predicted the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl win. I really like how Meg uses this wall as a space to reflect the moment. It’s all at once healing, restorative, reflective, and energizing.

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