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New Mural by Claes Gabriel in West Philadelphia, “Boat People”

August 29, 2020

New mural this week, titled Boat People, by Philly-based artist Claes Gabriel, created with curator Ryan Strand Greenberg and Mural Arts Philadelphia. Located at 47th Street and Woodland Avenue in West Philadelphia, the mural’s design is inspired by the Haitian Flag, where Claes was born in Port-au-Prince.

“Philadelphia is a sanctuary city welcoming refugees and immigrants from around the world,” Claes’ project statement reads. “Boat People captures the journey of individuals who flee their home countries that see Philadelphia as a place to make home. The painting depicts individuals on a crowded boat and central figure wearing a ceremonial white mask. His body contains a boat floating above a sea of red, symbolizing the blood shed from the difficult journey between one’s homeland and adopted home.”

I’ve been a fan of Claes’ work since I first met him as an exhibiting artist at PHL Airport Art, and it’s really exciting to see him move into murals and work for the public space!

Nilé Livingston Installs New Mural in Fishtown, “Entanglement”

August 24, 2020

Very excited to work with artist Nilé Livingston for a new mural installed today in Fishtown that holds a mirror to our moment. It’s a mural that Nilé and I talked about creating at the end of March, but one that slowly evolved. As any longtime reader likely knows, Nilé and I have worked on a number of projects over the years, including a monument to Grace Jones for Art at Mission, the 2018 iteration of To the Polls with Mural Arts Philadelphia, and more recently the #SisterlyLove Project with Visit Philly. And when the COVID-19 quarantine started in Philly, Nilé and I brainstormed an idea to create a quick mural thanking all the essential workers. It was a relatively simple idea, but in the time it took us to secure some funding (thanks Mural Arts!) and finally find a wall (thanks PIZZA Shackamaxon!), more events came to be that reshaped Nilé’s vision for what the mural could be.

Nilé’s mural installed today on the exterior wall of PIZZA Shackamaxon at Girard Avenue and Shackamaxon Street is titled Entanglement. The rest of this post are Nilé’s words, which I could not more strongly encourage you to read in their entirety, an Artist Statement:

“I call this piece Entanglement as an ode to some of the most memorable contributions to the COVID lexicon as well as an attempt to capture the complexity of today’s world. This assemblage of moments encourages us to stop and consider the significance and implications of these lived experiences in all of their involvedness. From the tremendous grief stemming from the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the seven other passengers on the helicopter to the raucous laughter brought on by the responses to the interesting use of the term “entanglement,” by Jada Picket Smith, this mural is a continuum of human experience. While the piece does not pass a wholesale judgment on any one issue, it does inspire change by structuring seemingly disparate issues alongside one another to indicate some form of inherent connection that we must tease out. The journey that Entanglement depicts is not spearheaded by any map key to dictate how we should approach each of the moments captured, which is a distinctive characteristic of 2020 regarding the logic of solitary leadership.” (Continued…)

“This year has emphasized just how much we have to consider our co-existence while offering up numerous critiques of a practice of leadership over any collective of people. Black Lives Matter in particular presents itself as a leaderless movement as a way to signal lessons learned from past Black social movements that privileged Black male charisma. Its collective organizational structure is a stand-in for singular leadership as well as a tactic to demonstrate the unique dimensions of this millennium wherein we understand that things we consider foundational—like the presumption of a single leader—can and should be questioned.”

“The global pandemic created this moment of calm that preempted a storm by allowing us to acknowledge just how bound our fates are to one another as well as how we co-create political realities that do not benefit the majority. The demand that the cogs in the wheels of capitalism pause for a bit offered us a moment of clarity that made us witnesses to the widespread inaccessibility to personal protective equipment to fight the virus, the attempted euphemistic painting of low-wage service workers as heroes, and the way pretty words manipulate our realities. The pandemic made it abundantly clear to us that we live underneath a structure that does not value human life equally, which implies that at any moment, we could be disposed of as workers whose labor is replaceable and deemed obsolete.”

“Our current circumstance isn’t unlike typical western history of simultaneity where unfathomable lows–like ICE holding kids in cages during a pandemic—and fleeting joys—such as the unity demonstrated in marches on racial injustice and police brutality–co-exist while constituting moments of change. While some of us have characterized 2020 as a void year because of how it has confronted our notions of control and time, I’ve tried to capture the zeitgeist as webs of intricate ties that reflect our complicated lives. The multiple images appear dissimilar as a way of questioning how so much of how we live is connected to our understanding of each other, specifically how our lives are co-dependent upon each other. The genre defiance reflected by the sheer range of images gets at the shaky ground of our barriers while bordering on a sensorium overload to mimic how overwhelming life is the midst of hard changes. Finally, the choice of black and white images—whether joyful or painful—is a refusal of the common and often uncritical demand for optimism. Colors are powerful with multiple effects, one of which being capturing our attention and offering signals to our emotions as a way of guiding them—I wanted to disengage any such impulse as a way of encouraging us to sit with our roles in creating the world we live in.”

Streets Dept Podcast – SN 3, EP 16: Kris Henderson and Ending Mass Incarceration

August 22, 2020

Welcome back to the Streets Dept Podcast, y’all! The Streets Dept Podcast is one-on-one interview podcast where I, your host Conrad Benner, sit down with the creative minds shaping the world around us, from Philadelphia and beyond. Creative minds like street artists, poets, activists, politicians, small business owners, and community organizers.

Today, we’ll be chatting with Kris Henderson (pronouns: they/them)! Kris is a movement lawyer and organizer. They are the executive director of the Amistad Law Project, a West Philadelphia-based organization that provides direct representation to people in prison, advocates for just criminal legal policies, and organizes against mass incarceration and for alternatives to imprisonment.

As a result of the recent Black Lives Matter protests, we are in a historic moment where so many people are thinking critically about the inherited structures that keep the US from being a fair and equitable place for all and how we might go about changing or abolishing those systems. The United States locks up more people, per capita, than any other nation on earth. “Land of the free” we are not. And it’s folks like Kris who have devoted a career to advocating for and fighting for the kinds of changes we need to make to achieve the justice we seek. This is why I was excited to host Kris for this week’s podcast.

Check out my conversation with Kris Henderson below, or on any major podcast streaming platform by searching “Streets Dept Podcast”!

 
Be sure to subscribe to the Streets Dept Podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PlayStitcher, or any major podcast streaming platform to receive new episodes as soon as they’re published, and please feel free to rate and write a review of the podcast on those platforms to help others find it. (Truly, rating and reviewing podcasts, particularly on Apple Podcasts, helps us so SO much, so thank you for doing that.) Read more…

Streets Dept Podcast – SN 3, EP 15: Fabiola Cineas and Whose Stories Are Told

August 5, 2020

Welcome back to the Streets Dept Podcast, y’all! The Streets Dept Podcast is one-on-one interview podcast where I, your host Conrad Benner, sit down with the creative minds shaping the world around us, from Philadelphia and beyond. Creative minds like street artists, poets, activists, politicians, small business owners, and community organizers.

Today, we’ll be chatting with Fabiola Cineas! Fabiola became a race reporter at Vox in June 2020 where she covers politics, policy, and culture. She was previously a Senior Editor and Business Editor at Philadelphia magazine, where she guided coverage of the city’s tech innovation scene, corporations and the local economy. Her work also explored the state of jobs and workplaces, leadership, and commercial development. Fabiola has also covered education in Philly and in her hometown of New York City with the Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Chalkbeat. Before launching her career in journalism, she taught seventh-graders English and Writing in Camden, New Jersey.

In our chat, Fabiola and I get into a number of topics from how public eduction is funded in the US and the plans for universities this fall considering COVID-19, to her move from local journalism to covering stories nationally. We actually ended up spending a bit of time on the sort of internal workings of being a journalist, which I found really interesting. Things like the various pressures and expectations on reporters that can ultimately affect the news you get. And of course we explore some of her current reporting at Vox, including how popular opinion is shifting with the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, finding justice for the murder of Breonna Taylor, and Joe Biden, voter suppression, and the coming presidential election this fall.

As I mention at the top of today’s podcast, a tweet thread published on June 11th in which Fabiola talks about her experience at Philadelphia Magazine ended up getting a lot of attention here in Philly. The result, it became one of the factors for the resignation of Philly Mag’s editor, Tom McGrath, after 10 years in the position. And while we do talk about it in our interview, Fabiola’s words in that thread are important and deserve to be read in full. If you have yet to read it, click here to do so while you start today’s episode.

Check out my conversation with Fabiola Cineas below, or on any major podcast streaming platform by searching “Streets Dept Podcast”!


 
Be sure to subscribe to the Streets Dept Podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PlayStitcher, or any major podcast streaming platform to receive new episodes as soon as they’re published, and please feel free to rate and write a review of the podcast on those platforms to help others find it. (Truly, rating and reviewing podcasts, particularly on Apple Podcasts, helps us so SO much, so thank you for doing that.) Read more…

Streets Dept Podcast – SN 3, EP 14: Michael O’Bryan and Thinking About Our Humanity

July 20, 2020

Welcome back to the Streets Dept Podcast, y’all! The Streets Dept Podcast is one-on-one interview podcast where I, your host Conrad Benner, sit down with the creative minds shaping the world around us, from Philadelphia and beyond. Creative minds like street artists, poets, activists, politicians, small business owners, and community organizers.

Today, we’ll be chatting with Michael O’Bryan! Michael is an expert practitioner and budding researcher in the fields of community development, organizational culture, and human wellbeing. He’s spent more than a decade working directly with resilient yet underserved populations — including veterans, adults in recovery, returning citizens, and families experiencing homelessness.

Michael’s currently an Innovation Fellow at Drexel University’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation and also serves as Director of Learning at The Village of Arts and Humanities, a non-profit located in North Philadelphia. He is the founder of Humanature, a consultancy working with nonprofits, businesses, local government agencies and their employees to transform how they understand and support human development, interaction, and performance. Clients include NeighborWorks America, ArtistYear, New Jersey Community Capital, and The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. And Michael has spoken nationally about his work, including at Cornell University, The Vera List Center for Arts and Politics at The New School, SPECTRUM/SOCAP, and the famed Apollo Theatre in New York.

We begin today’s episode talking first about Michael’s work at The Village, in which he talks about different ways you can support the organization: click here to learn more about ways to support The Village of Arts and Humanities! Then we talk more widely about defunding the police, generational resilience after decades of chaos-creating policy, and why Philly’s Mayor Kenney must resign.

Check out my conversation with Michael O’Bryan below, or on any major podcast streaming platform by searching “Streets Dept Podcast”!

Be sure to subscribe to the Streets Dept Podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PlayStitcher, or any major podcast streaming platform to receive new episodes as soon as they’re published, and please feel free to rate and write a review of the podcast on those platforms to help others find it. (Truly, rating and reviewing podcasts, particularly on Apple Podcasts, helps us so SO much, so thank you for doing that.) Read more…

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