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Jess X. Snow’s Breathtaking New Mural in Kensington

December 26, 2017

(Photos by Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale)

A Daughter Migrates Towards the Mother Earth, the title of Jess X. Snow‘s breathtaking new mural at Kensington avenue and D street in Kensington. The mural was completed in October, but I (unfortunately) could never find the time to run over and photograph it. But thanks to these photos from Streets Dept Contributor, Eric Dale, I’m so excited to share with y’all this lovely work!

A part of the We The People series curated by Vandalog‘s RJ Rushmore and commissioned by Mural Arts Philadelphia, the mural “speaks to the movement of immigration, and the way that it intersects with family experience,” according to the project’s website.

Jess X. Snow, if this is the first you’re hearing of her, is a New York City-based queer asian-canadian artist, filmmaker, poet, and educator. Her work, including her public art and murals, explores survival, memory, joy, and our relationship to the Earth by amplifying the voices of women, queer people of color, and migrants who refuse to be defined by borders and time.

See more from RJ Rushmore’s curated We The People series by artists: Molly CrabappleNTEL and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh!


Philly’s New Octavius Catto Monument is Stunningly Lit at Night

December 26, 2017

Shout out to whoever got the City to light up Philly’s new Octavius Catto monument at night like the king he was!

Octavius Catto (1839 – 1871) was a black educator, intellectual, and civil rights activist in Philadelphia, who struggled against segregation and discrimination in transportation, sports, politics, and society. Fierce opposition to Catto’s activism and the general progress of African Americans contributed to his eventual murder. At the age of 32, Catto was shot and killed in election-day violence on South Street in Philadelphia, where ethnic Irish of the Democratic Party, which was anti-Reconstruction and had opposed black suffrage, attacked black men to prevent their voting for Republican candidates. (Sources: Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia)

While there are a small handful of monuments to historical American American individuals around Philadelphia on privately owned land, Catto’s new monument, installed this past fall, became Philadelphia’s first monument to an historic African American individual on public land anywhere in the city.

See the brilliant new monument for yourself on the south apron of City Hall, and read more about Catto and how this monument came to be in this piece by Stephan Salisbury!

Flying Above Philly’s ‘Miracle On South 13th Street’

December 22, 2017

 Welcome to the 5th installment of Streets Dept + WeFilmPhilly‘s yearlong, 12-part collaborative #PhillyMinute series!

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 monthly videos that explore Philly’s public art and architecture from new angles. Each video is shot from above with aerial drone footage and sound recorded from the ground.

For this month’s video, we’re exploring one of Philadelphia’s most beloved holiday traditions: The Miracle On South 13th Street!

According to a article and interview with one of the residents of The Miracle On South 13th Street, Alex Khoa Du, the block has been lighting up for the holidays for at least the last 20 years. And over that time it’s been attracting more and more Philadelphians and tourists alike who are seeking a little extra shot of holiday cheer. In fact, the street has garnered so much affection over the years that Travel + Leisure magazine even named it one of top 50 holiday tourist destinations in the U.S. last year.

If you want to check out The Miracle On South 13th Street for yourself you’re in luck, because the lights are on nightly from 5pm to 1am and are usually left up until at least a few days after New Year’s Day. Just head down to 13th street, between Morris and tasked streets in South Philadelphia!

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

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

Philadelphia’s Top 10 Street Art Moments of 2017

December 20, 2017

(Collaborative Mouth Series by Blur and Yuienglingblingbling)

Welcome to Streets Dept’s annual wrap-up of all the most talked about, engaging work created by street artists around Philly this year!

This year, like last year, there was so much great street art work as well as murals and public art installations that I’ve decided yet again to create two separate ‘Top 10’ lists. So if you’re reading this be sure to also check out the Philadelphia’s Top 10 Public Art Moments of 2017 list!

And if you’re asking what’s the difference between street art, murals, and public art: murals and public art are commissioned, legal forms of art in the public space. And street art is not commissioned (aka illegal) but it’s usually (or at least often) either done on buildings/walls that are abandoned or on construction walls. And sometimes street art is even done in temporary ways that are completely non-destructive, like most yarnbombing for example.

This list and its order were primarily decided by you and your engagement with artists’ and artworks’ related posts on and Streets Dept’s social media channels (aka clicks, likes, comments, and shares,) with just a pinch of curation from me. So without further ado, here’s Philadelphia’s Top 10 Street Art Moments of 2017

10) #UnbrokenByBars Wheatpaste Series Addressed the Effects of Mass Incarceration on Mothers and Their Children

This spring, a new wheatpaste series appeared in Kensington. Titled #UnbrokenByBars, the series addressed the effects of mass incarceration on mothers and their children, creating works of art from the messages that previously incarcerated mothers of color shared with their children during their incarceration. As the project’s website goes on to explain:

“Many women are incarcerated for non-violent offenses related to drugs or self-defense and have been victims of relational abuse or race-related violence and poverty. Women are the fastest growing prison population, but incarceration affects female migrants of color and Black-Americans at the highest rate.”

See and read more about this project here!

9) Ryan Strand Greenberg Filled SEPTA’s El and Subway Stations with Art

Starting this summer, a local Philly photographer by the name of Ryan Strand Greenberg quietly began installing his artwork around SEPTA’s City Hall and 15th street subway stations in pre-existing and unused notification frames.

“I sort of think about this as a project where everyone pays the same (including myself) and they can interact with the work (or not) in the way that is suited to them, and if people feel compelled to take the work than they can. Surely some of the photos get taken down or are thrown away, some of them get taken by people, and some of them stay up for a while and people can see them.”

Read my interview with Ryan about this project, titled Photography Starting at $2.50, here!

8) Kid Hazo Installed ‘Filthadelphia’ Emoji Reaction Meters at Illegal Dumping Sites Around Philly

This is now the fifth year in a row that Kid Hazo has made it on my list of top street art moments of the year, including when he came in first for two consecutive years in 2013 and 2014! And that’s all for one simple reason: Kid Hazo knows how to create work that connects with people.

This year, Hazo’s most talked about installation called attention to illegal, hazardous trash dumping in lots and alleys around Philly neighborhoods. See and read more about this installation here!

7) Bruno Guerreiro’s Inspiring Stickers Provided Light to A Dark Year

With quotes from Black Thought, Carl Sagan, Maya Angelou, and many more, Bruno Guerreiro‘s new series of stickers featuring his illustrations of some of humanity’s most enlightened thinkers alongside a quote from that individual were exactly the sort of shots of encouragement I needed walking around Philly this year. (Subtext: With Trump in office and our phones constantly buzzing with bizarre and disheartening news from D.C., it was nice to see these and be reminded of better people, ideas, and ideals.)

See more of Bruno’s stickers from this year here and here!

6) More Yomi, Please!

With a number of brilliant collaborations, his own pointed solo work, and one eye-popping mural, Yomi was without a doubt on the top of his game this year.

See more of Yomi’s work from this year here, here, and here! Read more…

Streets Dept Podcast, Episode 6: An Extended Chat with Indy Hall’s Alex Hillman

December 19, 2017

Welcome to the 6th episode of the Streets Dept Podcast, today I’m joined by Alex Hillman! Alex is a writer, a podcaster, a builder of communities, and of course he’s the guy who started one of the longest running coworking communities in the world, Indy Hall.

In this extended interview with Alex, he talks about the lessons he’s learned over the years growing and building Indy Hall, about his work on the Philadelphia chapter of the Awesome Foundation – a granting organization that every artist and creative should know about – and what he’s loving about living and working in Philly right now!

Listen to the episode now here:

The Streets Dept Podcast is a bi-monthly (that’s twice a month) interview podcast. I’m interviewing artists and creatives from around the world. From street artists to poets, activists to politicians, small business owners to community organizers. The podcast features one-on-one, 30-minute-ish interviews with the creative minds who are shaping the world around us!

Subscribe to the Streets Dept Podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or Google Play to receive 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. (It really, REALLY helps when y’all rate and review, so it’d mean the world to me if you could do that!)

Listen to past episodes here:
The Introduction Episode!
Episode 1, R. Eric Thomas
Episode 2, Philadelphia Councilwoman Helen Gym
Episode 3, Marisa Williamson
Episode 4, Swoon
Episode 5, eL Seed

Season One of the Streets Dept Podcast is brought to you by our sponsors at The Navy Yard and Indy Hall! Each episode is mixed and edited by our Producer Mike Mehalick.

eL Seed’s Incredible West Philly Mural

December 18, 2017

Finally got a chance to see eL Seed‘s finished mural in West Philly, at Market and Preston streets. (You may remember I posted a progress shot of the mural on Facebook last month.) It’s stunning!

eL Seed is a world–renowned artist and writer whose style combines classic Arabic calligraphy with graffiti. This – his first mural in Philly – was created with Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture and Mural Arts Philadelphia, a part of Al-Bustan’s (DIS)PLACED: Philadelphia initiative. A project, which over 18 months will be exploring the theme of displacement across Philadelphia’s diverse communities from the perspectives of four artists-in-residence of Arab heritage.

Before planning his work for (DIS)PLACED: Philadelphia, eL Seed and Al-Bustan met with members of the West Philly community in which his new mural would live. And after those meetings, eL Seed decided to paint the following quote from W. E. B. Du Bois: “I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying through time and opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and the possibility of infinite development.”

Click here to hear more about this new mural and his other works around the world in my interview with eL Seed for the 5th Episode of the Streets Dept Podcast!

Philly Joins Dozens of U.S. Cities, Creates Mural Urging Congress to Protect Undocumented Children

December 18, 2017

This weekend, internationally renowned street artist and activist JR‘s Inside Out Project rolled in to Philly. And in spite of Friday’s snowstorm, with the help of the Emerson Collective and Mural Arts Philadelphia a new temporary wheatpaste mural was created in just two days on Sansom street at 18th street. (No one quite knows how temporary, I’ve heard as short as two weeks, but I suppose we’ll see.)

The mural was created using photo portraits of hundreds of Philadelphians who support protecting undocumented children (aka ‘Dreamers’) living here in Philadelphia and around the U.S. In fact, Mural Arts just posted to Instagram saying that the final total of participants here in Philadelphia was 403! Photos were snapped in JR’s well-known black, white, and polka dot photo-booth style on site in truck parked next to the mural as it developed.

Philly’s new We Stand with Dreamers mural joins over 30 similar temporary wheatpasted murals of varying shapes and sizes in cities and towns across the U.S., a nationwide art project aimed at pushing Congress to pass the Dream Act and save undocumented youth from deportation before the end of the year! Read more…

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