An enduring accolade for often transitory work, blog lists best of Philly street art


    To see most works of art, you’ll have to visit a museum. A new list of street art highlights works Philadelphians pass every day.

    Photographer Conrad Benner created, a blog about art around the city, three years ago. Born and raised in Philadelphia and now living in Fishtown, Benner said the nontraditional “best of 2013” collection is a chance to reflect on gems from the year.

    “It’s just a fun way to look back at the year — to see what excited people the most and got people talking,” Benner said.

    To ensure that, he said he based the blog’s Top 10 list on page views.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    No more Noam

    Unlike most art adorning the walls of museums, street art is, by its nature, temporary, Benner said.

    Compiling the list offered a chance to remember all the great art that’s no longer visible.

    “The top three items on that list actually sort of don’t exist anymore,” he said.

    Those works include a now obscure mural of Noam Chomsky that was recently covered by new development on Fairmount Avenue. “I really love Noam Chomsky,” Benner said. “I thought it was a great mural. I thought it was such a great homage to a great Philadelphian and it was sad to see it go.”

    While he and many others were fans of the Chomsky mural, Benner he doesn’t believe the development should have been stopped to save the mural.

    “But maybe we do a new Noam Chomsky mural somewhere else,” he said.

    Some of the art on the list was even more transitory. “They were taken down within a day or two,” Benner said. “Especially that ticket — it was gone within 30 minutes.”

    Turning the tables on the PPA

    That ticket was a giant parking ticket artist KidHazo created and placed on an illegally parked Philadelphia Parking Authority car.

    Wanting to target the unpopular PPA, he said he thought “this would be the least malicious prank to pull off on them. They’re such a giant and it’s kind of everyone feels helpless around them and no one can do anything.”

    KidHazo said he’s hit most neighborhoods in Philadelphia — including Chinatown, Old City, Queen Village, Northern Liberties, West Philadelphia, Center City and South Philadelphia. Just about everywhere, he said, except for Fairmount.

    While a lot of his work is taken down, he said he doesn’t plan to stop creating street art in 2014.

    “My whole goal is to just keep people laughing because I know a lot of street artists have a political agenda and they’re always trying to kind of shove that in someone’s face,” KidHazo said. “But I feel like there’s so much bad news out there that … hopefully, I can bring a smile to people’s faces and make them happy and lighten up the mood a little bit.”

    Three-dimensional surprises

    While much of the 2013 Philadelphia street art list is composed of flat creations, Benner said the list also includes art with more dimension.

    “They are sort of like these projecting little geodes that are tucked into where brick has fallen out, installed that way,” he said. “They’re sort of not meant to be noticed. If you’re walking by, they might catch your eye and, if they do, it’s sort of a delightful surprise.”

    South Philadelphian Joe Boruchow’s work made the blog’s Top 10 list. “All of my pieces are made from a single piece of black paper and I excise all of the white areas so what you have is like a lacy black paper cut out,” he said.

    Boruchow, who said he has done a lot of work in South Philadelphia, spreads his art around the city whenever he finds “a good spot.”

    “Watchtowers,” the piece that made the list, is near Ninth and Dickinson and took a month and a half to draw and cut out, as well as four months to transfer to the larger format on the wall.

    His collaboration with the Mural Arts Program is “basically a blown-up cutout that we painted on the side of a building.”

    Creations fade, ‘canvas’ stays

    Boruchow said he doesn’t like to pigeonhole himself as a street artist, even though he creates his work within public view. “I really don’t think of art in terms of ‘street’ art and ‘gallery’ art.”

    KidHazo, the creator of the giant PPA parking ticket, said he hasn’t received any negative feedback about his street art.

    To those who are critical of street art, Benner said many artists put their work on abandoned buildings or put it up in a way so it can be removed without damaging the “canvas.”

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal