Philadelphia

The following guest poet is by Lower East Side-based photographer Ana Candelaria:

Born in Rochester, New York and currently based in Queens, City Kitty makes his presence wherever he happens to be. And each piece that he creates is distinctly intriguing. 

When did you first discover your love for art?

I’ve always loved art, and it’s always been a part of my life. I come from a very artistic family. My grandparents were both painters. They met when they were students at Pratt. My mother was a singer. I, myself, was a musician for many years, and my brother is a musician. It’s just something that has always been encouraged.

Do you have a formal art education?

Yes. My undergraduate degree is in Art Education from Nazareth College in Rochester. I worked as a substitute teacher for a bit, but I did not end up pursuing teaching as a career. I then went back to school and earned an MFA in Painting from the University of Albany, where I taught undergraduate courses in drawing for two years. I have an entirely different career in the Fine Arts. That work looks nothing like my street art.

On the streets we identify you with your City Kitty character. When was your City Kitty character born? And how did you come up with its design?

I moved to NYC in January 2010. And two months later, I met a couple of friends who were working at the Fountain Art Fair. They ran a collective that I ended up joining, and I started meeting more and more street artists. I used to do graffiti as a kid, and I saw that if I were to do street art, I’d have to make up a character.

So I thought, “All right I’ll come up with a character!” I grew up in a house with five cats. And when I lived in Bushwick, there were two gangs of cats on either side of the adjacent factory, and they were always having kittens.

Do you remember your first City Kitty piece?

Yes, the first thing I did was make a silkscreen. The style of work that I do now is similar to what I did back when I was in a band. When I moved down here, I was still making band posters. But since hanging posters here is illegal, I decided that if I’m going to get into trouble, it might as well be for my own work! That’s when I started burning silk screens. I would make all of my work by hand for the posters, but then I would print them out. I would make one cut paper piece, scan it and print multiple copies and put them out. All the other poster artists that I knew and fell in love with were silkscreen artists, so if I’m going to change gears, I’m going to want to start with silkscreen.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

There are poster artists and fine artists. Jeff Soto is kind of a crossover, as are Michael Motorcycle and Tara McPhearson. Jeff is a great painter, but he also does murals. Tara designs toys that she shows at Comic Con and she’s, also, represented by galleries. I like that balance. I do a lot of posters between working on fine art paintings.

I have seen some of your sketches on MTA service announcement posters on the New York City subway platforms.

Yes! I usually grab the posters on my way to work. I’ll draw them on my lunch break, and I’ll put them up on the way back home. And they get around — as I work in different parts of the city from the Lower East Side to Harlem. And when I have to get to New Jersey, I travel through Midtown.

When did you start putting up these MTA service announcement sketches? And why?

About a year and a half ago, I put up 113 of them. Sometimes they’re up for a few days, and other times they stay up for as long as a month. After 10 years of doing street art, I felt like I was making work for the same audience. On the subways I can reach a different audience and, perhaps, make some people smile. And I don’t sign my subway sketches. I like that feeling. And since I’ve begun doing this, I’ve only been yelled at by a couple of transit workers.

Have you ever done a wall?

Yes, I have done several. My first wall was in Ithaca at a bar where I used to play with my old band.

What about collaborations? I’ve seen your collaboration with Turtle Caps. Do any others stand out?

I‘ve collaborated with a lot of people. For years, I did a lot of work together with my street art friend Bludog. I also collaborated with Grey Egg from New Jersey, and I worked with some people from Europe.

What gives you the biggest thrill in this street art scene?

Traveling to new cities and putting my work up in them — especially since it’s such a worldwide thing. It’s a global community. I love seeing what other people are doing and I love contributing to it.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

I’m satisfied when I finish, and then a few days later, I hate it!

How has it evolved over the years?

I use more colors and my characters have evolved over time.

Running into your pieces always makes me feel happy! And I’m looking forward to seeing more of them…especially on my way to work! What’s ahead?

I’m now working on the wall at Second Avenue and Houston. A solo exhibition of my hand-embellished MTA posters will open this Friday evening from 6-10 pm and continue through Saturday, 12-8 PM, at the Living Gallery Outpost, 246 East 4th Street.

Collaborations:

3. City Kitty with London-based  Neon Savage

5. City Kitty with Queens-based Turtle Caps

6. City Kitty with Toronto-based Urban Ninja

Interview conducted by Ana Candelaria and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1 Lois Stavsky 2-7 Ana Candelaria

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The streets of North Philly are rich with a range of public art — from commissioned murals to first-rate graffiti. The image pictured above was painted by Philadelphia-based artist Yis Goodwin aka Nosego. Several more images captured on my recent visits to Philly follow:

Brazilian artist Eder Muniz aka Calangoss, close-up from huge mural

Philly-based Septic the Outlaw, close-up

The ubiquitous Philly-based Bines

The legendary NYC writer Skeme

Veteran Philly writer Enem

Photos by Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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The streets in the vicinity of North 10th off Spring Garden Street in Philly are home to an intriguing array of street art. Pictured above is the work of Glossblack, a Philadelphia-based artist with roots in graffiti. What follows are several more images — all by Philly-based artists — that I captured on my recent wanderings around one of my favorite cities.

Charles Burwell, close-up

NDA

Lauren West, close-up

Nero

Joe Boruchow, four of several works on Buttonwood Street, alongside Nero

Photos by Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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One of the highlights of my recent trip to Philly was my visit to the legendary TATTOOED MOM on South Street. Not only is it a first-rate restaurant and bar, but it is also an extraordinary oasis of creativity and street art. On this past trip, I discovered its overwhelmingly impressive second level.  An ever-evolving site that hosts a range of events, it was home — this time — to Characters Welcome 6, its sixth annual international sticker art exhibit. While there, I had the opportunity to speak to its visionary owner and director, Robert Perry.

What an amazing space this is! I was familiar with the downstairs. But this upstairs level is phenomenal! It is the perfect antidote to the — almost aseptic — direction so much of street art is taking. I’m so happy to have discovered it!

Yes! I tend to think of it as a hidden gem!

How long has TATTOOED MOM been around?

It was founded in 1997. This year it is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

And what about its name — TATTOOED MOM? What is its origin? Is it a reference to how welcoming it is to folks of all ages? 

It’s actually a reference to a specific person, Kathy “Mom” Hughes, who was a mother to so many — including band members who traveled through Philly.

I noticed downstairs works by Shepard Fairey, Wordsmith and other key street artists. And this upstairs has evolved into an authentic street art museum. 

Yes! I see it as an unofficial street art museum — anarchistic and ephemeral in its nature.

I assume, then, there are no official curators.

Yes, it’s all freestyle…uncurated. Everything that happens here is organic.

And I’ve noticed folks of all ages here today, including children.

Yes, children are invited to participate in several of our community-oriented activities. But in the evenings, this space is only open to adults.

I’m loving this sticker show. Philly has always been home to an amazing array of sticker artists.

Yes! It’s our sixth annual one — with contributions from many artists who aren’t local. And dozens of stickers from previous years’ shows remain on the walls.

What’s ahead?

We are constantly changing and evolving. We are always growing and expanding our activities and programs as we make new friends.

It sounds ideal! You’ve created quite a Utopia here!

Special thanks to Alberto of JMZ Walls for introducing me to Robert.

Photos by Lois Stavsky; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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Coinciding with the Democratic National Convention, the non-profit Rock The Vote launched its Truth to Power campaign in Philadelphia earlier this week. Among its events was a three-day pop-up art exhibit featuring a varied range of socially and politically engaged works in different media. Among the artists who participated are many whose works have also surfaced in public spaces. Pictured above is Keith Haring with the City Kids Foundation. Here are several more:

Mear One, False Profits

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Beau Stanton, Elemental Crisis 

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Shepard Fairey aka Obey

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Lmnopi, Tehrir

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Mata Ruda, How Can I Write My Own Future with My Hands Bound?

mata-ruda-political-art

Photo credits: 1-3, 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky; 4 Sara Ching Mozeson

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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