I'm looking at grad programs for next year and Philly is definitely a possibility. I visited once last year and it was a good time. Some people consider Philly to be the fifth borough of NYC because there's so much happening at once. Street artist aRKS loves decorating the City of Brotherly Love. Today, he explains the story behind his tag. He writes:"Who wouldn't want to decorate a boring surface? I have been experimenting with the graffiti medium for the last 6-7 years. I started with sticker art in May '05. I would walk around the streets of Philadelphia and notice these character stickers: El Toros, Under Water Pirates, Malics, Morgs, etc. They were not only everywhere, but they were also extremely creative and different. One summer, my roommate suggested I make a character of my own that we could stick up together. That's exactly what we did."
"For my character, aRKS, I incorporated my love of sharks with my love of art. I also tried to incorporate an awareness of the brutal practice of shark finning that is destroying the world's shark populations. At first, we would only go out well past midnight armed with only a dozen sticks. That number eventually grew and the time kept getting earlier and earlier. Now I actually prefer the daytime. Nighttime seems more mischievous and more attention-grabbing. Now I will go out with around 100 sticks when I'm on a 'sticker mission' or I will have at least a pocket full when I am casually walking around."
"Why do I do it? First of all I do not encourage the act of vandalizing personal property. People pay good money and taxes on the things they own and they shouldn't have it altered unwilling by someone who is trying to express themselves. I once saw a row of cars where the entire side was tagged. I know if it was my car I would have been PISSSSSSED. I am a follower of 'Treat others the way you want to be treated.'"
"I feel that if there is empty space on 'municipal property' like street signs, newspaper boxes, light poles, etc., then it is a prime location to display art. I mean why not? People pay $$$ to walk around a gallery and look at art, so why wouldn't you want to walk around everywhere you go and view art... for FREE? Thats what I love about it. Sticker artists make their art for free for everyone to view and expect nothing in return. We are literally decorating an otherwise boring surface free of charge. Who else would do that? I understand people still see it as vandalism and destruction. They wonder what gives us the right to 'decorate' something that is not ours. I would agree but I'm sure that if Michelangelo, Picasso, Van Gogh, or any other famous artist wanted to make something and place it on the back of a stop sign, there would be no controversy."
"Anyways, I stay active on Flickr. It's unbelievable the following that this site has for the art. I also continue to make stickers in the central Pennsylvania area and Philadelphia. I am currently involved in a Sticker Scavenger Hunt being hosted by Josh and am featured in the book Going Postal by Martha Cooper."
"For more information on shark finning go to www.stopfinning.org, www.sharkwater.com, or www.sharks.org."
"Thanks for this opportunity, Illicit, and stay hungry."
You're welcome, aRKS! I'll have to give you a shout if I'm ever back in your city.
P.S. I also love this link from my friend Mawena. Who knew Japanese rice paddy farmers had a penchant for rural street art?