Not much to say this week. Here are some random colorful pictures from the streets of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of its Public Art Program this year! It had one the first “percent for art” public art program in the United States when it passed an ordinace in 1959 that required that a percentage of construction costs for municipal projects be set aside for fine arts. Read more about the program’s history here.
The pictures below are a sampling of some the public art in Center City Philadelphia. I’m sure you’ll recognize some of them. Yes, those are huge dominoes and Monopoly pieces! One of my favorites has always been Claes Olbenburg’s Clothespin in Centre Square. That’s a reflection of City Hall in the building behind it in the picture below.
One of the things I love about Philadelphia are its tiny streets and lanes located off the main avenues. These thoroughfares date from long ago when servant’s quarters and horse barns (now desirable and expensive living quarters) were situated in the back alleys, and houses had boot scrapers near their doors so people could clean mud off their shoes before entering.
I didn’t discover these little streets until I stopped taking the bus everywhere and started walking. One of the most attractive features of the little byways in the Bella Vista neighborhood of Philadelphia are Isaiah Zagar’s tile and glass mosaics. They cover the facades of selected buildings waiting to surprise you as you turn a corner.
Here’s a slideshow of pictures I took on a walk through the neighborhood.
It’s a long way from Las Cruces, New Mexico to Philadelphia where I live, and an even longer trip from Philadelphia to Cape Town, South Africa. I like to bead on long plane rides, so I started a bracelet on the Las Cruces trip, making a base then starting to embellish it with beads of many colors, shapes and sizes. I finished the bracelet on the trip to Cape Town. Then I submitted it to the Bead-A-Day Beading Calendar for 2009 and it was accepted! You’ll have to wait until the calendar comes out to get the instructions for making the “Las Cruces to Cape Town Bracelet.” You’ll also find many other beautiful beading projects in the calendar-one for every day of the year.
Here is a slide show of some of the things I saw in Las Cruces and Cape Town.
I wrote about my neighbor Bob’s Urban Garden last year.
Since then, he’s built a wooden Koi pond complete with solar lights that keep it lit at night. Three of the Koi fish from last year are back and bigger (literally!) than ever. They have smaller Koi fish and two turtles to keep them company. Bob’s added a new ceramic fountain, Lilly pads, and an additional wooden tub of flowers in front of our house to give it badly needed curb appeal. Loki the cat is still around checking under cars for hapless pigeons. Barbara the Macaw had a good time mugging for the camera. While I was taking pictures, several people stopped by to admire.
Enjoy the slide show.
Yes, I am a featured crafter on the third season of the HGTV show, That’s Clever, demonstrating how to make a polymer clay Keepsake Memory book and a polymer clay Festive Pen. You can read the whole dirty back story in the Spring, 2008 issue of PolymerCAFE. Ok, OK, so it’s not Britney running from the paparazzi while shaving her head, but it will have to do.
That’s Clever is known for having its crafters engage in amusing physical antics in the first part of each segment. They wanted me to do the same. I live in South Philadelphia where my garden is of a blade of grass growing under my front stoop, and drivers who barrel 45 mph down a one way street don’t think they have violated the law if their car is pointing backwards. I wasn’t gonna be hula hoopin’ on my front lawn, that’s for sure.
Here’s how this part of the production planning went down:
After we finished talking about the step outs, the producer started discussing ways to showcase me in wild and whimsical ways that have become the trademark of That’s Clever.
“We like to film crafters doing something physical for the intro,” she explained, “Do you play a sport?”
Running from muggers, I thought. “No,” I replied.
“What about hopping on a pogo stick?”
I mentally flash forwarded into the future and had a startling vision of myself hanging over a hospital bed in traction. “I have a herniated disc,” I replied, “and the doctors have put me on a strict no pogo stick diet.”
“What about a scooter?” she pressed.
“Oh, no,” I gasped. If I didn’t fall and smash my head on the pavement, some driver would get me. Even if he had to come up on the sidewalk to do it. They make them tough in South Philly.
She paused. “Do you do anything?” she asked hopefully.
“I use to play jacks,” I offered. “I was pretty good, too.” In fact, I was even better than Margaret Mary who had hands the size of Montana and could suck up jacks like a magnet crane.
Maybe that will work,” she sighed, “I’ll see if I can find jacks somewhere.”
They never came up with anything physical for me to do which is how I lived to write this Blog entry.
Artists don’t let the lack of traditional materials stop them from creating. And sometimes, the need to feed one’s family provides more motivation to make art than than waiting for one’s Muse. These forces converge on the beaches of Rio De Janiero where artists have found a way to make art and money from the sand and the ocean.
As you stroll along the beaches, you pass by realistic, intricate, larger-than-life sand sculptures. Looking is free, but if you want to take a picture, you stuff a few Reals in a can chained to a post in front of the sculpture. The artist spends the day with the sculpture, to maintain the fragile sand and water creation and to keep an eye on the can of money.
In the pictures above, you can see the artist stretched out on a blanket behind the sculpture. He raised his hand in thanks when we stuffed some money into his can. We, in turn, thanked him making our walk on such a beautiful beach even more special.
My neighbor Bob has created an unexpected jungle paradise (complete with a bright blue Macaw named Barbra) on the sidewalks of South Philadelphia. In addition to lush flowers, vines and elephant ear plants, Bob’s garden boasts an above ground wooden Koi pond complete with gurgling fountain and contented goldfish. Loki, the aptly-named pussy cat, has left the goldfish alone in favor of lying in wait under cars parked on the street, and terrorizing the hapless pigeons who venture under them to escape the summer sun.
Aside from window boxes, most urban gardens are locked up in community land plots or in containers hidden from the street. Bob shares his garden with the world. You don’t need an invitation to smell the flowers, say hello to Barbara or play with Loki. Bob’s urban garden has suffered surprisingly little vandalism which tells me that the passers by are truely enjoying this little nature sanctuary in the middle of a gritty urban landscape. If you click on the “view all images” bar above, you can enjoy my neighbor Bob’s garden, too.
Philadelphia is a city of row houses. That’s one of our claims to fame. We used to be an industrial city and row houses provided cheap shelter for the people who worked at places like the Baldwin Locomotive Works and the Stetson Hat Company. When a row house was torn down, however, a party wall was exposed that was pretty ugly. We also battle a graffiti problem.
The Philadelphia Mural Arts program began as a way to beautify the City and to combat graffiti. We now have beautiful murals in all parts of the City. They are a vibrant reflection of life and character of each neighborhood.
The pictures you see here are of two of my favorite murals. There are lots more. If you come to Philadelphia, you should ride around and take a look at them. For more information on the mural arts program, go to