In part three of our Favorite Craft series, we met with Conrad Benner, an arts journalist & enthusiast who founded the popular photo-blog Streets Dept.
Can you start by telling us a bit about your background and your blog?
In my early 20s, I was a freelance journalist who ran my own blog focusing on my interests: music, art, nightlife, and politics. When I was 24, I was working at a coffee shop and decided to start a new blog about one of my passions, street art. And thus the Streets Dept blog was born!
Streets Dept is a photo-blog that aims to support and celebrate artists. I use it to document street art, graffiti, and urban exploration in Philadelphia. Ever since I was a kid, I was fascinated with street art and graffiti. My blog is a convergence of the two things I’ve always loved. My Instagram account has become an extension of the blog; I use it both to document street art in the city in real-time as well as architecture, people, and public spaces, both in Philly and in my travels.
How did you become so intrigued by street art and graffiti at such a young age?
I was always interested in art, and growing up in Fishtown [in Northeast Philadelphia] meant that street art and graffiti were easily accessible. As I got older, I started checking out books about Banksy (a graffiti artist from England), other graffiti artists, and started following street art blogs, which is what really started my passion for this art form. I particularly liked the open, unpretentious nature. Street art is made to invite you in, whether you’re walking to work, the el [Market-Franford Line], to school - it’s everywhere.
Where is the best place to see street art in Philly? Are there any new street artists who are exciting you?
There is a boutique hotel at the intersection of 5th and Bainbridge that’s undergoing construction. Artists are constantly putting up work there, and since the building owner and construction team enjoy the artwork, pieces can stay up for extended periods of time.
If I had to pick one artist that’s exciting me right now I’d say Aubrie Costello. She’s a new silk graffiti artist and her work is awesome!
Do you have a favorite craft that you own?
Yes, my favorite craft is something that I obtained just a few months ago at a fundraising event at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. The event was for Community Integrated Services (CIS), an organization that works with adult artists with special needs. A lot of the adults participating used art as an outlet to express themselves in a rewarding manner, but for some it’s the only way they earn a living. I met some incredible and enthusiastic artists at this event, which ultimately lead me to purchase my current favorite craft, a bright pink crochet wall hanging.
What does this piece mean to you?
This craft is a constant reminder that I am so lucky to be in the position that I’m in and I am able to receive the opportunity to support all types of artists.
Where do you keep this piece?
I keep the wall hanging at the foot of my bed, near my bookshelf, my plants, and a few other pieces. For me this is the perfect place since I see it first thing every morning. Typically, the foot-of-my-bed is the place where I display my warmest art pieces. When I look at the pink crochet I feel good energy.
Can you tell us about some of your current or future projects?
I want to work with CIS in some way; I may interview one of the artists for my blog and do a street art installation with him or her. My whole blog is about supporting, celebrating, and elevating artists. Working with CIS is another great way to support artists in the area.
Currently, I have a really exciting project in the works with Arterial Agents, a small grocer and coffee shop near the Liberty Bell with a dynamic magazine section! I’m working with the owner on a series of Streets Dept postcards that will include my own unique flare of some of my favorite images on my blog.