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South Street

clarsen's picture

After making many trips into Philadelphia the past few weeks I can really see how it’s considered a “City of Neighborhoods”.  This concept really struck me on Friday, however, when I visited Philly’s Italian Market, South Street, and the many sections in between.  I prefer these areas to Center City; they seem more honest, raw, and interesting to me while reminding me an awful lot of downtown New York.  The first time I walked through South Street was last Friday when my group and I visited Magic Gardens.  I saw how influenced the blocks were by the “younger generations” through art, music, and style. 

When visiting South Street this week, I passed by a gallery and office for a magazine named Creed that only accepts submissions from Philly residents under the age of twenty-five in fine arts, creative writing, poetry, fashion design, photography, industrial design, illustration, and journalistic stories.  Printed across their windows was “Amplifying the voice and vision of young Philly”.  Much of South Philly shares this motto by promoting the less prominent and experienced artists of the city.  Isaiah Zagar is definitely an exception, however, his murals, garden, and store Eyes do a great job with bringing diversity and range to the neighborhood.  In Critical Play, Mary Flanagan states that artists are those “who are ‘making’ for ‘making’s sake’, exactly what Zagar does.  Isaiah is not motivated by money or riches to create.  Eyes was incredibly well decorated, ethnic, and seemingly authentic.  I was especially happy to find an entire section of Frida Kahlo merchandise on the second floor.  There, I bought my third Frida Kahlo bag along with a pair of Kahlo socks.  Along I may have gone a bit overboard, Frida Kahlo is one of our generation’s best role models and icons.  I believe she captures much of the South Philly spirit.  To me, Frida is synonymous with power, eccentricity, independence, and nonconformity.  Much of the surrounding stores echo this energy. 

One of the strangest shops I peeked in was one named Curiosity, a store made up entirely of taxidermy.  Placed on the counter was a basket of stuffed ducklings for twenty-five dollars a bird.  Toad wallets, stuffed cats, skeletons, and antlers were also exhibited there.  The store definitely had a kind of gothic or emo vibe that was meant to appeal to a young and edgy crowd.  The man who worked there had gaged ears, many piercings, and heavy makeup, which added to the overall strange feel of the store. 

Music is a large influence on South Street Philadelphia.  I noticed that in a majority of the small shops, boutiques, and thrift stores I visited played very trendy and underground albums that tend to attract hipsters and indie lovers.  Repo Records, a vinyl store on South Street, had many posters of prominent indie musicians along their walls such as Grimes, Tame Impala, The White Stripes, and Tanlines.  Visitors and natives of South Street also sported many of these bands on their shirts or bags. 

Galleries line the streets, yet South Philly itself feels like a museum.  From Isaiah Zagar’s mosaics to the countless murals of politicians like Frank Rizzo, Bill Clinton, and Malcolm X, walking down these main and side streets seems very much like exploring an exhibition.   Mary Flanagan quotes Marcel Duchamp saying “The great trouble with art in this country at present and apparently in France also, is that there is no spirit of revolt – no new ideas appearing among the younger artists.  They are following along the paths beaten out by their predecessors, trying to do better what their predecessors had already done” (Flanagan 3).  South Street is an excellent example of revolt.  It is packed full of the ideas of younger artists.  It’s strange stores, music, and unconventional art forms litter the streets and inspire residents to continue their creativity.  Flanagan goes on to say that “Taking wild chances to provoke, disrupt, and change even in play appears to be risky business” (Flanagan 3).  This neighborhood has many aspects that most would consider risky yet they are fresh, creative, interesting, inspirational, and expanding.  South Street Philadelphia houses countless concerts, artists, and most importantly imagination.  It is at no risk of perfecting what “predecessors have already done” (Flanagan 3) or becoming drained and trite. 


Taylor Milne's picture


Cordelia structured her essay in forms of "blocks" by explaining different experiences and how they relate to play through her different expereinces on South Street. She chose to connect her "play" expereinces to the different forms of art that she found while exploring South Street, and how the cumulation of different art forms are able to create the unique and exotic nature of South Street.

ecohn's picture

My response

Cordelia’s essay talks about walking around South Street in Philly and feeling the youthful vibes and influence.

Larsen used Flanagan’s definition of “artist” to explain Zagar’s relationship with his mosaics. Cordelia also used the quotation from Marcel Duchamp (also from the Flanagan reading) about how the art world today lacks revolt. She disproves it, however, explaining that the uniqueness of South Street is not even close to only “perfecting what ‘predecessors have already done’”.

Cordelia and I both wrote about long lasting events: She depicted her time walking down South Street, and I told of my time in Reading Terminal Market. I find it interesting that neither of us chose one specific moment of time to write about.