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Monday, May 28, 2012

Philly Crosswalk Robots


I've seen some cool things in Philadelphia that have been on my to-do list for a while. Yet waking back to the hotel after our stroll through some of Philly's neighborhoods provided a veritable pearl of great price right below my feet at the corner of 12th & Market: a little robot on the crosswalk. Initially I thought it was masking tape. In reality, I think it's made of crosswalk paint tape (one can't pause very long to inspect this kind of medium by nature of it's placement....and the fact that a city bus could be barreling down on you). Either way it is not supposed to be there.

What was 1 robot soon morphed into many of different styles and colors. On the aforementioned corner I discovered a series of 3 robots each at a different crosswalk; all were unique. As I explored the city I found more than a dozen. They are all mysterious, anonymous and somehow captivating. One is smoking a pipe and has an unintelligible plaque next to it. Someone went to great lengths to create them and inconspicuously place them in a conspicuous place and secure them.....permanently. For me this street art was so creative and incredibly provocative. Nobody knows who does it and no one takes credit. It is art for the sake of art. Nobody is getting rich, but thousands see it each day and many take note.

President Monson's now famous advice to Elder Carl B. Cook of the Seventy (after a rough day at the office) was: "It's better to look up." (General Conference Oct 2011) Perspective is sometimes the only thing that gets us through a day. But President Monson also said: "Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey." (General Conference Oct 2008) This trip taught me that joy in the journey can exist at street level.

Thank heaven for art for art's sake. Thank heaven that God gives us the opportunity to find amusement and distraction on a journey and--depending on our perspective--full-blown joy and wonder at little things. As we look to Him, I think we can be given the grace to find joy in almost everything.

Crosswalk Robot (aka Stikman) next to a Toynbee tile
close-up of above shows pipe-smoking robot


Same robot at a different intersection

For more information on crosswalk robots, stikman and street art take a look at the Wikipedia entry on Toynbee tiles as well as  this blog.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the pingback! Philly is a literal treasure trove these little guys, and I sometimes miss it. Your photos make me wish I had taken more when I lived there. Hope you had a good trip!

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