Streets Dept’s Conrad Benner preserves Philly's urban masterpieces—in a snap!
Visual virtuoso and Fishtown native Conrad Benner champions street art as the most meaningful contemporary medium. Benner is the brains behind Streets Dept, a blog that chronicles the impromptu urban masterpieces that are covering walls, fences, and sidewalks from South Philly to Kensington. His @StreetsDept Instagram has garnered the attention of activists and street art aficionados alike, garnering 140,000 followers and social media collaborations with Urban Outfitters and Uber, among others.
Benner launched the blog in 2011 as a freelance photojournalist and, following instant success, eventually took on Streets Dept as his full-time gig. A fascination with graffiti has paved the way, he says. “This art form is so ephemeral. It could get removed or painted over five minutes after you leave it. I wanted to preserve it in some way,” he says.
More recently Benner has been using his online presence as a platform for change: Through a social media petition titled #SEPTA247, he advocated for better transportation options for late-night workers and helped secure 24-hour lines on Philly’s Frankford El and subway trains. Benner also peddled the grant-winning venture Next Stop: Democracy, which employs artists to paint signs directing voters to polling locations. Streets Dept may have given Benner a voice for artists but it’s his voice that has prompted change.