You know Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter as the frontman for Philly-born, multi-award-winning musical giants The Roots. You may also know him from his nightly appearance, with his band, on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. And you may even have seen him Off-Broadway, as the star of the Afrofuturist production, Black No More.
But did you know that, once upon a time, you might have caught him with a spray can in hand, tagging walls all over the city with “DT” or “Double T” (for his initials)? Trotter was 12 when he was arrested for spraying a basketball court in South Philly, and sentenced to scrub walls for the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network. That’s when he met Jane Golden, now Executive Director of Mural Arts Philadelphia.
Trotter is now a board member of Mural Arts — and on a mural himself, on the wall of South Kensington’s The Clay Studio (in addition to the Legendary mural of The Roots band on S. Broad Street). “Talk about full circle,” as he put it to The New York Times a few years ago.
The multi-talented artist, musician, actor and thinker will join Golden, in conversation with Citizen co-founder Larry Platt, at our 5th annual Ideas We Should Steal Festival® on December 15, at the Comcast Technology Center. (Get your tickets before December 4 for a special Cyberweek deal.) The conversation, titled “How Finding One’s Voice Can Change The World,” will explore how hip-hop — “not just the rapping but the graffiti, the dancing, the attitude” — was an escape for Trotter, allowing him to find his voice and change his (and all of our) world.
You can read more from Trotter here, in The New York Times.
There’s no question that we are a city of incredible art, high and low — much of it thanks to the work Golden does at Mural Arts, bringing murals into every corner of the city.
But Philly could learn a lesson from Chicago about how to make citywide art a priority. Under Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the midwestern city has launched Arts 77, a $60 million plan to boost arts and culture in all 77 of Chicago’s neighborhoods.
How can they afford that, at a time when so many concerns are fighting for funds? By embedding arts and culture into multiple city departments, using the collective resources and responsibilities of agencies across Chicago to push art everywhere.
Erin Harkey, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, will also be at our Festival, talking about her city’s work to bring arts into often overlooked communities. (Again, get your tickets before December 4 for a special Cyberweek deal.)
Nearly a quarter of the $60 million investment, for example, is coming from the city’s capital program, which has pledged $15 million over the next five years to install public art within the public way on Chicago’s South and West sides. And Chicago’s Planning Department, embarking on the first citywide planning effort in decades, is hiring artists to be part of its neighborhood engagement teams, to ensure arts and culture are part of any discussion about how to shape the city’s 77 communities for decades to come.
“Arts has to be everywhere,” as a former Chicago arts commissioner said. “The city has to take a far more purposeful role in making that happen.
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