Philly’s coronavirus response

#ThankYouPhilly: Giant posters turn boarded-up storefronts into essential worker tributes

The campaign shouts out everyone from doctors to utility workers.

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Provided to Billy Penn
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Fifty giant posters offering thanks to Philadelphia’s essential workers popped up across Center City, Old City and South Philly Wednesday morning.

In large lettering over colorful backgrounds, the new street art shouts out people still working as the city pushes through the pandemic, from first responders to transportation workers, nurses to cashiers.

The 4-by-6-foot installations, emblazoned with the hashtag #ThankYouPhilly, were slapped along businesses that have opted to board up their front windows during the long closures imposed by the coronavirus.

The project was funded by Visit Philly, and posted all over town by two local artists Symone Salib and Nicole Nikolich, aka Lace in the Moon. Designed in-house at Philadelphia’s tourism agency, the posters were printed in collab with the city — and they follow the same basic imagery as social media graphics shared by various government accounts.

“It’s really important that everyone is thanked who’s helping us with essential services,” Visit Philly CEO Jeff Guaracino told Billy Penn. “People who are on the frontlines — nurses, doctors, mailmen, sanitation workers.”

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Provided to Billy Penn

So far the posters have been spotted at the iconic Philly sportswear business Mitchell & Ness, Gayborhood hot spot Woody’s and the Eternity Fashion outpost at Broad and Chestnut. The same images were also printed as advertisements in hyperlocal community newspapers.

The large wheatpastes take advantage of the fact that several bars, restaurants and retail shops have covered their storefronts with wood. A Center City District spokesperson told the Inquirer it “would prefer that businesses didn’t” board up windows, but understands why owners do it. Philadelphia Police Department data shows that in the second week of April, commercial burglary trended up from previous weeks, while rates of theft and retail theft were down.

“We saw the stores and we thought, let’s do that there,” Guaracino said. “It looks a whole lot nicer than boarded-up businesses.”

Public art always has a huge presence in Philly — and during pandemic times, it’s been a common coping mechanism.

Around Philly’s collection of hand-washing stations, artists have painted murals reminding people to scrub and stay socially distant. Another project, called “Fill the Walls with Hope,” asked local artists and poets to submit work to be posted all over the city.

And since the stay-at-home order was first put into effect, Philadelphians have been creating rainbow art to hang in their windows so kids can go on “rainbow hunts” with their families. The colorful crafts are visible from Fishtown to Queen Village to East Falls.

Want some more? Explore other Philly’s coronavirus response stories.

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Arts