If you’ve ever noticed a street sign in Philadelphia that made you do a double-take and then burst out laughing, you can probably thank Kid Hazo.
Since 2013, the anonymous street artist has been making authentic-looking but cheeky signs and sneakily attaching them to city poles, usually dressed in paint-splattered Dickies like he’s an actual municipal worker.
He was prolific at first, garnering attention from news outlets like The Inquirer and Philly Mag, and a shoutout from Visit Philly. He’s shifted his focus away from signs in the past few years, but for an episode of Art Outside, a new podcast from WHYY, he recently hit the streets again to install some of his pieces.
“It’s been a while since I had just put up regular street signs,” Hazo told podcast host Conrad Benner. “It’ll be a good time to go back and put up some of the old ones.”
As they got ready to stroll around Queen Village and Bella Vista, looking for a good spot, he readied his gear and prepared a set of bolts to enable a quick installation.
“When I actually get to the pole, I can just install the sign pretty quickly and move on to the next one,” he said. “Should take me about a maximum of 60 seconds to install the sign, in and out.”
Signatures of Hazo’s work include crisp border lines, arrows, shapes, and fonts — elements that made them look like genuine traffic-control signs. They’ve been so realistic that city maintenance people have reportedly cleaned them.
There was one in Queen Village that’s on the shiny, stiff material real street signs are made of. It reads “Don’t Act Like Garbage” and shows a stick figure dropping litter on the ground.
Others riff on iconic Philly images, like his “Queen of Jeans” banner that presented a woman- centered switcheroo at the spot of the old King of Jeans clothing store sign that used to loom over East Passyunk Avenue.
‘Slow: Hipster crossing’
Kid Hazo posted his very first sign in front of Fluid, a now-shuttered South Street music club. A reference to Big Daddy Kane’s famous song, it read, “No ½ Steppin’ Mon-Sun,” with a barred circle over a Chuck Taylor All Star sneaker.
“I had a lot of memories here in Philly, going and seeing some of my favorite DJs and seeing some really world-class acts show up at this nightclub,” he told Benner, the podcast host. “It was like a little homage to the hip hop scene and what this nightclub represented in Philly nightlife in that genre.”
Another South Street-area sign he installed featured a Ghostbusters-like character above the direction “No Ghost Ridin’ Tha Whip” — referencing the car-show stunt as well as local drivers’ habit of slow-cruising down the commercial corridor.
One Hazo sign read, “Go Tagging All the Time — Unauthorized street art is appreciated.” A yellow placard featuring a huge handlebar mustache said, “SLOW — Hipster XING.” Michael Jackson moon-walked in another, with the words “Warning — Smooth Criminal Neighborhood Watch.”
A piece with two female figures holding hands in the style of a school crossing sign featured the words “Don’t Hate, Appreciate.” On Election Day in 2015 he installed a big “VOTE HERE” signboard with a person-slipping-on-floor icon.
His first distinctively Philly work may have been a mock directional sign topped by a silhouette of Rocky raising his arms and pointing travelers to the movie boxer’s famous haunts: 4.7 miles to Adrian’s Pet Shop, 2.0 miles to the Italian Market, 1.1 mi to the Famous Steps and 4.8 miles to Mighty Mick’s Boxing Gym.
Hazo rarely goes back to check on old pieces, he said, but his motivation remains the same as it was with that first installation more than a decade ago.
“It’s just having something silly or seeing something that’s just lighthearted and just nice to change up your day,” he said. “People have pretty hard lives, depending on what’s going on and… that one little thing just changes how they feel.”
Appreciated by many, even city officials
Banksy-like, Kid Hazo has carefully kept his real identity a secret. He often wears a dark mesh mask and hoodie in photos, and he altered his voice for a podcast interview. News articles describe him as being in his early 40s with a full-time job in information technology.
Anonymity “doesn’t allow people to play the identity politics game,” he told Benner’s blog in 2019.
It also helps him avoid legal repercussions for illegally posting signs. When he’s out on the street bolting on a piece of art, he’s careful to maintain a low profile and work quickly.
“You want to just go in that mindset of, if you just look like you’re supposed to be here, no one’s going to question you,” he said.
Once, after he opened up the ad compartment of a bus shelter, a police officer came over, thinking he was an authorized installer. The officer held a piece of shelter glass in place as Hazo installed the poster — a fake ad with a joke about the Democratic National Convention coming to Philly.
“I was like, ‘Thanks!’” he recalled. “And then I put it up and locked it back up and was like, I gotta get out of here.”
Another memorable encounter with authorities happened when he created a giant faux Philadelphia Parking Authority ticket with the familiar white-on-blue word “violation” along one edge. He left the huge notice on the windshield of a PPA car, quickly drawing a crowd and attention on Instagram in the few minutes before the officer took it down.
Since then he’s had pieces exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a Navy Yard public art show, put mock Nike and Kellogg’s ads on bus shelters, and transformed the Claes Oldenburg blob-of-paint sculpture outside PAFA on North Broad into a grinning, oversize poop emoji.
In collaboration with the South Fellini team, he helped create a comical South Philly/Where the Wild Things Are animated short mashup.
Some of his shelter signs riffed on Visit Philly’s tourism promotion ads, which read like short letters. One of them said, “Dear Liberty Bell, Crack kills! …Just sayin. Peace out, Kid Hazo.” Visit Philly responded with an appreciative social post: “Dear Kid Hazo, Masterpieces, Street Art, Funny Jawns. Whatever you call it, your work impresses. With Love, Philadelphia.”
When Hazo has made art recently, it’s been bigger pieces and wall-size installations, he said, but not with any goal to take them beyond the street.
“I never wanted to take it into, like, a professional art career,” Hazo said. “It’s something I wanted to do on the side for fun.”