071 Ann Keech


Our family moved to the Philadelphia area in 1977, and are still thrilled that this is where we ended up living, working and raising a family. It was difficult to choose an object and story for this fabulous 4×4 public art project, especially because I’m one of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers, a known group of found-object artists, and we throw nothing away! Oh the potential Philadelphia stories that come from experiencing so much and saving so many mementoes: Please Touch Museum, Penn, CHOP, Unitarian Church, nature centers, museums, theaters, Magic Gardens, food, parades, festivals, Phillies, red tailed hawks, wonderful people, an infinite variety. What to choose? Three saved political buttons will fit.  They will tell just a few stories for you about our city that has so often been the center of advocacy and protest from its earliest days! “Free William Penn” buttons were sold for $1 to help fund completion of the restoration of the statue of Penn, encased in scaffolding in 1987 on his perch a-top City Hall. It was feared that it wouldn’t be completed for the bicentennial celebration of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. The restoration was separated out from the larger project and The Billy Buttons were marketed by the William Penn Restoration Committee, a group of citizens who decided that the city government was taking too long. The committee was founded by Herbert L. Olivieri, President of Pat’s King of Steaks, with former 76ers star Julius Erving serving as general chairman of the fund-raising effort. William Penn was freed in time for the bicentennial celebration of the 1787 Constitutional Convention!

My “Freeze Walk ‘85” button takes me back to a frightening new threat at the time: nuclear proliferation. One of my children was especially distressed, and so the walk seemed a way to “do something.” Our walking companion was Ruth Bacon, who couldn’t have been more perfect a mentor for social action to that child. It was a beautiful day and meaningful way to speak out with thousands of other concerned Philadelphians. We weren’t alone.

The blue PI:A button came from Dumpster Diver pal the late Randy Dalton, remembered for his energetic, creative advocacy for ART in Philadelphia. Endearingly called the “Blue Man,” Randy campaigned to increase funding of the arts and artists in Philadelphia, who he said often worked for little pay and little appreciation. He used blue as a color symbol for supporting art. He was blue about the situation for the arts but, instead of being blue, he thought we all should “do blue.” His “Blue Grotto” exhibit space and studio is blue-lit and packed with delightful partially or all-blue artworks created from found objects. PI:A stands for Philadelphia Initiative: Art, the pin handed out around the 1998 Welcome America Festival. Randy challenged us to use exterior blue light bulbs and leave pool lights on at night, casting blue up and out as support for the arts. He felt it gave everyone a way to make art with light and be part of the movement. The work for supporting art in Philadelphia will go on; Randy’s creativity and enthusiasm terribly missed.

Red PHL button: in November 2015, Philadelphia was named as the first World Heritage City in the United States! Friend John F. Smith, III, who gave me the button for this cause, is Board Chair of the Global Philadelphia Association, and was instrumental in creating and leading the campaign that accomplished this great honor. As part of a City of Philadelphia-Global Philadelphia Association joint venture, it will enhance the city’s international stature and promote the appreciation and preservation of our heritage, bringing new tourism and commerce to the region. Bravo Philadelphia, World Heritage City! Political buttons display opinions, experiences, passions and our histories, telling great Philadelphia stories when saved and shared. Thanks for the memories!