How Tattooed Mom became Philly's premier street-art museum

Featured on

There is no admission fee at Philly’s premier street art museum, better known as the bar Tattooed Mom. So, drink in hand, I took a self-guided tour.

It was the same exhibition that’s always on display, and always a little different: a 20-year accumulation of stickers, wheat paste, spray paint, and marker. I appreciated the cartoonish-yet-sinister mural by New York artist L’Amour Supreme, the de rigueur Shepard Fairey poster. I noted countless works by local artists: the graphic, black-and-white work of Joe Boruchow, sassy conversation hearts by Amberella, dark political satire by YOMI.

I regretted not bringing a Sharpie.

Still, there’s always next time at Tattooed Mom, which has anchored South Street through 20 years of churn and is still thriving amid what I’d consider the classic South Street trifecta: a sneaker store, a sex emporium, and a new-age gift shop.

“A lot of people have this viewpoint that South Street’s not what it used to be,” said Robert Perry, the bar’s owner and, unofficially, its chief curator. “I think, for a lot of Philadelphians, it is a coming-of-age place — and it has been for many generations.” (My teenage South Street? I bought lumpy wool mittens at a store questionably named Ethnics, blushed in the aisles of Condom Kingdom, puzzled over Harry’s Occult Shop, loitered at Pearl Art and Craft, and danced at TLA.)

“It’s not the same South Street as when you came of age as a hippie in the ’60s or a punk rocker in the ’70s, but the story of self-discovery is one that I think repeats itself over and over here.”

So, it’s fitting that Tattooed Mom has staked out a place as the antidote to adulting.

To that end, scattered on the bar are bouncing frogs, plastic rings, temporary tattoos, and Dum Dums lollipops; the menu boasts five kinds of tater tots; and the cocktails incorporate cotton candy (with local Faber rum and lime juice) and Pop Rocks (with raspberry vodka and lemon soda). There is also, up by the front window, a bumper car. It was scavenged from the family business of Perry’s former co-owner, Kathy “Mom” Hughes, who owned the nickname decades before it became an internet term of admiration.

Click here to read the full article.