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When Philadelphia-based multimedia street artist Amberella was first approached about designing art for installation at the historic Betsy Ross House, she was intrigued by the possibility — but not immediately sold on how her work would connect to Ross.
“Then I heard that Ross’s nickname was ‘Little Rebel’ and I started learning about her life, and felt like, ‘I love her,'” Amberella explains. “She was a woman who was doing things that she was passionate about. . . . She was building the flag in the dark in her room. I connect to her.” Amberella’s conceptual art — including a Magic Pussy Power collection — comments both on pop culture and her personal expression. This is her first experience creating art for a historic site.
A relevant return
The idea for bringing contemporary art to the historic landmark comes from director Lisa Moulder’s desire to make the Betsy Ross House into a vibrant part of Old City’s arts-and-culture district. “There are lots of people in Philadelphia who came to the Betsy Ross House when they were kids,” she says. “And history buffs who return to the house. But the majority of adults haven’t returned to the house or seen it as something relevant to revisit.”
To change that, Moulder has started creating arts events aimed at attracting older visitors to the house — having live music in the Betsy Ross House courtyard or hosting $5 film nights that include tours of the home. She’s been pleased that people who come to check out these events are excited to take a tour and learn more about Ross’s life.
Bad-ass Betsy Ross
Amberella’s art — two hearts that are part of her Power Hearts series — are featured on the front of and inside the walkway of the house. The heart that can be seen by passersby says “Little Rebel” and, just inside, another heart reads “Be brave.” Amberella’s work is weather resistant, and Moulder plans for the hearts to stay up on the house for the future. She hopes that passersby will notice, be intrigued by the hearts, and come in to learn more about Ross’s life.
Amberella loves that her art is in a place where many young people will see it. She hopes the younger audiences who go to the Betsy Ross House for field trips will “appreciate how badass Betsy Ross was.” Amberella also gives kudos to Historic Philadelphia for doing something risky like bringing in a street artist to communicate about and comment on Ross’s essence.
The art will be displayed ongoing at the Betsy Ross House. Follow Amberella on Instagram for more in her Power Heart series.
The Betsy Ross House (239 Arch Street) remains open during the government shutdown.
Visit online for ADA accessibility information, and connect with Betsy Ross House staffers on arrival for help with your needs.
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