Your friendly neighborhood skywriting project

A project of the Social Practice Lab at the Asian Arts Initiative

9 May 2014

Un-Save the Date


Given the forecast of rain & clouds for Saturday, #WriteSky is postponed due to weather. On top of that, someone vandalized my Save the Date invitation!!! Oh, I suppose that was me.

Thanks for your interest & support – I’ll continue to communicate with the sky-typing team to secure a date this summer.  It’s a bummer, sure, but weather has always been an inherent risk of the project. The upside of high risk is high reward, and I look forward to sharing the poetic messages that Friends of the Rail Park, FACTS, Roman Catholic High School, Hive76 and the Artist group of Jaime, Sarah and Mary have prepared for Philadelphia!

9 May 2014

Message 3 – 319 Artists & Hive76

The 3rd & final message is brought to you by a collaboration between artists from the 319 North 11th Street Galleries, and Hive76 hacker space.


This group was interested in using this bold opportunity to convey an intimate message, like one you would receive in a text message from a close friend. Their message recalls our bodies and our spaces as they withstand and succumb to the march of time.

Jaime Alvarez, Sarah Kate Burgess, and Mary Smull are all independent artists who also have an interest in engaging their surrounding communities through meaningful activities. Jaime is a member of Tiger Strikes Asteroid while Mary is a member of Grizzly Grizzly. Sarah is an independent artist who has deep familiarity with the building and area.

Hive76 is Philadelphia’s hackerspace. They are a group of makers, engineers and artists that share a physical studio at 915 Spring Garden and also interact digitally to share resources. Their battle cry is “Make things awesome, make awesome things!”

9 May 2014

How and when will we know if we can skywrite?

The perfect day for skywriting is very particular. Primarily, we’re looking for it to be nice sunny day. After that, it gets more technical.

Surface wind has to be less than 15 knots crosswind, and winds at 10,000 feet (where skywriting occurs) must be under 35 knots (40mph). If it’s windier, than any message written in clouds will be blown away too quickly.

Cloud cover must remain at less than 3/10th of skyy coverage, with surface temperature remaining above 40 degrees Fahrenheight and Visual Flight Rules (VFR) in effect for the entire route of the flight. This is for two reasons. First, if the pilots have limited visibility, they will not be able to fly. Second, if it’s too cloudy, then we on the ground won’t be able to see man-made clouds against the backdrop of natural clouds.

For these reasons, skywriting is typically performed in the afternoon when the weather is most stable. So that’s the how: for Write Sky, when will we know for sure?


The sky-typer and I have a check-in scheduled for  Friday morning 5/9, when we will both take a look at Saturday’s forecast and determine we have a chance to hit the right conditions. This is the first call. If we move ahead here, the second decision point is Saturday morning 5/10. The sky-typer will confirm the weather conditions, and track radar to see current cloud cover over our target spot. By 10am, he will have to decide if he will fuel up his fleet of planes to do the sky-typing job, or if he will keep the planes light in order to execute the Air Show at Maguire Air Force base in New Jersey.

Long answer short, Friday afternoon is our first check, and Saturday morning is our second. If the particular conditions are settling in, then all thunderbirds are go! Easy, right?

8 May 2014

Message 2 – FACTS & Roman Catholic

The second #WriteSky message is a collaboration between Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School and Roman Catholic High School.


Their message pertains to the state of education in Philadelphia, and the responsibility that we have to our children. How timely given the current budget hearings of the School Reform Commission? The message will include one word in Latin and one in Chinese, to reference the cultural heritage of each school.

The Folk Arts – Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS) is located in Chinatown North. FACTS is a K-8 school, created with the focus of using the arts as a means of understanding ourselves and others in a more holistic way. Working with Write Sky are a group of teachers and tutors, who are dedicated to the students and the local community, and are also working artists in different fields.

Roman Catholic High School, a Catholic secondary educational institution, founded in 1890 by Philadelphia businessman, Thomas E. Cahill, provides young men from diverse social, economic, and geographical backgrounds and education of academic and cultural excellence in a scholarly and nurturing environment. The challenging academic curriculum, competitive athletics program and engaging activities complement each other to foster courage, character and leadership.

7 May 2014

Message 1 – Friends of the Rail Park

Counting down to May 10, let’s sneak a peek at the messages, and the groups that crafted them.

Bringing you the first message is Friends of the Rail Park. Their message refers to the progress and labor associated with the now 10-year old project to bring a Rail Park to this neighborhood, and to Philadelphia.

Friends of the Rail Park is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization advocating for the preservation and reuse of the 9th Street [Reading Viaduct] and City Branches of the former Philadelphia and Reading rail line as a 3-mile linear park and recreation path traversing several neighborhoods and connecting to Fairmount Park.

6 May 2014

Save the Date, May 10

10339386_10102308520503283_993269321088549751_oWe’ve picked a date! #WriteSky will imprint the uncommon messages of five neighborhood groups into their common sky on Saturday, May 10 (weather permitting). Between 11.30a-12.30p, make sure you’re in a spot with a good view of the sky. All 3 messages will be written over the Callowhill/Chinatown North/Eraserhood, and can be visible up to 15 miles away.

Each day this week, I’ll be featuring one of the 5 groups that have worked to bring you these messages. Stay tuned!

5 Apr 2014

Recent Skywriting

Thus far in 2014, we’ve had four new skywriting works. Ok, well half of them have been from Shia LaBeouf, continuing a recent (hot?) streak of skywriting works. The other two have been advertisements – one by the taxi company Uber in celebration of Valentine’s Day, and the other by AirSign themselves, recreating a previous work with ISHKY just one day before Pi Day in 2014, above the SXSW music and tech festival in Austin. It doesn’t seem like ISHKY is directly involved this time, so I have to wonder if AirSign’s implementation was part of the original contract? Also, was there rain called for actual Pi Day? Why miss it by a day?