Nov 30, 2023

7th Ward Tribute Debuts Art Installation, "The Time Bandit of the 7th Ward”

by: Jenny Donnelly Johnson

Legacy Reclaimed: 7th Ward Tribute, a Philadelphia public art initiative supported by Little Giant Creative, Mural Arts Philadelphia, and the City Archives Department, with support from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, unveils its second art installation, Time Bandit of the 7th Ward, a story-based gaming and immersive art installation created by mythologist and multidisciplinary artist Li Sumpter, Ph.D.

Opening on Friday, December 1 at 5 pm, at Rex at the Royal, located at 1524 South Street, Time Bandit of the 7th Ward will feature a “fictional artifact” from Illadelph Dreams: 2045, Sumpter’s latest chapter of the transmedia narrative Graffiti in the Grass. The artifact takes the form of a fully functioning 1910 Bell Mills vintage slot machine running on 5-cent nickels and its original century-old machinery but playing with a set of 6 new symbols. Sumpter designed these symbols to reflect the rich black history of Philadelphia’s 7th Ward, her own family legacy, and the archetypes and symbols of Illadelph Dreams: 2045. Time Bandit is designed to blur the lines between art and artifact, history and myth, the past, and the speculative future.

Sumpter says, “Time Bandit is an invitation to play a novelty game of chance and a chance to unlock a portal in space-time– a portal that takes you into the storyworld of Illadelph Dreams – set in future Philly circa 2045.” In the spirit of ever-keeping the black archive, Sumpter imagines Time Bandit as a small but mighty “future relic” of Philly’s 7th Ward as seen through the mythic lens of Afrofuturism and Sumpter’s own core memories she seeks to reclaim.

Li Sumpter’s connection to the 7th Ward and creative vision for Time Bandit comes from her father, artist, and sculptor Phil Sumpter, who lived and worked in the 7th Ward for decades since the 1980s. Also shaping Time Bandit are Sumpter’s childhood memories of playing pinball games and slot machines at The Bacchanal (1980 -1992), an old artist haunt at 13th and South, while her father talked art and life with the likes of the late Joe Tiberino, artist and owner of the Bacchanal, and Pop Chapman – former resident of the 7th Ward and black cowboy of Philadelphia.  It is the living archetype of Pop Chapman that inspired Phil Sumpter’s past sculptural work and subsequently, sparked Li Sumpter’s vision for The Time Bandit medallion.

The medallion is the ultimate gaming prize among a suite of collectible “art gifts” created by Sumpter in collaboration with other artists. Other special gifts include a limited edition 5-card worldbuilding mini-deck featuring once and future archetypes of Illadelph Dreams and historic figures of the 7th Ward. Also included are a re-imagined, limited edition, movie poster of W.E.B DuBois’ 1920 apocalyptic science-fiction story, The Comet, and prayer candles featuring the 5 archetypal figures/symbols from the card series: The Time Binder, The Lovers, The Afrofuturist, The Chanteuse, and The 7th Ward.

Visitors to the Time Bandit installation at The Rex on South St and online at can scan a QR code to complete a brief 5-question survey that will serve as an official contest entry and a chance to win a Time Bandit prize at an upcoming drawing. Prize drawings will be announced live at various on-site activations at The Rex, during special Legacy Reclaimed guided tours, and on social media. You do not have to be present to win. Qualified contestants must simply complete the brief 5-question survey with preferred contact info. The “survey” was a significant sociological tool utilized by W.E.B DuBois in his historic 7th Ward research and is also a world-building tool used in Li Sumpter’s community art and Afrofuturism practice.

Li Sumpter’s Time Bandit installation and its various multidisciplinary elements were made in dynamic intergenerational collaboration with Philly-based photographers Andrea Walls and Ken McFarlane, artist/sculptor Phil Sumpter, graphic designer Jessica Carvajal, exhibition designer Arianna Ho, creative engineer Ben Sax, artisan Cody Hughes, stylist Shanti Mayers, dancer/choreographer, Caitlin Green, artist and wellness practitioner, Sudan Green, and Sumpter’s Studio Manager, Tanner Hicks, with special support from Mother Bethel A.M.E Church, Brendan Olkus at Saint Lazarus Bar, Marc DiGiamo at NextFAB, MythMedia Studios, and the Museum of Black Joy.

Time Bandit and Reflecting Revenants: Recalling Black Life in the 7th Ward will be displayed through February 17, 2024. Private tours for students and youth groups can be arranged for Thursdays and Fridays through February.

Additionally, Mural Arts has developed a youth curriculum incorporating pieces from Legacy Reclaimed that educators can utilize to teach students about the significant contributions and struggles of the 7th Ward’s Black community while fostering a sense of identity, empathy, and cultural awareness.

Last updated: Nov 30, 2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share Your Thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *