I first started noticing them earlier this summer and have since walked past what's felt like hundreds of his stickers, the words "MARCHER ARRANT WALKED HERE” printed in black capital letters on a white square background. At first, I ignored them as an advertisement, then graffiti, until curiosity got the best of me. Who is Marcher Arrant and why is he walking all over Pittsburgh? I had to find out.
“I am Marcher Arrant, an all-out walker who wanders in the margins looking for adventure, leaving marks when I pass,” the nomad writes me from the road.
Arrant, a 40-year-old artist and writer originally from Columbus, Ohio, who chose to stay anonymous, visited the city back in May, his first trip to Pittsburgh. He wrote on his Instagram page that it was “a city I’ve never been but which holds a special place in my heart because it’s where my inspiration Kids DAC lived.”
Arrant has been documenting the work of Kids, a beloved Pittsburgh street artist who died in 2010, on his Instagram page as he travels. Kids’ work — spray-painted sad, childlike characters with perfectly round heads and oversized equally rounded eyes that he sometimes swapped out for Xs, and often paired with a tongue hanging out of their mouths — is well-known and highly recognizable and can still be found in not just the city, but across the region.
The street art Arrant creates pays homage to Kids with his own sad drawings of linear, scribbled characters holding signs announcing sometimes profound, oft depressing sayings like, “It’s Marcher Arrant’s aversion to the mundane world that makes him a stronger walker.”
While he was in the Steel City, Arrant used a free Bike Pittsburgh bike map to find his way, joined other Pittsburgh street artists, including Matt “Seven” Spahr, Max “Gems” Gonzales, and the recently passed and well-loved Danny Devine, in creating a mural at a free wall in Bloomfield, and met up with Laura Zurowski, aka @mis.steps, a local blogger who aims to visit all 739 of Pittsburgh’s infamous city steps.
Zurowski says they met through a shared connection on Instagram and quickly realized they had similar creative paths.
“I love his style of blending messages about his mindset and identity into the artwork,” says Zurowski. “It reveals a bit more personality and fosters a connection between the artist and the viewer."
Pittsburgh City Paper reached out to Marcher Arrant over email to ask him more about his trip to Pittsburgh, and the souvenirs he left behind.
A lot of who I am can be known from the meaning behind my name. The word “March” derives from the French word “marcher,” to walk, earlier to trample. To march is to move forward, advance relentlessly, to forge ahead, keep on. A march is a long journey on foot. Another version of march is a piece of land in-between two countries that is not owned by either. It is a border, frontier, boundary, or margin. This version of march comes from the Old English word “mark” which means impression or trace. A mark is an object or other indication of the existence or passing of something. Combining these meanings a marcher is someone who walks, forges ahead, and keeps on. It is someone in-between, walking in the margins, who goes on long journeys on foot and leaves marks when passing.
“Arrant” means all-out, absolute, complete, through and through, in every respect, undiluted. It is a variant of the word “errant” which means wandering, drifting, rambling. Errant also means straying from the accepted course, lawless, deviant, behaving wrongly, going outside the proper area. To err is to move about aimlessly. Another version means to travel about in search of adventure.
I am Macher Arrant, an all-out walker who wanders in the margins looking for adventure, leaving marks when I pass.
I began walking very early on in order to escape the chaos of my house and to deal with the anxiety it caused. My parents are heroin addicts, and their addiction caused me a lot of mental problems which walking helps to deal with. Later on, I got into skateboarding and I would walk all over the city looking for skate spots. Spots were like little treasures to be found, and I spent all my time looking for treasure. As a kid, I was really into adventure movies like Goonies, Disney's Robin Hood, Stand By Me, and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou. I was also really into Arthurian Legend and the era of Knights-Errant, people going on quests of adventure. These things had a Don Quixote effect on me and caused me to go on walking adventures.
I moved to Paris and lived there for five years. I systematically walked every street in Paris. I then went on my first long distance walk, Paris to Spain, a month long trip. In Paris, I met the graffiti writer Curve while walking on the street and he got me into doing graffiti myself and that is when I came up with my name and marching character. After Paris, I moved to Barcelona for five years where I walked every street there and did many walks around Spain.
I systematically walked every street of Downtown, Mount Washington, Oakland, Duquesne Heights, Spring Hill, North Shore, and other parts. I found lots of Kids' graffiti and met many people that knew Kids. A friend of mine who writes Seven who is a Pittsburgh graffiti legend is friends with Kids' widow, and he offered to reach out to her to see if she would meet with me. She was so kind and agreed to meet me at Kids' grave. She brought her and Kids’ daughters as well. We sat at Kids' grave and talked about him for a couple hours and it was really special for me.
After a month of trying to walk every street in Pittsburgh, I had to abandon that project for the time being. It was taking longer than I thought and my money was running low and I was intent on finishing my walk to Maine. I am definitely going to go back at some point to finish that project. Kids' widow was so generous and offered to have me at her house and that she would show me Kids' art that was there. I am really looking forward to that and finding more of his graffiti on the streets. I am also looking forward to seeing all of the city because I absolutely love it there.
My favorite spot in Pittsburgh is definitely Carrie Furnaces. That is a place where Kids did a lot of graffiti. From what I understand, the place is owned by someone now, and you can only go at certain times when there are events of some sort. But two local writers, Mutiny and Vizoe, knew someone there and were super generous to hook me up with a tour of the place. I was in heaven. I got to see so many iconic Kids pieces which I had only seen on the internet, and many of which I had never seen.
I never got to meet Kids. I was turned onto his work from a graffiti magazine. I was always into traditional graffiti and never liked characters, but his stuff spoke to me so much. I loved his name which, to me, celebrated being a kid. He would sometimes do different characters together which were like childhood friends hanging out. He would often write autobiographical sentences about what was on his mind when he was doing his graffiti. He spoke a lot about his problems like addiction and self hate and I resonated with these things so much. I also really liked how his character looked. They were so simple but expressed so much. His kids looked drunk and sad, and I really resonated with that. I think his influence on my character is clear. Also, my favorite part about his work was when he would leave a sentence. It is because of that that I decided to make sentences the focus of my work.
I had been a fan of Danny's work for years, and him mine. I was painting a wall in the Italian neighborhood [Bloomfield] and he happened to randomly stop by. We were both super excited because we had been connected online for years but never met. He ended up bringing me to his apartment and showed me his absolutely amazing collection of art done by him and many others. He had art everywhere, in every room, in every drawer, in the bathroom, on every table, it was amazing. He had work from so many amazing graffiti writers, many of which were his friends. He showed me probably 50 different pieces. His love of doing and collecting art really struck me. You could really tell that art was his life. You would think that having been involved with art for so long that his passion for it would have lessened, but he showed me with a childlike passion and enthusiasm piece after piece and told me stories about the people who made the art. He was good friends with an iconic moniker artist named Lamps who I greatly admire, and Danny called him up so we could talk but he wasn't available. Danny offered to have me over to his house again to hang out and show me more art, and I was really looking forward to it. It was about two weeks later that I heard about his passing. I had only met him that one time, but the blow hit hard because I had just seen him. It really highlighted the fragility of life and how it can be gone any minute. It has been really touching to see the graffiti community's response to his death. He was incredibly loved.
I love Miss Steps and her project! We met up and she took me on some tours of some really cool steps. It was so fun because she knows so much of the history and is good at talking about it. I feel like the heart of what she and I do is the same. It's about being in love with the city and wanting to get intimate with it. Her project reminds me of my projects of walking every street of cities. We are similar in that we both not only like to know the landscape but also the story of the city. Whenever I move to a city, I always read history books about that city. She has done an amazing job of learning the history of the different stairs and being able to tell people that history. She and I also do art with our projects. She does her Polaroid photos and zines, and I do zines and graffiti. The main difference besides the fact that she focuses on steps and me streets, is that she is more organized with what she learns and articulates it to others by giving tours. That really inspires me, I would like to do something like that. I highly recommend her tours by the way, they really bring you to a deeper intimacy with the city and you get to see parts of the city you would not usually go to.
I didn't do a lot of graffiti there, but most of what I did was in Homewood. My buddy Waxn also took me to an abandoned building which was near a river and railroad tracks, but I don't know the name or area of the spot. That is pretty vague hahaha, but it's kinda nice to have a vague thing to search for because it's a good excuse to wander around.
Continue following Marcher Arrant's journey at instagram.com/marcher.arrant and marcherarrant.com