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Arts / Delaware

Meet the artist behind the robots you’re seeing take over Wilmington

From Washington Street Extension to Canby Park, brightly colored bot cutouts in Delaware are making people smile.

The newest robot cutout at Rodney Square. (Technical.ly/Holly Quinn)

Robots are taking over Wilmington. And our hearts.

Brightly colored and larger than life, wood cutout robots have been spotted around the city, from Washington Street Extension to Canby Park. There is no logo, no explanation — just a little added whimsy, whether it’s a blue robot “spray painting” a heart in Little Italy or an orange robot encouraging passersby to Dream Big on the Northside.

“It’s there to make us smile,” posted one user in the r/WilmingtonDE subreddit.

“It worked! We smiled!” another responded.

Is it a stealth marketing campaign (perhaps for Spaceboy Clothing, whose branding has a similar style), street art or something else? Technical.ly went to the unveiling of the latest robot in Rodney Square on Wednesday to find out more about the artist behind the project, and better understand how the robots bring people together.

A robot spotted on Union Street

A robot spotted on Union Street (Technical.ly/Quinn)

Meet Chez, the artist behind the robots you’re seeing everywhere 

It only took a few minutes of internet sleuthing to track down the artist, Chez. He’s got an Instagram and has posted the robots to LinkedIn. Redditors pointed out that the robots looked like they were  to Spaceboy, and that was spot on. 

Chez is better known as David Sanchez, owner of Spaceboy Clothing on Market Street. Spaceboy has been integral to energizing Wilmington, partnering with local artists, with a history of getting involved with community projects (remember Humble Park?).

Chez says he’s drawn to robots because of the limitless possibilities they represent.

“For most of my adult life, I’ve had this connection to robots and I really liked drawing them,” he said. “You know, they can have 20 arms, they could be giants, they could be tiny. But also, the personalities are whatever you want to make them. It’s really like a reflection of oneself.”

So far, there are six robot cutouts, including the brand new pink one in Rodney Square unveiled at the weekly Farmer’s Market for Mother’s Day. This time, at least for the duration of the market, the artwork is clearly associated with Spaceboy. Chez and floral artist Finley’s Flowers gave out free roses and robot “Mom” t-shirts before photographing them with the cutout.

A street vendor booth with a banner for spaceboy clothing, featuring a large pink robot cutout, assorted t-shirts on display, and flower decorations.

Mother’s Day, with robots (Technical.ly/Quinn)

“Just doing these little guys and trying to put out a positive message, for me it’s like a cure of boredom,” he told Technical.ly. “An expression of creativity and these ideas that I’ve had built up for a while, and it’s a fun little activity I can do with my son.”

A trip out West inspired Chez’s art to connect community

The idea for a public art project had been on Chez’s mind for a while, but a recent trip to the West Coast sparked the idea for his latest endeavor. He connected with street art scenes, including the abandoned graffiti skyscraper in Los Angeles and dynamic creative scenes in San Diego and Austin. As soon as he left, he missed that energy. 

“I came home and it just kind of bummed me out,” Chez told Technical.ly.

Through the robot cutouts, he decided to bring some of that energy back to Wilmington with him. Most of the installations are attached to poles and are removable, so they aren’t considered graffiti. Chez said he wanted to do something removable that added to the landscape without causing property damage. They’re also not an officially sanctioned project. Maybe, he muses, it will inspire other creative people in Wilmington.

If the popularity of the robot street art leads to people seeking out Spaceboy products featuring them, Chez says he wouldn’t fight it, especially since he’s put a lot of his own money into the project. But for now, it’s a personal project for the community. Those Redditors are right: It’s there to make them smile.

“That’s exactly what I wanted,” Chez said. “It makes me happy that people are noticing and people are talking about them and it makes them a little bit more joyous. It’s making a little bit of a change. I think that’s what that’s what it’s all about.”

Companies: Spaceboy Clothing

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