The Sweet’N Lowdown: Three Theories on a Street Art Secret Stash

Tiny wooden picture frame containing a Sweet'n'Low packet

Street sweets

What makes a person frame a single Sweet’N Low packet and then hide the tiny objet d’art inside the metallic drain of an Oakland office building? Strange but true, The Orbit came across exactly one such exhibit earlier this week, on the side street face of one of Pitt’s off-campus buildings. Yes: conspiracy theorists are rampant, their evidence minimal, but the desire for truth is as strong as black coffee.

Theory: The framed packet as tribute to an artificial sweetening classic

This one comes from co-worker Rizzo, present at the discovery. I always say: if you want to know about something that pretends to be sweet, look no further than Rizzo. Sweet’N Low, though not the first artificial sweetener, owned that market for half a century. That’s not so true any more. Splenda, Equal, NutraSweet, Truvia, Sweet Leaf, and probably others, are all out there crowding the field. In Rizzo’s theory, the perpetrator has created a tiny tribute to that most famous saccharin-dextrose concoction whose time has come, wolves hopped-up on Splenda gathered at the door. One would hope for the honor of being memorialized in bronze and on public display, rather than hidden in a dingy side street hidey-hole, but if you’re Sweet’N Low, I guess you take what you can get.

Brick wall with bricks missing and metal opening containing tiny picture frame

A couple missing bricks and one secret hiding place

Theory: Sweet’N Low sachet as cruel “gotcha”

What if the tiny picture frame didn’t always contain a Sweet’N Low packet? How many works of fiction have placed stolen artwork in obscure secret stashes–often hidden in plain sight. Nothing quite gets the heart racing like a great heist film–cat burglars in berets and turtlenecks spiriting stolen canvases on thrilling guy wire runs between rooftops. In the best of these, the original owner of the artwork is always shown aghast the following morning with the discovery of the disappeared oil painting replaced by a cheap, comical substitute–the thief’s ultimate “you’ve been had.” Perhaps the tiny frame once contained a pocket Picasso or a miniature Miro, its present owner having slipped in the pink packet with a wink to let you know there’s no sugar here, but you can have one of these.

Craig Hall, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

In context: Craig Hall, home of the secret stash of tiny street art

Theory: Art scavenger hunt prize gone missing

It’s only a couple weeks past Easter, and we’ve still got egg hunts on the membrane. What if a cabal of clever art-gamers decided to stage a city-wide scavenger hunt for tiny hidden art pieces, each one identified by its common wooden frame? Maybe the Sweet’N Low portrait is just one that got away, left behind unclaimed. Somewhere out there, there’s a participant laying awake at night, replaying the one missed clue: At Craig on Craig, at the base of the leg, lies something pink, and something sweet. That’s the treasure hunt this blogger wishes he’d been invited to. Sigh. Add another one to The Orbit‘s big list.

We may never know lowdown on the Sweet’N Low, but then again, who really wants to know what’s in that pink packet anyway? The taste is good enough…isn’t it?

One thought on “The Sweet’N Lowdown: Three Theories on a Street Art Secret Stash

  1. davidc5033 says:

    I’d say that subtle put down of Rizzo was in poor taste! A fourth theory is that it may have something to do with hashing. We had some hashers in our neighborhood although they tend to leave piles of white powder rather then leave it framed in packets. My hats off to your amazing eye and it’s ability to spot such a hopelessly obscure relic.


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