With city in flux, public art project seeks ideas for new Philly monument


A new public art and research project is posing this question to Philadelphians: What is your ideal city monument?

“Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia” is a collaboration of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy; the Mural Arts Program; the University of Pennsylvania; and the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

The project, which will set up outside City Hall in May with an array of installations, public events, and talks by artists, will try to enlist the public to talk and think about a new monument for Philadelphia.

“An ideal monument is one that would reflect our core values and visions for the city,” said Monument Lab co-curator Paul Farber.

Farber is joined by two other co-curators and a handful of visual artists, who will use the space at City Hall to encourage passers-by to come up with their own ideas about what a new monument for the city could look like.

The City Hall exhibit will be anchored by a sculpture by the late Penn professor Terry Adkins. Based on the design of a 19th century classroom, it includes benches and a blank blackboard.

Farber, a scholar of American and urban studies at Haverford College, says the eye-catching display in the center of Philadelphia is designed to turn our ambivalence into action.

“We’re in this moment of flux and possible revival,” said Farber. “And we think this is a model to make sense of those currents of potential progress.”

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