What is an Appropriate Monument for the Current City of Philadelphia?

Monument Lab, coming to Philadelphia in fall 2017, is a public art and history project produced by Mural Arts Philadelphia. The project, taking place over nine weeks between September 16 and November 19, invites people to join a citywide conversation about history, memory, and our collective future. 

A guiding, central question—What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?—will be posed to over 20 of the most dynamic contemporary artists working around the world today, selected by curators Paul Farber and Ken Lum. Temporary monuments conceived by the artists will appear in public spaces across the city, accompanied by interactive pop-up “laboratories” for civic dialogue, research, and engagement.

Monument Lab will build on a successful research and development phase undertaken in spring 2015. Conceptualized and led by the same curatorial team, the initial phase included a large installation in the courtyard at City Hall, envisioned by the late artist and University of Pennsylvania professor Terry Adkins. Nearly 35,000 people who traveled through or visited City Hall got to see and interact with the sculpture, and thousands more participated in a series of public conversations between local artists, historians, leaders, and thinkers.



By the People, For the People

What can you expect from Monument Lab? Here’s the plan:

INTERPRETIVE MATERIALS: A central guide to the project, produced as a community newspaper, will help visitors interpret the project, with information about artists, projects, and participant viewpoints.

20+ PROJECTS: Over 20 temporary artworks will be staged in Center City’s main squares and at neighborhood parks throughout Philadelphia.

CENTRAL HUB: All public monument proposals will be scanned and exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, culminating in a new museum of ideas and creative data. This outpost will serve as a central processing center, with visually dynamic displays of incoming proposals and ongoing data analysis.

ONSITE LABS: The public will make a major contribution to the project, thanks to interactive pop-up laboratories, where visitors can write or draw their own ideas for Philadelphia monuments. Staff will be present at all labs to distribute information, answer questions, and prompt participation.

REPORT TO THE CITY: A final catalog will document the project, while a findings report will be explored with stakeholders at a final convening in 2018.

PUBLIC PROGRAMS: From panels to parties, tours to talks, there will be many ways to participate—plus, each site will host its own weekend event, featuring programming created with the artists and neighborhood partners.



Why Philadelphia? Why Mural Arts? Why Now?

Philadelphia’s landscape is full of monuments, mostly crafted in bronze and marble. Mural Arts has spent more than 30 years adapting this tradition to include murals co-created with individuals and communities. 

Now, we’re ready to go a step further. Monument Lab will embrace temporary installation, social practice, performance, and speculative proposals, broadening the potential for who creates, appreciates, and feels represented by monuments in the 21st century.



Our Funders

Lead Monument Lab partners include the City of Philadelphia; Philadelphia Parks & Recreation; Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy; Historic Philadelphia; Independence National Historic Park; Penn Institute for Urban Research; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Price Lab for Digital Humanities; and the University of Pennsylvania.

Major support for Monument Lab projects staged in Philadelphia’s five squares has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

An expanded artist roster and projects at five neighborhood sites have been made possible by a significant grant from the William Penn Foundation.

Lead corporate sponsor is Bank of America.

Additional support has been provided by Susanna Lachs and Dean Adler, CLAWS Foundation, Hummingbird Foundation, J2 Design, National Endowment for the Arts, Nick & Dee Adams Charitable Fund, Parkway Corporation, Relief Communications LLC, Tiffany Tavarez, Tuttleman Family Foundation, Joe & Renee Zuritsky, and 400+ Kickstarter backers. Support for Monument Lab’s final publication provided by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

Banner Image: Terry Adkins, Prototype Monument for Center Square, City Hall Philadelphia, 2015. (Photograph by Steve Weinik/Monument Lab)