Proposal Perspectives: Reflections from Our Third Week

Written by Aileen Walsh //

Proposal Perspectives: Reflections from Our Third Week

As Philadelphians and visitors alike continue to submit their proposals to Monument Lab, there is a community-wide desire for representation of Philadelphia citizens. A mission of Monument Lab is to engage our citizens in the public art produced by the city. Many members of the city wish to depict to honor the daily routines and everyday life of their families and neighbors, of their cultures and neighborhoods.

Monument Lab asks the question “What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?” The call to include more historical and public figures from Philadelphia is prominent throughout our weeks of proposals. However, multiple proposals (some of which are included below) offer that the best way to represent the current state of Philadelphia is to portray its citizens -- the very backbone of our community who may otherwise go unnoticed. It is a call to find the art in our everyday lives and in other people. It is a way to venerate the present population of Philadelphia, who will shape and lead our future. Monument Lab asks us to discuss our city's history through the perspective of our art. These proposals to Monument Lab ask the city to tell our future through the perspectives of our people. The portrayal of the public, in addition to the public figures, highlights the pride and sense of community prevalent both at our pop up studios and around our city. It is inspiring to see the love and reverence that our Monument Lab visitors have for one another. As one proposal, by our visitor named Kayla, stated “We are Philadelphia”.

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Proposal Perspectives: Reflections from the Second Week

Written by Ian Schwarzenberg //

Proposal Perspectives: Reflections from the Second Week

A common theme that has come up in proposals has been to honor the strengths of the communities Philadelphians form with each other, and the risks these communities form in the face of citywide gentrification. Each of the selected proposers views the issue with a unique perspective, with each person wishing to portray gentrification different as a result. Some proposers wish to portray the systemic issues behind gentrification, some wish to memorialize the physical effects of the process, and some wish to honor Philadelphians’ strong existing bonds with their neighbors.

            Firstly, some of these proposers feel that it is best to portray the causes of gentrification. In this proposal, one Philadelphian wishes to memorialize how gentrification can benefit a small amount of affluent newcomers to a neighborhood while disadvantaging its larger amounts of poorer original residents, which can damage that neighborhood’s community fabric. The proposer blames the negative effects of the capitalist economic system for this, which he portrays in the design elements of the monument idea.

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Secondly, some of the selected proposers wish to portray gentrification’s physical effects on neighborhoods. This proposal aims to accomplish this by memorializing how development will soon replace vacant lots that held importance to their communities. When urban planners and other associated city officials discuss gentrification, they frequently criticize vacant lots for numerous reasons. Politicians and planners often argue vacant lots serve as holes in the fabrics of communities and drains on tax revenue for city governments. These officials and other community members in various cities rarely contemplate benefits vacant lots can have for communities. According to this proposer, South Philadelphians repurposed a large nearby empty lot into a dog run, where they would come to exercise their dogs and marvel at the views from there. The proposer knows about plans to redevelop the lot, and as a result, they want to construct a monument there to teach future passersby about the lot’s impact on the neighborhood. This proposal represents a unique and important way of examining gentrification by presenting a view on how vacant lots can actually benefit people living near them, contrary to how planners and other city officials tend to see such lots.      

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Finally, some of these proposers which to portray gentrification by honoring many Philadelphians’ solid bonds with their neighbors. Each of the selected proposers who touched on this chose to honor such community bonds through simple symbols. These two Philadelphians chose to honor the importance of stoops to the city. These proposers discuss how they see Philadelphia neighborhoods dominated by row homes often lack public places to sit, which leads residents to lounge on the row homes’ stoops. Through this, they can communicate with passersby who live near them, which leads to the formation of community bonds. Affluent newcomers who arrive to such row home neighborhoods in Philadelphia not only displace the original residents and fracture those old community bonds made at these stoops. Memorializing the stoop’s significance in shaping Philadelphia’s neighborhoods can teach affluent newcomers to the city of the impact they have on neighborhoods when they move into them.

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Gentrification has clearly arrived in Philadelphia, and it is affecting residents in various ways. Each Philadelphian is responding to gentrification in unique ways that are shaped by their backgrounds and how they have experienced Philadelphia throughout the lives they have spent here. Some of these Philadelphians want to portray the systemic issues that cause gentrification, some prefer to memorialize gentrification’s effects on the city through its physical effects, and some wish to honor Philadelphians’ strong bonds they have forged with each other.

Proposal Perspectives: Reflections from Week One on the Data Team

Written by Heather Liang //

Proposal Perspectives: Reflections from Week One on the Data Team

Philadelphia’s rich and complex history is one of the most awe-striking characteristics of the city. What is even more impressive to me, is the commitment of Philadelphians to tell those histories. I am honored to have the experience of learning more and more about Philadelphia’s colorful history through monument proposals, from people who clearly care about telling it.

These are just a few of the proposals that have given me glimpses into the past:

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Not only do these proposals discuss Philadelphia history, but they also bring up issues that the city still needs to address.

The proposal about the Philadelphia prison complex was particularly interesting to me. I have never considered the history of Philadelphia’s prison system, but have always been perplexed by the placement of the Federal Detention Center in Center City. Seeing this proposal made me want to dig deeper into the history of prisons of Philadelphia. It prompted me to explore how attitudes towards prisons have shaped the current culture around them, as well as their physical placement in the city. Bringing aspects of Philadelphia’s historical culture to light deepens folks’ understanding of how the city was shaped into what it is today. This proposal further prompts dialogue of the current issue of the prison industrial complex in our country, and its implications on the people of Philadelphia.

Another impressive characteristic of Philadelphia is that, while it is telling and reflecting on its history, it also never stops looking toward nurturing its future:

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From the Archives: Philly Prison Culture

Written by Archives Month Philly //

From the Archives: Philly Prison Culture

Philadelphia, city of firsts, pioneered solitary confinement and the concept of penitence—a prison philosophy that, its advocates hoped, could rescue people from a life of crime. Once the world’s most radical leader in the reconstruction of penal practices and prison spaces, Philadelphia now has the highest rate of incarceration of any large jurisdiction in the country.

From the Archives: From Draisiana to Bicycle

Written by Archives Month Philly //

From the Archives: From Draisiana to Bicycle

Philadelphia has a storied relationship with the bicycle. This Philadelphia bike story begins in 1819, when Charles Willson Peale, a prolific Philadelphia artist best known for his depictions of the American Founding fathers, encountered the The "Draisiana" on display in Baltimore. 

Monumental Data

Written by Laurie Allen //

Monumental Data

In 2017, we must recognize that the story told by our monuments is not our city’s full history. Help us elevate a richer reading of our history and move creatively toward a better future.

Opening Remarks

Written by Ken Lum //

Opening Remarks

Monument Lab is a project about what the cracks of our city are trying to say to us if only we are willing to see and to listen

Proposal Perspective: Leslie Jones

Written by Leslie Jones //

At MonumentLab we have a unique opportunity to amplify the voices of historically silenced groups, including people under the age of majority, who are not able to vote to allocate tax money toward public works.

Banner Image: Tyree Guyton, The New White House (formally known as the Dotty Wotty House), 2008. © Heidelberg Archives/Tyree Guyton. (Photograph by Julie MacDonald)