Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia was a Penn IUR public art and urban research project that took place at Philadelphia City Hall from May 15 – June 17, 2015. Through a temporary art installation, public events, and community-sourced research proposals, the project asked and continues to investigate a central guiding question: What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?
During the three-week duration of the project co-curators Ken Lum, Paul M. Farber and A. Will Brown, along with a team of staff and volunteers, explored answers at an innovative research pavilion at City Hall called Monument Lab. The project captured over 400 research proposals from members of the public in response to the central research question. (The proposals can be viewed on Monument Lab’s Flickr feed.) The Lab included a sculptural installation Prototype Monument for Center Square (2015) by the late artist Terry Adkins, and a series of free dialogues and public presentations led by Philadelphia artists and critical thinkers using Philadelphia’s rich contemporary cityscape and William Penn’s historic iconic plan for the city’s five public squares as inspiration. Adkins’ Prototype Monument for Center Square and the adjacent Monument Lab research pavilion engaged thousands of people from all walks of life in Philadelphia to create a series of ongoing dialogues to critically analyze public space and evaluate the creation and placement of public art and monuments in the city of Philadelphia.
Monument Lab also included a series of lectures by four artists, each of which was invited to propose a speculative monument for the four remaining squares in the original city plan. Zoe Strauss’s proposal was for Logan Circle, Alexander Rosenberg’s for Rittenhouse Square, Kara Crombie’s for Franklin Square and Kaitlin Pomerantz’s for Washington Square. Each of these artist proposals was presented at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In addition to these four artist speculations, Monument Lab presented over 20 additional public programs featuring a range of speakers: a high-school teacher and her students, a police captain, Jane Golden of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and Conner Barwin of the Philadelphia Eagles.
In the future, Monument Lab’s curators, along with their collaborators and partners, hope to present a series of temporary public art installations throughout the city based on ideas generated during the 2015 installations and events. This first phase of the project was largely about creating a critical and dynamic civic-space altering work of public art, engineering a meaningful public dialogue about the democratic and speculative importance and power of art and ideas, and engendering an intellectually invested series of institutions and partners in the Philadelphia area.
Monument Lab is a Penn IUR project with major support provided by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The project was conducted in partnership and with the support of a number of Philadelphia arts and cultural institutions including: The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, RAIR, The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, Haverford College, The Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts, Next City, Philadelphia Center for Architecture, and Penn Design. The project was featured throughout the Philadelphia area press including stories by: WHYY/Newsworks, Philadelphia Inquirer, Rutgers University, Philadelphia City Paper, The Philly History Blog, and the artblog.
For More information please visit the Monument Lab Website.