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Monument Lab Project Brings Philly’s Statues Debate to the Public

Start a conversation with your kids with the help of this cool public art and history project.

With iconic statues — and who decides where they should be — in the news, now’s the perfect time to involve your kids in the conversation about monuments and history. Thanks to Monument Lab, a new public art and history project, Philadelphia if offering a great opportunity for that talk.


Monument Lab is part of Mural Arts Philadelphia, and the goals are to ignite conversations about the significance of telling stories within public spaces and to give citizens the opportunity to tell their story when an art piece in their neighborhood raises a question.


For nine weeks — from September 16 through November 19 — Monument Lab will be in 10 locations around the city. Twenty artists are involved, creating more than 20 community events and public art pieces featuring sculpture, mixed media, sound, light, and more.


The various art installations are meant to engage viewers of all ages to immerse themselves in both the piece of art itself and the area where it is placed. Whether you have to look up, walk around, or listen to it, all of the curated pieces of art pose a single question: What is an appropriate monument for the city of Philadelphia?


“We are certainly in a moment of intensity when it comes to our monuments,” said Paul Farber, artistic director of Monument Lab. “This is not a new conversation. For decades, artists, students, activists have been challenging the status quo. We have learned from them the legacies that they have put forth and we want to continue learning through this exhibition.”


Monument Lab installations will be at the five city squares: City Hall (originally Center Square), Franklin Square, Washington Square, Logan Square, and Rittenhouse Square. They’ll also be in five neighborhood parks: Penn Treaty Park, Vernon Park, Norris Square, Malcolm X Park, and Marconi Plaza.


While most of the pieces will be on display at all times, “labs” will be open Wednesdays and Thursdays from  4 — 7 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from noon — 5 pm, where youth research teams will be on-site, sparking conversations about the public pieces and collecting creative data produced by those who wish to describe or design their ideas inspired by the questions at each monument.


The culmination of public input created at each of the “labs” will be on display at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where public proposals at each monument site will be scanned and broadcast in real time and displayed for the duration of the project. After the project is over, the gathered data will be turned into a book and published by the Temple University Press.


Events will also be held during the 9-week period at each of the labs for free or at little cost, involving food, music, and community talks, encouraging people to speak about their current communities in the context of history at each of the sites. Wi-Fi will also be available at all of the Monument Lab sites.


Visit the Mural Arts website for more information and a full calendar of events.



Photograph by Steve Weinik, courtesy of Mural Arts Philadelphia. 




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