What to expect from this spring's Monument Lab at City Hall

Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

Philly artists as well as the general public are encouraged to come and contribute ideas about the future of the city, focused on speculations about the type of monument that would best represent Philadelphia in 2015.

What to expect from this spring's Monument Lab at City Hall

If you could create a monument for the current city of Philadelphia, what would it look like? That's the question driving Monument Lab, a public art and urban research project taking place at City Hall this spring. Between May 15 and June 7, Monument Lab will showcase a series of art installations, produce community-sourced maps and host conversations led by Philly artists and critical thinkers to explore Philly's future by way of its past.

Paul M. Farber, a scholar of American and urban studies at Haverford College, along with co-curators Ken Lum and A. Will Brown, all believe that 2015 is a pivotal year in Philadelphia’s history.

“We have been thinking about this moment in Philadelphia’s evolution—seeing this as a time where there is a feeling of revival—of economic growth and new creative energy,” says Farber.

The project will create an open experimental research space where Philly artists as well as the general public are encouraged to come and contribute ideas about the future of the city, focused on speculations about the type of monument that would best represent Philadelphia in 2015.

The artists that will be proposing designs for the monument include, Zoe Strauss, Kara Crombie, Alexander Rosenberg and WE THE WEEDS, a botanical arts and outreach group aimed at expanding knowledge of the wild plants of Philadelphia. 

Our city is the oldest concept city in America. We have been a concept city for freedom, justice and tolerance since our founding. We are evolving and our strength is in the city’s layers of memory,” says Farber.

Monument Lab will use City Hall as the epicenter for its innovative activities and events. Among other art installations, Philadelphians can expect to see a monument prototype in City Hall’s center square courtyard. The concept for the prototype comes from Terry Adkins, the late artist and professor of fine arts at Penn’s School of Design. The concept for Adkins' prototype has been realized through the combined efforts of his colleagues and students from Penn.

The south side of City Hall will be the location of Monument Lab’s innovative research hub, which will be hosting conversations led by Philly educators, students and civic thinkers. The various dialogues will act as a general research exercise, encouraging the public to propose different city sites that hold poignant memories in Philly’s recent history. These sites will be considered as potential locations for a new monument.

Monument Lab could utilize all of the suggested ideas to create community sourced maps that will show the locations of all of the proposed “memory sites” on an easily read map of the Philadelphia. All information gathered will be stored at City Hall and will be made available to the public.

“What is always going to be important for the city is how we remember the past. The city is full of sites with memories representing ideals of the past and visions that we have for the future. Some sites are triumphant and some are difficult — some aim to capture the looming weight of the past,” says Farber.

Monument Lab creators hope the project will act as a concept phase leading to a larger monument festival, but the truth is that the project is experimental and no one truly knows what the results will be. But one thing is certain: it will allow the people of Philadelphia to have a say in the type of monument that would best represent the city’s history, its current challenges and the public’s vision for its future.

For more information check out: http://monumentlab.com/

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