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Civic Studio on Public Place


  • University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104 (map)

What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia? To reflect on this line of inquiry, Monument Lab – a research team led by Ken Lum and Paul Farber, with collaborators in the School of Arts and Sciences, PennDesign, Penn Libraries, Penn Institute for Urban Research, Price Lab for Digital Humanities, and dozens of other municipal partners across the city – staged a two-month citywide public art and history exhibition with Mural Arts Philadelphia last Fall. Over 200,000 people engaged with the exhibition across the city, which featured prototype monuments at City Hall, iconic public squares, and neighborhood parks, as imagined by leading public artists focused on themes of social justice and solidarity. Additionally, Monument Lab opened adjacent learning labs at these sites which were operated by teams consisting of local educators, high school fellows, and Penn students enrolled in a Netter Center-supported class "Civic Studio course." Through their efforts, close to 5,000 speculative public monument proposals were gathered from participants. As an outcome to this exhibition, the research team will produce a forthcoming Report to the City, share an open data set of all of the proposals on OpenDataPhilly, and extend learnings with continued collaborative installations and projects in cities aimed at unearthing the next generation of monuments.

Philadelphia is a city full of monuments and memorials. Philadelphia is also a city full of monumental histories, many of which are little known, obscured, or simply unacknowledged. These underrepresented histories often exist in tension with officially acknowledged narratives. As a society, through this moment of intensity and uncertainty around public monuments—especially those that symbolize the enduring legacies of racial injustice and social inequality—we are reminded that we must find new, critical ways to reflect on the monuments we have inherited and imagine future monuments we have yet to build.

For the Teach-In, Monument Lab collaborators will present research projects from Penn students in the Civic Studio course, including final projects that offers guidance on the creative and civic impulses of monument making; a first glimpse at the public proposals and data sets collected by students at the labs across the city; a takeaway self-guided tour of the Schuylkill River-as-Monument;  and a special virtual reality tour of the exhibition's prototype monuments produced by Penn Libraries’ PennImmersive

The exhibition will be hosted in the Charles Addams Fine Arts Gallery, and will be open 10:00am-5:00pm each day of the teach-in, with an opening reception on Tuesday, March 20th from 4PM-6PM. 

Partners: Penn Fine Arts, PennDesign, Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, Penn Libraries, Netter Center, Penn Institute for Urban Research, and Price Lab for Digital Humanities