Monument Lab is an independent public art and history studio based in Philadelphia. Founded by Paul Farber and Ken Lum, Monument Lab works with artists, students, activists, municipal agencies, and cultural institutions on exploratory approaches to public engagement and collective memory. Monument Lab cultivates and facilitates critical conversations around the past, present, and future of monuments.
As a studio and curatorial team, we pilot collaborative approaches to unearthing and reinterpreting histories. This includes citywide art exhibitions, site-specific commissions, participatory research initiatives, a national fellows program, a web bulletin and podcast, and more.
Our goal is to critically engage the public art we have inherited to reimagine public spaces through stories of social justice and equity. In doing so, we aim to inform and influence the processes of public art, as well as the permanent collections of cities, museums, libraries, and open data repositories.
Since 2012, Monument Lab’s projects have engaged 300,000 people in person, and garnered recognitions from Americans for the Arts and the Preservation Alliance.
Founded in 2012, Monument Lab emerged from a series of classroom conversations in courses taught by Paul Farber and Ken Lum. In 2015, it grew to include the installation of a pair of outdoor classrooms in the courtyard of Philadelphia’s City Hall through a discovery phase – one, a sculpture envisioned by the late artist Terry Adkins and the other, an adjacent learning lab operated by students and educators who gathered hundreds of public monument proposals. In the continued spirit of collaborative learning, Monument Lab partnered with Mural Arts Philadelphia on a citywide exhibition in 2017 featuring temporary prototype monuments by 20 artists across 10 sites in Philadelphia’s iconic public squares and neighborhood parks, presented together with research labs, which engaged 250,000 Philadelphians and visitors in person and collected 4,500 creative monument proposals from passersby. The proposals offer a dataset of public speculation available on OpenDataPhilly. They were shared in a Report to the City (2018) and book edited by co-founders Paul M. Farber and Ken Lum titled, Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia (Temple University Press, 2019).
Monument Lab is committed to engaging collaborators In Philadelphia, across the country, and beyond. We are working on new tools and partnerships in cities such as Chicago, New Orleans, Newark, and Memphis.
Partners and sponsors
Monument Lab projects are supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania, the Surdna Foundation, and the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. Our previous projects have received grants from the Pew Center for Art & Heritage, Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Tuttleman Family Foundation, and the William Penn Foundation.
Some of Monument Lab’s past and current partners include the Barnes Foundation, the High Line, Mural Arts Philadelphia, New Arts Justice at Express Newark, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, and Slought.