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Monument Lab to return to Philly in 2017

Artists will design monuments all over the city

International and local artists will install monuments all over the city when Monument Lab returns in 2017.
Photo by Steve Weinik for Mural Arts Philadelphia

After collecting more than 400 proposals from Philadelphians on what should be the next monument in Philadelphia, Monument Lab is returning to the city in a big way next year.

In 2015, Paul Farber and his team of curators, researchers, and scholars took over City Hall’s courtyard, creating a pop-up classroom made of plywood. It was called Monument Lab, and for an entire month more than 3,500 people gathered to discuss the future of memorials and monuments in Philadelphia. Another 455 Philadelphians sent in proposals for the city’s next monument.

“What we saw on site was a complex and clear investment in public art in our city,” says Farber, Monument Lab’s director and co-curator.

Farber and his team spent the next year sifting through the design proposals, making them publicly available through Open Data Philly. During this Discovery Phase, they collected a wide range of ideas, from traditional statues and sculptures, to interactive pieces, to murals, to public spaces.

A pop-up classroom to encourage civic discussion about the future of monuments was held in City Hall’s courtyard during May 2015.

“We saw an expansive take on what a 21st century monument can be,” says Farber. “So now, we’re picking up from the momentum of the Discovery Phase.”

With a $300,000 grant from Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Monument Lab is partnering with Mural Arts to produce a city-wide public art and history exhibition in 2017. “It will feature a wide array of artists, many who are from Philadelphia, and others who are interested in the historic and creative landscape of the city,” says Farber.

Mural Arts is still finalizing contracts with all of its artists, though they plan to be announced in early 2017 and begin installations in fall 2017. Like in 2015, an anchor monument will be located in City Hall’s courtyard, while multiple pop-up labs will be set up all around the city to encourage civic discussion.

Currently, artists are studying the 455 monument proposals for inspiration, though Farber says their final pieces are “ripe for experimentation.”

He adds, “We see the proposals, whether from member of the public or an artists, as a bridge to understanding what’s possible and necessary for our city’s cultural and fascinating history and future.”