‘Monument Lab’ Public Art Project to Feature PennDesign Faculty and Alumna’s Work

The University of Pennsylvania’s David Hartt, Sharon Hayes and Shira Walinsky and alumna Kaitlin Pomerantz are among 22 artists and teams who will be creating work in public squares and parks throughout Philadelphia this fall as part of  “Monument Lab.” The project, now in its third year, seeks to answer the question “What makes a monument in the 21st Century?”

Hartt, Hayes and Walinsky teach in Penn’s School of Design, and Pomerantz is a is a 2016 graduate of PennDesign.

“There will be temporary monuments, said Ken Lum, professor and chair of PennDesign’s Fine Arts Department, “in the form of public art installations and labs converted from shipping containers where presentations and talks will be held.”

Lum is co-curator of the project with A. Will Brown of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland and Paul Farber, a visiting scholar at Haverford College, who is also a 2005 graduate of Penn’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Based at the Penn Institute for Urban Research, “Monument Lab” is a collaboration between Mural Arts Philadelphia; the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy; the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation; and others, with support from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

It will run from Sept. 16 through Nov. 19 in the five public squares of Philadelphia as conceived by city founder William Penn: City Hall, originally Center Square; Franklin Square; Washington Square; Logan Circle, originally Logan Square; and Rittenhouse Square and in five neighborhood parks: Penn Treaty, Vernon, Norris Square, Malcolm X and Marconi Plaza.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts will be a central exhibition hub.

In 2015, the first “Monument Lab” featured one installation, a sculpture of a schoolhouse created by the late Terry Adkins, an award winning artist and PennDesign faculty member. The sculpture erected in the central courtyard of City Hall consisted of pews and an eight-and-a-half-foot tall blackboard.

“It evoked an extraordinary range of citizens’ voices,” said Eugenie Birch, Penn IUR co-director, “about the question of what kind of monument Philadelphia should have if it were to build one today, notable not only for its high number but also for its diversity of opinions.”

In 2015, 35,000 people participated in “Monument Lab” generating a collection of 400 ideas. Birch said that the artists selected this year are working on projects that should magnify these views.

The roster consists of artists representing diverse perspectives and views of the city such as a Chinese contemporary artist and activist, Ai Weiwei, and a Cuban installation artist and performer, Tania Bruguera, who will create a monument to the “new immigrant.”

“Monument Lab” will include sculptures, performances, projections and murals. Projects address engagement of public space, equality and social justice, refugee and immigrant issues, opioid addiction and recovery, gentrification and land use, indigenous history, recycling and sustainability, youth voice, Philadelphia music and neighborhood culture.

“Sharon Hayes will address the lack of women in public art,” said Lum. “David Hartt and Shira Walinsky’s work deals with history and suppression of histories.”

Youth art guides, including Penn undergraduates, will host interactive pop-up laboratories and engage the public in dialogue about the installations. The guides will distribute information and collect ideas and proposals for future Philadelphia monuments to be scanned and exhibited at at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Full descriptions of the artists’ projects, events and related programming will be announced in the spring. More information about “Monument Lab” is available at muralarts.org/monumentlab.















Terry Adkins' Monument Lab installation