Penn IUR’s Monument Lab Leverages Culture to Inspire Dialogue for the City

Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia, a collaborative project based at the Penn Institute for Urban Research, the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, and the City of Philadelphia, is pleased to announce partnerships with three of Philadelphia’s major arts and culture organizations: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Center for Architecture and RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency).

Monument Lab is a large public art and urban research project, supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, that will be on exhibit from May 15- June 7, 2015 at Philadelphia’s City Hall.

“We are pleased to be partnering with the Monument Lab team and to host this project at the city’s geographic and symbolic center,” says Helen Haynes, Chief Cultural Officer of the City Philadelphia. “The project will engage visitors in multiple ways and advances our goal to enliven the City Hall Courtyard with temporary public art projects.”

Led by Ken Lum, Professor and Director of Penn’s Undergraduate Fine Arts Program, as well as A. Will Brown (RISD Museum) and Paul M. Farber (Haverford College) and based at Penn IUR, the project seeks to encourage dialogue about 21st century Philadelphia by way of exploring its diverse historical identity. The centerpiece of the project will be a temporary prototype monument designed by the late, award-winning artist and University of Pennsylvania Fine Arts professor Terry Adkins, to be installed in City Hall’s central courtyard.

Adkins’ monument addresses Philadelphia’s history of educational innovation and loss, featuring a minimalist representation of a classroom that people can sit on and gather around. A public engagement “lab” will also be located at City Hall and serve as the project headquarters, where participating artists and curators will brainstorm ideas with the city’s citizens for the kinds of monuments that are appropriate for 21st century Philadelphia.

RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency), is an artist studio and workshop focused on sustainability, art, and design located within Revolution Recovery, a recycling center in Northeast Philadelphia. RAIR, along with several of Adkins’ former students and colleagues, will help construct the monument with wood salvaged from area demolition sites, reflecting the conceptual spirit of Adkins’ original design. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts will be involved with hosting public events and speakers associated with the project in conjunction with their Art in Process series, including monumental “creative speculations” for Philadelphia’s four public squares by artists Zoe Strauss (Logan Square), Kara Crombie (Franklin Square), Alexander Rosenberg (Rittenhouse Square), and WE THE WEEDS (Washington Square).

“We are thrilled to team up with the City of Philadelphia and with institutions deeply committed to this city’s cultural visions and civic needs,” says co-curator Ken Lum of Monument Lab. “As key partners in Monument Lab, these organizations will add their voices to what we hope will be a rich and dynamic conversation about the City of Philadelphia, its history, and its identity going forward.”

The Center for Architecture will host a special Monument Lab preview panel and party that is free and open to the public on Friday, May 8 from 5:30-7:00pm at their Arch Street location near City Hall. The full schedule for Monument Lab, including free daily public and educational programs will be announced in the coming weeks.

Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia is supported through a Discovery grant by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. To learn more about Monument Lab, visit  

To register for Preview Panel and Party, visit


About Penn IUR

The Penn Institute for Urban Research (Penn IUR) is dedicated to advancing cross-disciplinary urban-focused research, instruction, and civic engagement on issues relevant to cities around the world. As the global population becomes increasingly urban, understanding cities is vital to informed decision-making and public policy at the local, national, and international levels. Penn IUR focuses on research that informs the sustainable and inclusive twenty-first-century city. By providing a forum for collaborative scholarship and instruction at Penn and beyond, Penn IUR stimulates research and engages with urban practitioners and policymakers to inform urban policy.

About The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is a multidisciplinary grantmaker and hub for knowledge sharing, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and dedicated to fostering a vibrant cultural community in Greater Philadelphia. The Center fulfills this mission by investing in ambitious, imaginative arts and heritage projects that showcase the region’s cultural vitality and enhance public life, and by engaging in an exchange of ideas concerning artistic and interpretive practice with a broad network of cultural practitioners and leaders. The Center awards project grants in Performance and Exhibitions & Public Interpretation, no-strings attached Pew Fellowship grants to individual artists working in all disciplines, and multi-year Advancement grants to high-performing institutions undertaking bold, innovative organizational initiatives.

About PennDesign

Operating in the context of an urban research University that supports a culture of inquiry, PennDesign attracts an international community of scholars, researchers, artists and practitioners eager to promote interdisciplinary thinking that expands the scope of art and design and increases its opportunity to make an outsized impact. From reigniting the link between ecology and urbanism, to exploring how generative design not only produces new forms of building but smarter behavior and better performance, PennDesign’s eight degree programs are committed to thought leadership that impacts policy and engages both locally and globally to advance a sustainable future.