Monument Lab

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Image from Monument Lab's website, titled Staying Power.

Exerpts from Monument Lab’s About Page

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 a workshop series for municipal and cultural officers.  

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 recognition from Americans for the Arts and the Preservation Alliance.

Methods and Practices

Our approach is premised on four interconnected strategies to inform and influence the processes of public art:

  • Cultivate networks of practitioners by distributing resources and building capacity with those who are producing the next generation of monuments
  • Advocate for antiracist, de-colonial, feminist, queer, working class, ecological, and other social justice perspectives to inform our understandings of monuments
  • Shift mindsets, discourse, and pedagogy in fields related to public art, history, and space
  • Partner with artists, students, activists, municipal agencies, and cultural institutions to advance exploratory approaches to public engagement and collective memory.

Example: Staying Power

The Village of Arts and Humanities and Monument Lab will lead a collaboration among artists and residents of the Fairhill-Hartranft neighborhood of Philadelphia to create a multi-site exhibition that reflects on the notion of community “staying power.” Fairhill-Hartranft is a historically black neighborhood and currently one of the city’s most economically and socially vulnerable areas. Staying Power includes the creation of a neighborhood-based curatorial platform that centers the leadership of community residents as curators, advisors, and makers who will articulate their collective vision for the neighborhood’s future. The project will invite residents to engage with artists based both in North Philadelphia and elsewhere whose work explores questions of power, place, and memory in a collaborative process resulting in monumental sculpture, indoor installations, and storefront activations.

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