Monument Lab

What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?

About Monument Lab 

What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?

Monument Lab was a public art and history project produced by Mural Arts Philadelphia. The project, taking place over nine weeks between September 16 and November 19, 2017 challenged people to join a citywide conversation about history, memory, and our collective future.

A guiding, central question—What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?—was posed to 20+ of the most dynamic contemporary artists working in Philadelphia and around the world today, selected by curators Paul M. Farber and Ken Lum. Temporary monuments conceived by the artists appeared in public spaces across the city, accompanied by interactive pop-up “laboratories” for creative conversations and research collected by youth art guides. During open hours, staff at all labs distributed information, answered questions, prompted participation, and collected submissions from members of the public.

Mural Arts also created a central hub at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where all the proposals for Philadelphia monuments of the future, generated around the city during the nine-week project, were scanned and exhibited, culminating in a new museum of ideas and creative data, built by and for the people. And finally, from panels to parties and tours to talks, public programs created ways for the community to participate in Monument Lab—plus, each site hosted its own weekend event, featuring programming created with the artists and neighborhood partners.

Monument Lab projects were located in and around the original squares of the city, as imagined by founder William Penn (City Hall—originally Center Square, Franklin Square, Washington Square, Logan Square, and Rittenhouse Square), as well as five neighborhood parks (Penn Treaty Park, Vernon Park, Norris Square, Malcolm X Park, and Marconi Plaza), three special project sites (PAFAWest Philadelphia, and Kensington), plus the exhibition hub space at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. An additional field research office opened at The Barnes Foundation inside the former Guest Services Center on 20th Street, representing “holistic thinking sitting alongside strategic planning; that moment when audience development and visitor experience come together.” The office was a space for the public to interact with staff and curators, and to submit their own monument proposals. Curators Paul M. Farber and Ken Lum selected a group of intellectually, geographically, and culturally diverse artists from Philadelphia and around the world, below.



Tania Bruguera

Havana/New York City/Cambridge

the “new immigrant” in Philadelphia

City Hall

Mel Chin

Egypt/North Carolina

the ordinary citizen and representation through a participatory art installation

Franklin Square

Kara Crombie


Philadelphia’s rich musical history and access to arts and music education in the city


Tyree Guyton


trauma and the relationship between time, recovery, resilience, and healing

West Philadelphia

Hans Haacke

New York City

archaeology of the vacant lot

Norris Square

David Hartt


the civic and cultural significance of community gardens, green common spaces, and Afro-Latino history

Rittenhouse Square

Sharon Hayes


the absence of women in Philadelphia’s monuments

Malcolm X Park

King Britt and Joshua Mays

Philadelphia and Oakland

youth monument to the future and the enduring power of Malcolm X

Marconi Plaza

Klip Collective


immigrant families and histories of South Philadelphia’s generations of families, then and now

Penn Treaty Park

Duane Linklater

North Bay, Ontario

Philadelphia’s Indigenous history and Chief Tamanend’s legacy

Logan Square

Emeka Ogboh


sound, collective memory, and poetic storytelling in Philadelphia

Vernon Park

Karyn Olivier


“remixing” a current monument to bridge past and present

City Hall

Michelle Angela Ortiz


a monument informed by the voices and stories of undocumented mothers unjustly detained at the Berks Detention Center, a family prison outside of Philadelphia, in cooperation with the Shut Down Berks Coalition

Washington Square

Kaitlin Pomerantz


redevelopment, neighborhood culture, and the rapidly shifting landscape of Philadelphia

Penn Treaty Park


Philadelphia and New York City

a recycled eco-history of Penn Treaty Park

Rittenhouse Square

Alexander Rosenberg


the built and unbuilt structures of Rittenhouse Square, throughout its history

Vernon Park

Jamel Shabazz

New York City

monument to African American veterans of all wars

City Hall

Hank Willis Thomas

New York City

African American representation, civil rights, and belonging in the city

Marconi Plaza

Shira Walinsky and Southeast by Southeast


Philadelphia (Marconi Plaza): a fully functioning newspaper kiosk populated with publications and artworks made with artists from refugee communities in Philadelphia

Washington Square

Marisa Williamson

New York City

buried African American sites and untold stories in and around one of Philadelphia’s most historic neighborhoods

Monument Lab projects were temporary works of public art created in a variety of media including sculpture, performance, projection, sound, and of course, murals. The projects covered topics such as 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.

Read the Monument Lab Newspaper

We are so excited to provide a platform for the 20-plus talented artists who will create artwork throughout Philadelphia for Monument Lab. The range, depth, and breadth of their ideas will have a major impact on the city at a time when it’s more important than ever to have conversations about how we want to be represented in public space.


Visit the Monument Lab website for more information about each artist, and follow along on social media at #monumentlab.

Full Press Release (PDF)


Media Partner 


Major support for Monument Lab projects staged in Philadelphia’s five squares provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. An expanded artist roster and projects at additional neighborhood sites made possible by the William Penn Foundation. Lead corporate support provided by Bank of America. Generous additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Technology Sponsor 



Additional Support 


Nick & Dee Adams Charitable Fund


Susanna Lachs & Dean Adler


Davis Charitable Foundation
William & Debbie Becker
Parkway Corporation
Joe & Renee Zuritsky


Relief Communications LLC
Stacey Spector & Ira Brind
Tiffany Tavarez


We are grateful to the 432 individuals who supported us on Kickstarter. Please visit our Wall of Thanks at

Support for Monument Lab’s final publication provided by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

Support for the research and development of Monument Lab was provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and the Hummingbird Foundation.


Hospitality Sponsor