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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Ode to Philadelphia


Monument Lab explores the city through art and history

Mural Arts Philadelphia has created a project called Monument Lab, a series of temporary monuments set up in various popular locations throughout the city,  running from Sept. 16 to Nov. 19. Each monument addresses a different history of Philadelphia which is relevant to the location where it stands. At the end of the lab, Mural Arts will answer the question, “What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?”

While Philadelphia is known for its rich history, this project is meant to bring awareness to aspects not typically represented in the tourist attractions of the city. The purpose of the Monument Lab is to encourage a dialogue about social justice issues, solidarity and the true history of Philadelphia that has led it to its current state.

Mural Arts collaborated with 20 artists to create the multimedia monuments, which were made from both typical materials, such as bronze and stone, and recycled materials and sensory elements. At each location, a project representative is available to tell people about the monument and encourage them to submit their own idea for a permanent installation.

Although the monuments are spread throughout Philadelphia, the Center City installments are close enough together to visit all of them in one day.

Each weekend, a different monument is featured as the Saturday Spotlight. The Washington Square piece, “On the Threshold” was highlighted on Nov. 4. “On the Threshold” consists of a series of stoops created from salvaged materials of demolished buildings. The contributing artists also came to the park to speak about their work. Artist Kaitlin Pomerantz wanted to honor Philadelphia neighborhood culture by creating stoops like those on row homes.

At Logan Square, the piece on display is not a traditional monument, rather a sound monument called “Logan Squared: An Ode to Philadelphia.” Visitors can use headphones at listening stations throughout the park to experience the combination of spoken word, song and ideas offered by city residents. The song talks about different aspects of the city, especially parts which would only be known to native Philadelphians, such as their love for water ice, pretzels and hoagies.

At City Hall, the monument “Two Me” features two, seven-foot-tall pedestals with the word “Me” engraved on the front. Visitors are encouraged to stand on the pedestals, both embracing their individualism and creating a united “We” with the person on the other pedestal.

Across from City Hall, the monument “All Power to All People” stands in Thomas Paine Plaza. This structure is an 800-pound afro pick with a fist on the handle, and stands as a symbol of identity, strength and resistance and encourages conversations about justice and belonging.

The final installment in Center City is located in Rittenhouse Square. The featured monument “If They Should Ask” addresses the lack of statues dedicated to women in Philadelphia. It is made up of various empty pedestals with the names of Philadelphia women from the 1600s to current day inscribed all over the bases.

The remaining monuments are located throughout North, South and West Philadelphia. Three locations are within 20 minutes of St. Joe’s: Vernon Park, the 4200 block of Lancaster Avenue and Malcolm X Park. Although the project holds great meaning for Philadelphia residents, it is also an opportunity for students and visitors to learn more about the city than what is featured in the main tourist attractions.

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