At A Glance
Part of the Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO program
Commissioned for the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial
The Laborer commemorates the working men and women who helped to build the U.S.
Artist Ahron Ben-Shmuel was trained as a stone-cutter who also created Philadelphia’s Boxers
The sculptures of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial were to be emblematic of the history of America, symbolizing the people and ambitions that have shaped the country. As America’s mental and spiritual energies would have had little impact without physical energy as well, artist Ahron Ben-Shmuel was commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) to commemorate the working men and women who helped to build the nation. Born in North Africa, Ben-Shmuel grew up in New York, where he trained as a stone-cutter. Another of his granite carvings in Philadelphia is Boxers.
The North Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial
The development of the North Terrace inaugurated the final stage of the Samual Memorial. Here the intention was to express not historical periods or movements but rather the “inner energies” that shaped the nation. Two major bronze groups were to represent “social consciousness” and “constructive enterprise,” and the commissions were offered to Jacob Epstein and Jacque Lipchitz. As Epstein and Lipchitz progressed, it became apparent that their two massive monuments would not fit comfortably in the same terrace. Thus, Epstein’s Social Consciousness was installed at the west entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Lipchitz’s The Spirit of Enterprise served as the centerpiece of the North Terrace until, in 1986, it was moved to the Central Terrace.
Sculptures in the North Terrace:
- The Preacher, Waldemar Raemisch
- The Poet, José de Creeft
- The Scientist, Koren der Harootian
- The Laborer, Ahron Ben-Shmuel
- Titles Unknown: Eye and Hand, J. Wallace Kelly
Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).
Voices heard in the program:
Penny Balkin Bach is Executive Director of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association) and the author of many books and articles about Philadelphia’s public art.
Kathleen A. Foster is Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art and Director of the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Michael Taylor was Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the author of Jacques Lipchitz and Philadelphia.
Segment Producer: Amanda Aronczyk and Ave Carrillo
A program of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association), Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an innovative and accessible outdoor sculpture audio program for Philadelphia’s preeminent collection of public art.
A “multi-platform” interactive audio experience – available for free by cell phone, mobile app, audio download, or on the web – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO offers the unique histories that are not typically expressed on outdoor permanent signage.
Unlike audio tours that have a single authoritative guide or narrator, each speaker featured in Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an “authentic voice” – someone who is connected to the sculpture by knowledge, experience, or affiliation. Over 150 unique voices are featured, including artists, educators, scientists, writers, curators, civic leaders, and historians.