PHILADELPHIA- The City of Philadelphia partnered with Aimco, owners of Park Towne Place (PTP), to simultaneously redevelop the historic Park Towne Place Museum District Residences and the City-owned land located directly in front of PTP on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (“the Parkway”). Together, the interrelated projects will result in direct investment in excess of $200,000,000. The Park will advance the vision of “More Park Less Way,” a 2013 study creating an action plan to increase the vibrancy of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“I am grateful to the Commonwealth and Aimco for leveraging the City’s investment to bring this amazing park and artwork to the Parkway.” said Mayor Kenney “ These projects will bring yet another amenity that makes the Parkway a great location to live, work and play in Philadelphia.”
Once complete, the park will provide recreational opportunities for more than 70,000 neighbors within walking distance. The park will have a small performing arts stage and flexible spaces for other programming, which could include outdoor movie nights, concerts, and food trucks. Significant landscape upgrades, paths and an important sculpture installed and maintained by the Association for Public Art (aPA) will create a sense of place that is now lacking. The total Maja Park improvement cost is approximately $2.3 million.
The Association for Public Art (aPA) is working with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation (PPR), Ground Reconsidered, and Aimco to install Gerhard Marcks’ Maja (pronounced \MAI-uh\) sculpture in the newly planned park for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, to be located in front of Park Towne Place Museum District Residences on the south side of the Parkway at 22nd Street. The project recently received approval to proceed from the City’s Art Commission. Maja (1942) has been tucked away in storage for more than 25 years; but in its prior life, the sculpture stood on the East Terrace of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for decades.
“We are grateful for the strong partnership with Mayor Kenney and the Parks Department that brought this project to life. As the newest gem in Philadelphia’s storied parks system, Maja Park will provide enjoyment for the entire city,” said Patti Shwayder, Senior Vice President of Aimco, the owner of the adjacent Park Towne Place Museum District Residences.“Thanks to the Administration, Senator Farnese and Council President Clarke for their tremendous commitment to secure funding and making this space a reality.”
The Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) purchased Maja in 1949 as part of its Third Sculpture International Exhibition, installed inside and outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. According to the Association, this series of exhibitions in 1933, 1940, and 1949 featured works by hundreds of sculptors from around the world, and was organized by the Association to introduce the public to contemporary sculpture and to identify artists for the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial on Kelly Drive. At the time, Marcks’ Maja was considered a particularly significant sculpture in the third exhibition, which also included works by Alexander Calder, Jacques Lipchitz, Pablo Picasso, and Barbara Hepworth; and it was widely seen by sculptors as one of the most important exhibitions in the world.
“The Association for Public Art (aPA) has been waiting for the right opportunity and appropriate site for the relocation of the Maja sculpture, which we have found in this park space,” says Penny Balkin Bach, aPA Executive Director & Chief Curator. “As the oldest public art organization in the country, having commissioned the earliest plans for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway more than 100 years ago, we support the ongoing development of the Parkway and are excited to be a part of this project. We all look forward to inviting the public to welcome the sculpture to its new site next year.”
In 1952, Maja was part of another notable exhibition, Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, organized by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. According to MoMA, Andrew Carnduff Ritchie, Director of the Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture stated that the exhibit was intended to “give as comprehensive a view as possible of twentieth-century sculpture in all its richness and variety of expression.” The Philadelphia Museum of Art was the first venue for the exhibition, which then traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago and culminated at MoMA in 1953. When Maja returned to Philadelphia, the sculpture was installed by the Association on the East Terrace of the Philadelphia Museum of Art until 1992, when it was removed and placed in storage along with other nearby sculptures due to the renovation of the terrace.