Marking 150 Years

150 Years of Public Art

The Fairmount Park Art Association (now aPA, Association for Public Art) was envisioned as a citizens’ movement at the vanguard of public art and urban design. Established in 1872 as the first public art organization in the country, its civic-minded founders sought to “promote and foster the beautiful” when industrial and commercial interests threatened to erode the city’s character.

At the time, no other organization existed to integrate sculpture in outdoor settings or to increase public appreciation and easy access to art. From commissioning the early plans for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to placing sculptures throughout Fairmount Park, the Association made an early impact on some of the city’s most prominent public spaces. Over the years, to bridge the gap between public art and everyday life, the Association initiated ground-breaking commissioning programs such as Form and Function and New•Land•Marks: public art, community and the meaning of place, resulting in permanent, site-specific artworks across the city that are integral to community identity. In order to share insights, ideas, and practices in the developing field of public art, the Association’s leadership organized the first ‘Public Art in America’ conference in 1987.

Philadelphia’s public art includes significant works that parallel the history of American sculpture. Accordingly, the Association promotes the responsible care and stewardship of public art through a pioneering outdoor sculpture conservation program and advocacy efforts that connect people with public art.

The aPA continues to commission, preserve and interpret works of public art through milestone publications, exhibitions, programming and technology. The award-winning Museum Without Walls: AUDIO program offers storytelling from diverse voices and viewpoints.

The aPA is committed to questioning and addressing the consequential public art issues of today. Distinctly positioned at the intersection of art, architecture, landscape, urban design, celebration, performance, and public history, the aPA marks its 150th year.

The Association’s first citizen-leaders had vision: they could imagine a growing city with outdoor art for everyone. This anniversary year we recognize their vision as we reexamine their thinking about public art, innovation and community engagement. Like the Roman god Janus and the Yoruba deity Èshù, who are depicted as having two heads facing opposite directions, we need to look backward and forward at the same time.

Public art is a reflection of how we see the world, and artists’ responses to our time and place. The aPA is committed to building a more diverse and representative public art collection. The interpretation of public art is inherently dynamic – and the aPA will actively participate in an essential civic discourse through our upcoming initiatives.

The aPA has commissioned a proposal for a new permanent work by a renowned artist as we reimagine the Parkway experience, and Mark di Suvero’s iconic red-orange sculpture Iroquois returns after major restoration. Through an ongoing process we acknowledge the Lenape peoples’ homeland, where outdoor sculptures have been placed on unceded Indigenous land.

A virtual speaker series “Insights: The Future of Public Art” brings together thought-leaders to reflect on the challenges of stewardship, representation, race, gender, and power. Walking tours of the Parkway explore its art, architecture, history and landscape. The aPA will launch its unique online Digital Archive – a collection of first-hand accounts of early commissions, decisions, discussions and negotiations with artists, all digitized through state-of-the art technology.

The artist Marcel Duchamp believed that the audience completes a work of art. Public art exists for its audience, and that’s you. Please join the aPA as we move forward and reaffirm our commitment to works of art that enhance the public realm, now and for future generations.

Penny Balkin Bach
Executive Director and Chief Curator


For general inquiries, contact info@associationforpublicart.org, 215-546-7550
The media may contact Anne Edgar, anne@anneedgar.com, 646-567-3586

Special Events

Register for free virtual speaker series and on-site walking tours in honor of our 150th

 

SPEAKER SERIES

“Insights: The Future of Public Art” with Tatti Art Conservation, Valerie Cassel Oliver, Karyn Olivier, and Hamza Walker

The Association for Public Art will celebrate its 150th Anniversary as the nation’s first private, non-profit organization dedicated to the integration of public art and urban design. Programming for this landmark year will include a virtual speaker series, “Insights: The Future of Public Art”, that reflects on aPA’s mission to commission, preserve, interpret and promote public art in Philadelphia.

 

THREE GENERATIONS OF SCULPTURE CONSERVATION
September 27, 2022
4 -5 PM EST on ZOOM
Speakers: Steve Tatti, Zach Tatti, and Nick Tatti

On Tuesday, September 27th join us for a virtual presentation and discussion with Tatti Art Conservation, representing three generations committed to the conservation of outdoor sculpture. Steve, Zach, and Nick Tatti will share their 40 year engagement with aPA’s conservation program, providing insight into the various approaches to conservation of different materials and the challenges faced in working in the outdoor environment.

 

 

Over the past three generations, TATTI ART CONSERVATION has developed strong working relationships with professionals in the various art industries ranging from art historians, analytical specialists, art handlers and movers, art storage specialists, fabricators, and foundries.  Today, these relationships allow Tatti Art Conservation to provide a comprehensive range of services resulting in the highest level of care for works of art.

 


 

COMMUNITY WELCOMES MONUMENT
October 18, 2022
4- 5 PM EST on Zoom
Speaker: Valerie Cassel Oliver

On Tuesday, October 18th join us for a virtual presentation and discussion with Valerie Cassel Oliver, the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). In this special presentation, Cassel Oliver revisits her experiences of bringing Rumors of War, the first public sculpture created by world-renowned visual artist Kehinde Wiley, to the museum and city of Richmond where its profound significance still reverberates.

 

 

VALERIE CASSEL OLIVER is the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Prior to this position, she spent sixteen years at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Texas, where she was senior curator. She was director of the Visiting Artist Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a program specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 2000, she was one of six curators selected to organize the Biennial for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Cassel Oliver has organized numerous exhibitions including the acclaimed Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art Since 1970 (2005); Cinema Remixed and Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image with Dr. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee (2009); Hand + Made: The Performative Impulse in Art and Craft (2010); and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, (2012), which toured through 2015. Cassel Oliver has also mounted numerous solo exhibitions including a major retrospective on Benjamin Patterson, Born in the State of Flux/us, as well as the surveys Donald Moffett: The Extravagant Vein (2011); Jennie C. Jones: Compilation (2015); Angel Otero: Everything and Nothing (2016) and most recently, Annabeth Rosen: Fired, Broken, Gathered, Heaped (2017).

Cassel Oliver holds a M.A. in art history from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and B.S. in communications from the University of Texas at Austin.. 

 


 

IN THE SHELTER OF EACH OTHER
November 15, 2022
4 -5 PM EST on Zoom
Speaker: Karyn Olivier

On Tuesday, November 15th join us for a virtual presentation and discussion with Karyn Olivier, a Philadelphia-based artist and professor of sculpture  at Temple University. As an artist, Oliver engages with existing  monuments and the fabrication of contemporary monuments and memorials. In this presentation, Oliver will discuss the major themes within her work, the challenges and responsibilities of working in the public realm, and the sources of inspiration that have shaped her as an artist. 

 

 

KARYN OLIVIER is a Philadelphia-based artist who creates sculptures, installations and public art. Her work often intersects and collapses multiple histories and memories with present-day narratives. Olivier received her MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art and her BA at Dartmouth College.In 2017, Olivier completed a large-scale commissioned work, The Battle is Joined, for Monument Lab and Philadelphia’s Mural Arts program in historic Vernon Park (Philadelphia, PA). In 2018 a permanent addendum was created by Olivier to a controversial Anne Rice O’Hanlon fresco at the University of Kentucky (Lexington, Kentucky), calling attention to the African American and Native American figures within the piece. In 2019 Olivier was commissioned for the twenty-first-century Dinah Memorial at Stenton House in Philadelphia. In 2022 Olivier will install a permanent memorial for Bethel Burying Ground, a nineteenth century African American cemetery. In 2015, she created a site-specific work in New York City’s Central Park for the Creative Time exhibition Drifting in Daylight, as well as a permanent sculpture for Long Island City’s Hunter Point South Park sponsored by NYC’s Percent for Art program

Olivier has exhibited at the Gwangju and Busan biennials, the World Festival of Black Arts and Culture (Dakar, Senegal), The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Whitney Museum of Art, MoMA P.S.1, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, The Mattress Factory (Pittsburgh), SculptureCenter (New York), Drexel University, the University of the Arts, and the University of Delaware Museum, among others. Important solo exhibitions include Everything That’s Alive Moves at Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia (2020), which traveled to University of Buffalo Art Gallery, and A Closer Look at Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis (2007).

This past June, Olivier mounted a solo exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (New York).

Olivier has received numerous awards, fellowships and grants, including the 2020 Anonymous Was a Woman Award, the 2018–2019 Nancy B. Negley Rome Prize, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, the New York Foundation for the Arts Award, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, the William H. Johnson Prize, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award, a 2019 PEW Fellowship, a Creative Capital Foundation grant, and a HarpoFoundation grant. Most recently, Olivier received the RAIR (Recycled Artists in Residency) Fellowship Residency. Karyn Olivier’s work can be found in the permanent collections of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and The Studio Museum in Harlem. Her work has been reviewed in Art Forum, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Village Voice, Art in America, Flash Art, Mousse, The Washington.

 


 

MONUMENTS: OVERVIEW OF AN EXHIBITION
December 6, 2022
4 -5 PM EST on Zoom
Speaker: Hamza Walker

On Tuesday, December 6th join us for a virtual presentation and discussion with Hamza Walker, director of LAXART,  a Los Angeles-based alternative space. Walker will discuss MONUMENTS, an exhibition being co-organized by LAXART and LA MOCA that will open in fall 2023.  The exhibition will feature decommissioned monuments shown alongside contemporary art, many of which will be commissioned for the exhibition. Walker will discuss artists’ responses to the monuments and their related themes.

 

 

HAMZA WALKER is the Director of LAXART, an independent nonprofit art space in Los Angeles. From 1994–2016, he was the Director of Education and Associate Curator at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, a non-collecting museum devoted to contemporary art.

Recently, Walker was a juror for the Venice Biennale’s prestigious Golden Lion award. In February 2019, Walker curated the talks and programs at the first edition of Frieze Los Angeles. In 2018 he curated Sperm Cult and Sol LeWitt, Page Works 1967 – 2007, an exhibition of works LeWitt made specifically for reproduction in magazines, journals and books.

In 2017 he co-curated Reconstitution at LAXART. Walker co-curated the Made in L.A. biennial at the Hammer Museum. Recent exhibitions include A Painting Is A Painting Isn’t A Painting (2015) at the Kadist Foundation in San Francisco; Wadada Leo Smith, Ankhrasmation: The Language Scores 1967 – 2015, which he co-curated with John Corbett at the Renaissance Society; Teen Paranormal Romance (2014) and Suicide Narcissus (2013) two thematic group exhibitions both mounted at the Renaissance Society. He has contributed reviews and art criticism to Parkett, and Artforum, and to numerous catalogue essays. He is the recipient of the 1999 Norton Curatorial Grant and the 2004 Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement. In 2010 he was awarded the Ordway Prize for contributions to the field in the form of writing and exhibitions.

 


 

WALKING TOURS

Benjamin Franklin Parkway walking tours with historians Kenneth Finkel and David Brownlee, art historian Naomi Nelson, and landscape architect Susan Weiler of OLIN.

 

CIRCLING THE SQUARE: THE CHALLENGING EVOLUTION OF LOGAN SQUARE
Saturday, October 1, 2022, 10:00am-11:30am
Speaker: Kenneth Finkel

For its first 180 years, Logan Square served as a shared civic,  green space for adjacent communities. With the completion of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul and other events in the 1860s, Logan Square increasingly became a popular destination for the city at large. With the expansion of Fairmount Park and the increasing popularity of a grand diagonal connecting the Park to City Hall, a difficult design challenge emerged. How could this historic square be seamlessly re-cast and re-branded as the city’s grand civic circle? We will explore the spectacular and difficult result on this walking tour. 

Space is limited.

 

 

KENNETH FINKEL is a professor of history at Temple University. He is the author of several books and exhibition catalogs on 19th-century photography, graphics, architecture, and Philadelphia. Finkel’s first book, Nineteenth-Century Photography in Philadelphia was published in 1980. His most recent book is Insight Philadelphia, drawn on his essays at the PhillyHistory Blog. Before joining Temple in the Spring of 2008, Finkel held various positions at the Library Company of Philadelphia, the William Penn Foundation, and WHYY. Finkel is on the advisory council at the Wagner Free Institute of Science and is a Vice President of the board of the Association for Public Art.

 


 

DECODING A MONUMENT: RACE & SOCIAL JUSTICE
Saturday, October 8, 2022, 10:00am-11:30am
Speaker: Naomi Nelson

Presented by Naomi Nelson, art historian and educator of African American art. Monuments and memorials convey powerful visual messages and symbols. Decoding the All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers & Sailors in the context of race and social justice, serves as a public platform for dialogue. Monuments can celebrate, memorialize, and challenge negative stereotypes; but they also can serve to reinforce prevailing social norms and colonial attitudes of domination. This monument challenged attitudes in early 20th century Philadelphia, and looking at it through a contemporary lens reflects the imperative for diversity of voices to be seen and heard in public spaces.

Space is limited.

 

 

NAOMI NELSON  began her work with museums as an administrator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Today, she is the executive director of CORE Scholars Foundation. An art historian, museum educator/curator with more than twenty-five years’ experience working with museums, non-profit organizations, and universities, she has a passion for historic research, education, and preserving African American art and history. She is the past executive director of the American Women’s Heritage Society/Underground Railroad Museum in Historic Fairmount Park. Naomi has participated in many Philadelphia based video history projects including the Mother Bethel AME Church 125th Anniversary celebration of Bishop Richard Allen; Scribe Video Center’s documentary on John Coltrane, and Sam Katz’s History Making Productions documentaries on Bishop Richard Allen and Octavius V. Catto. At the Freedom Center she co-produced the Harriett Tubman webisode series.

 


 

LOOKING PAST THE COLUMNS ON THE PARKWAY
Saturday, October 15, 2022, 10:00am-11:30am
Speaker: David Brownlee

On a stroll along the Parkway from Logan Square to Fairmount, we’ll traverse the terrain that until 1918 was covered by 1600 buildings, including the mayor’s house and the home of the contractor who demolished them.  We’ll look carefully at the Free Library (opened 1927), Philadelphia Museum of Art (1928), and the Rodin Museum (1929), focusing on the complicated human stories and the very different architectural ideas that lie behind their monumental facades. Classical buildings are not all the same! 

Space is limited.

 

 

DAVID BROWNLEE is a historian of modern architecture and urbanism in Europe and America. He has taught for his entire career at the University of Pennsylvania, where he won the Outstanding Teaching Award of the College Alumni Society and the university’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. An important focus of his scholarship is the architecture and planning of Philadelphia. His books include architectural histories of the Barnes Foundation, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and the Penn campus, and the catalogues associated with exhibitions devoted to Louis Kahn, Denise Scott Brown, and Robert Venturi. He has won the major publication prizes of the Society of Architectural Historians (USA), its British counterpart, and the American Institute of Architects. He was named a Fellow by the SAH in 2015, which in 2020 established the international Brownlee Dissertation Prize in his honor. Active in civic affairs, Brownlee served for 15 years on the Philadelphia Historical Commission, and he is now on the boards of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, the World Heritage City project of the Global Philadelphia Association, the Beth Sholom Preservation Foundation, and the Design Advocacy Group. His public service has been recognized by the Wyck-Strickland Award and the Philadelphia AIA’s Paul Philippe Cret medal.

 


 

ARTISTRY IN PLACE: PRESERVING THE PARKWAY
Saturday, October 22, 2022, 10:00am-11:30am
Speaker: Susan K. Weiler

Designed by Jacques Gréber and Paul Philippe Cret at the turn of the 20th century, the Parkway is the physical and emotional heart of Philadelphia. Home to world-class museums and a sprawling open canvas of public art, the fabric of the Parkway has been designed, shaped and influenced by landscape architects, designers and artists. Starting at Logan Circle and the iconic Swann Fountain and ending at the Rodin Sculpture Garden, this tour will explore the historical context, success and strife of the Parkway’s design from one of the many practitioners that helped shape the modern boulevard over 100 years after Gréber and Cret first put pen to paper. 

Space is limited.

 

 

SUSAN K. WEILER has risen to prominence in the field of landscape architecture as a designer, speaker and writer. Her expertise in interfacing with complex engineering systems and construction technologies has applied to projects of myriad locales and typologies, including the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany; the Mission Bay Master Plan in San Francisco, California; LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah; and the Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She has recently completed the design and construction of Dilworth Park, a new civic plaza and transit center in front of Philadelphia’s historic City Hall.

Susan holds a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from the University of Wisconsin and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, where she is now a longstanding faculty member. She regularly teaches at the Pantheon Institute in Rome and has lectured widely, including talks at the TEDx lecture series and panels at the American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Conference. Susan is the primary author of the book Green Roof Systems: A Guide for the Planning, Design and Construction of Landscapes over Structure, which has become a primary resource on the topic of green roof design for landscape architects, architects and engineers.

 

Iroquois Returns

After major conservation, the iconic Mark di Suvero sculpture returns to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in September 2022 with a fresh look

It’s back! In September 2022, the Association for Public Art reinstalled Philadelphia’s Iroquois sculpture by Mark di Suvero on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The I-beams were stripped and repainted, leaving the surface much improved and brighter. Photo courtesy Materials Conservation, our partners on the restoration.

In spring 2022, the Association for Public Art (aPA) temporarily removed Mark di Suvero’s Iroquois sculpture from Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway for major conservation restoration. Acquired and installed by aPA in 2007 thanks to the generous support of the late David Pincus, the red-orange I-beam sculpture was in need of a thorough paint job after 15 years of being exposed to the elements, which left the surface faded, chipped, and worn.

The two-day deinstallation required a team of professionals, including conservators, welders, and riggers. The I-beams were carefully disassembled and transported on a flatbed to the Color Works industrial paint facility in Delaware to be stripped, cleaned, repainted, and inspected for hardware issues. Iroquois returns to the Parkway in September 2022 with a fresh, brighter look as part of aPA’s 150th anniversary.

This conservation project is being undertaken and managed by Materials Conservation, assisted by Mammoet riggers, Color Works industrial paint contractors, Atlantic Coating Consultants (Independent Representatives of Tnemec Paint), as well as the artist’s studio, Spacetime CC. Funding has been provided in part by the generous support of the Pincus Family Foundation.

 

 

In 1982, the Association for Public Art (then the Fairmount Park Art Association) initiated a landmark sculpture conservation program for Philadelphia, which is now one of the longest continuously operating programs of its kind in the country.

The Association recognized the need to preserve Philadelphia’s existing sculpture history, even as we explored new directions and approaches to public art. As we looked toward the future, we were equally concerned with the treasures of the past.

It began as a two-year pilot program with generous support from the Mabel Pew Myrin Trust, with 16 works of historic and artistic importance selected to receive initial treatment, including Cowboy (1908) by Frederic Remington and Three Way Piece Number 1: Points (1964) by Henry Moore. These initial efforts evolved into a robust annual maintenance program that provides treatment for more than thirty public artworks in Philadelphia each spring.

“The Association recognized the need to preserve Philadelphia’s existing sculpture history, even as we explored new directions and approaches to public art,” said our Executive Director Penny Balkin Bach when the program first began. “As we looked toward the future, we were equally concerned with the treasures of the past . . . . From my point of view, the issues of care, maintenance, artistic intent, and environmental concerns are the business of all public art, no matter when the work is created.”

The Association for Public Art (aPA) is wrapping up two big months of public art conservation projects in Philadelphia, performing much-needed restorations, repairs, and annual maintenance. Each spring, we provide conservation treatment for approximately 30 artworks in the city made of all kinds of materials (bronze, marble, wood, steel, etc.) and take on special projects as needed, like disassembling a massive I-beam sculpture for repainting! (More on that below.)

Now in its 40th year, our conservation program is one of the longest continuously operating programs of its kind in the country.

Take a look at some of the work we did this season.

New Commission

Digital Archive