Philadelphia’s urban landscape has undeniably been shaped by women artists and their public art – creations both permanent and ephemeral. (Re)FOCUS on Women in Public Art is a self-guided tour that takes a closer look at some notable examples of these works in Philadelphia that still exist today. This exploration is part of (re)FOCUS, a citywide exhibition in 2024 that honors the 50th anniversary of the original FOCUS festival at Moore College of Art and Design in 1974. It was a groundbreaking exhibition that showcased works by 81 women artists, many of whom were working in multidisciplinary and pioneering ways. And if they weren’t working in public spaces yet, many soon would: infusing art into the public realm was a powerful way for many women artists during this time period to reinforce feminist agendas and make a name for themselves.
This tour will be a jumping-off point to not only put a spotlight on public art in Philadelphia by women, but it will emphasize the contributions women have made and will make to the public art field as a whole.
Beverly Pepper (1922 - 2020)
Federal Reserve Bank, 100 North 6th Street
A 12-ton sculpture at the Federal Reserve Bank building that thrusts from the ground at an implausible, gravity-defying angle.
Louise Nevelson (1899 - 1988)
James A. Byrne Federal Courthouse (interior), 601 Market Street; Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., M–F; security check-in required
Inspired by primitive art, the sculpture consists of 29 intricately patterned wooden columns and four pieces affixed to the ceiling.
A three-piece mural in the Marriott Hotel lobby that captures the natural beauty of the Wissahickon Valley’s winding creek and environs.
Mei-Ling Hom (b. 1951)
Pennsylvania Convention Center, Arch Street Concourse (interior)
Comprised of over 20,000 porcelain tea cups, rice bowls, and soup spoons, China Wedge symbolizes and calls attention to the Asian American immigrant experience in Philadelphia.
Two highly decorative and symbolic mosaic murals commissioned by developer Richard I. Rubin as part of the overall renovation of One Penn Center.
Known for her intricate works in the medium of pop-up books and paper art, Colette Fu created a series of square tunnel books that memorialize the Free Library’s historic stacks.
Atmosphere and Environment XII
Louise Nevelson (1899 - 1988)
University of Pennsylvania, Shoemaker Green (east of 33rd Street between Walnut and Spruce Streets)
Atmosphere and Environment XII is a product of the mature style of Louise Nevelson, one of the most influential artists of the decades following World War II.
Simone Leigh (b. 1967)
Woodland Walk at 34th and Walnut Streets
This bronze bust of a Black woman by artist Simone Leigh references Batammaliba architecture from Benin and Togo, the teleuk dwellings in Chad and Cameroon, and the restaurant Mammy’s Cupboard in Mississippi.
Soo Sunny Park (b. 1975)
University City Science Center atrium, 3767 Market Street
Light is captured and reflected by thousands of dichroic glass panes attached to stainless steel mesh, creating a shimmering effect within the atrium of the University City Science Center.