Monument Lab, founded by H+U+D Faculty Fellow Ken Lum and Paul Farber, Receives $4M Grant from the Mellon Foundation

Monument Lab the public art and history studio co-founded by Ken Lum, H+U+D Faculty Fellow and the Marilyn Jordan Taylor Presidential Professor and Chair of Fine Arts at Penn’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design, and Paul Farber, a lecturer in fine arts and senior research scholar at Penn’s Center for Public Art and Space, has received a transformative $4 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The grant, entitled “Beyond the Pedestal: Tracing and Transforming America’s Monuments,” will support the production of a definitive audit of the nation’s monuments; the opening of ten Monument Lab field research offices through $1 million of subgrants in 2021; and capacity for Monument Lab to hire its first full-time staff and develop significant art and justice initiatives.

The grant is the first from a new $250 million “Monuments Project” from the Mellon Foundation, the largest in the organization’s history, created “to transform the way our country’s histories are told in public spaces.”

Monument Lab was founded in 2012, inspired by an Urban Studies course that Farber taught during the 2012-2013 academic year. It works with artists, students, activists, municipal agencies, and cultural institutions on participatory approaches to public engagement and collective memory. In 2017, Monument Lab spearheaded the largest outdoor art project in Philadelphia, featuring temporary monuments designed by 22 artists from around the world. Produced with Mural Arts Philadelphia, the city-wide exhibition featured temporary prototype monuments  across 10 sites in Philadelphia and network of labs where visitors were asked to envision future monuments.

Today, Monument Lab cultivates and facilitates critical conversations around the past, present, and future of monuments, both in the United States and abroad. Through exhibitions, research programs, and fellowships, Monument Lab critically engages our inherited symbols in order to unearth the next generation of monuments that elevate stories of resistance and hope.

“Monuments are symbolic objects linked to the construction of cultural memory and to the self-image of a place or a nation that need to be examined critically to assure that history in all its multiplicity is articulated,” Lum said in a Weitzman School press release. “That is the project of Monument Lab.”