muraLAB Thought Experiments

*Check back for future events in this series.

Past Thought Experiments

In/Out: Time, Pacing, and Perspective in Socially-Engaged Art

First in a series of annual symposia exploring projects and creative thinking, both indoors and on site.

Presented by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and Moore College of Art & Design’s Graduate Social & Studio Practice program

Friday, July 31 & August 1, 2015


During this intensive, two day-long symposium, you will:

  • Hear engaging keynotes by MacArthur Fellow Rick Lowe, Founder of Project Row House, and Walidah Imarisha, co-editor of Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements
  • Embark on a trolley tour of Philadelphia with visits to Mural Arts’ Neighborhood Time Exchange project and the Village of Arts and Humanities
  • Observe thought-filled panels, including presentations by: Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, featuring Dorthy Burge, Darrel Cannon, Alice Kim and Sarah Ross; and IMI Corona (Immigrant Movement International, Corona)featuring Daisy Patricia Chabla, Viviana Peralta, Dana Yessenia Mendoza, Christian Guiñanzaca and Silvia Juliana Mantilla Ortiz. 
  • Enjoy social gatherings with other artists, activists and other like-minded practioners during receptions at Asian Arts Initiative and other locations
  • And “The Long Now” will include a panel of several groups from Philadelphia that have been developing their community based art over substantial periods of time moderated by Helen Haynes, chief cultural officer for the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, City of Philadelphia; with participants including Denise Brown from the Leeway Foundation, Bread & Roses, Scribe; Aaron Levy from Slought; and Shira Walinsky from Southeast by Southeast, along with others.

The symposium will focus on selected case studies from local, national, and international contexts that highlight socially-engaged art from multiple vantage points. Special attention will be given to the subject of time commitment as a medium that ties the diverse range of complex case studies together. The symposium is a part of Mural Arts' muraLAB program.

Please email Daniel Tucker at if you have any dietary restrictions. 

Only $25 for Both Days and Includes Receptions,
plus Lunch on Friday/Saturday &  Breakfast on Saturday

Friday, July 31, 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm: One Day Price: $10
Saturday, August 1, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm: One Day Price: $15
​Free for Moore Faculty and Students
To inquire about attending on scholarship, please contact Paul Farber:

Moore College of Art & Design
1916 Race Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Support for In/Out has been provided by the Ford Foundation.


Temporary Services: As We Live, So We Work

Tuesday, April 2, 6 p.m.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
118 N. Broad Street

Temporary Services is a group of three artist collaborators who draw on their varied backgrounds and interests to incorporate their aesthetic practice within their lived experiences. The group, which has been collaborating on art projects, public events, publications, and exhibitions since 1998, is currently based in Chicago, Copenhagen and Philadelphia.

Temporary Services produced the  Self-Reliance Library  in conjunction with Beyond the Paint, Mural Arts thirtieth anniversary exhibition. Though the group has not collaborated directly with Mural Arts, but the work we do is being displayed to give a broader context to what Mural Arts does and the wide field of cultural work that engages various communities and audiences. A pdf of the booklet is available here:  PDF 

Funder: Ford Foundation
Co-Sponsor: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Broken City Lab: Civic Spaces

Date and location to be announced

Broken City Lab, based in Windsor, Ontario, is an artist-led interdisciplinary creative research collective and non-profit organization working to explore and unfold curiosities around locality, infrastructures, and creative practice leading towards civic change.

For more than a year, Broken City Lab has operated a storefront “civic studio” that has served as a base for artistic inquiry into civic regeneration. The studio, called CIVIC SPACE, serves as a hub for  community projects, artist residencies, DIY workshops, public lectures, research and a range of other initiatives. CIVIC SPACE aims to engage the public in addressing community challenges through new programming and activities that initiate collaborative creative problem solving.

Starting next summer, Broken City Lab will curate a civic studio along Lancaster Avenue, in collaboration with the People’s Emergency Center CDC and the Mural Arts Program. This studio will be organized around a “time bank” model, in which artists will be given workspace in exchange for a commitment to take on community improvement projects.

Broken City Lab’s co-founders, Justin Langlois and Danielle Sabelli, will discuss how artist collaboratives and community-based studios can provide a platform for social practice and artist-engaged community change.

Funder: Ford Foundation

Email to RSVP and to receive updates about this and other muraLAB programs.

Jon Rubin: Contextual Practice

Tuesday, February 5, 6 p.m.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
118 N. Broad Street

Artist Jon Rubin – best known for his project Conflict Kitchen – is the chair of the Contextual Practice program at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art.

Contextual Practice, as Rubin puts it,covers an unruly range of public and social art practices that are still in the midst of formation.” The term, he says “is really just a placeholder for a range of contemporary art practices like new genre public art, social sculpture, culture hacking, relational aesthetics, intervention, participatory art, social practice, tactical media and institutional critique.”

At its core, “contextual practice” is a lens that artists can use to consider how their work is shaped by its context. At Carnegie Mellon, through his teaching and work at the College of Fine Arts and the Studio for Creative Inquiry, Rubin challenges his students to develop work in the context of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods, challenging them to consider the dynamics between artmaking, context and audience.

muraLAB will engage Rubin in a conversation about the university as a platform for social practice – exploring how the resources of the university support students in their community-based work.

Please register by clicking this link or by visiting the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts web site, calendar of events.

Funder: Ford Foundation
Co-Sponsor: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Sarah Schultz: Open Field is What We Make Together

Wednesday, October 23, 6 p.m.
Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine Street
RSVP required

For three summers, from 2010 to 2012, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis staged an innovative program, Open Field, on a four-acre lawn next to its main gallery building.

In contrast to the formal exhibitions inside, Open Field invited the public to share their own creative interests, by staging or participating in creative activities in the space – with minimal mediation, modest support and a simple set of ground rules. These activities occurred alongside a series of curated residencies by artists, mostly collectives, whose work pointedly addressed participation in the public sphere.

Open Field adopted the commons as a philosophical and programmatic framework to imagine a new kind of public gathering space. The project challenged idea that creativity is an individual pursuit belonging primarily to artists and operating outside the realm of everyday life. It resisted the notion that museums are the primary authors of cultural experience.

Sarah Schultz, a co-founder of the initiative and the Walker’s Director of Education and Community Programs will explore the implications of this experiment – and of the shifting relations between creativity, cultural experience, public space and civic life.

Funders: Ford Foundation

Laura Kurgan: Human Geographies


Laura Kurgan's projects visualize complex political and social data to advocate for social reform. Her work explores digital mapping technologies, the ethics and politics of mapping, new structures of participation in design, and the visualization of urban and global data. One project, “Million Dollar Blocks,” shows how the government spends more than one million dollars to incarcerate prisoners who live within a single census block. Her book, Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology and Politics has recently been published by Zone Books.

Kurgan is Director of Visual Studies, Director of the Spatial Information Design Lab, and Associate Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

Co-sponsored by PennDesign and the Penn Institute for Urban Research


Josh MacPhee: Curating the Public Realm

Moderated by Elizabeth Thomas

Josh MacPhee, a designer, artist and activist based in New York City, explores the notion of the Commons as a place for both sanctioned and unsanctioned individual and collective storytelling and agency, and about the role of image and text (in murals, graffiti, and other more ephemeral forms) in engendering thought and action in public space. He will discuss his research into the history of illegal street markings (with a focus on the street stencil), as well as his own projects, including the People's History Project and Specters of Liberty, both of which attempt to manifest submerged and complex collective memories and make visible histories of people and movements that resisted a status quo.

MacPhee is a founder of the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative and a member of the Occuprint collective. He is the co-author and co-curator of Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures 1960s to Now, co-editor of Signal: A Journal of International Political Graphics and Culture, and he recently co-founded the Interference Archive, a public collection of cultural materials produced by social movements. He recently launched a collaborative design firm with Morgan Buck called Antumbra. 

Elizabeth Thomas, Mural Arts’ first visiting curator, is an independent curator based in the Bay Area, and has held curatorial positions at the Walker Art Center, Carnegie Museum of Art, and UC Berkeley Art Museum.

Co-sponsored by the University of the Arts

Thought Experiments is an ongoing series of public dialogues with leading artists, designers and visual thinkers. Each dialogue offers a different perspective on rethinking muralism for the 21st Century.

Upcoming events include Ashley Hunt (Sept. 10 and 11), Civic Center / Candy Chang / James Reeves (October 11), and Laura Kurgan (November, date to be announced.)

A Conversation with Broken City LabJustin A. Langlois and Danielle Sabelli.

Presented in collaboration with Philly Works.

Broken City Lab, based in Windsor, Ontario, is an artist-led interdisciplinary collective and non-profit organization working to explore and unfold curiosities around locality, infrastructures, education, and creative practice leading towards civic change.

Justin A. Langlois is an artist working in integrated media and social practice. He has an MFA in Visual Arts and a BA (Hons) in Communication Studies from the University of Windsor.

Danielle Sabelli has a BA (Hons) in Visual Arts and Communications Studies, an MA in Communications and Social Justice, and is pursuing her JD in the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor.

Philly Works is a collective of designers and educators that aims to empower creative individuals and industries in Philadelphia. Philly Works does this through collaboration, creative partnerships, and fostering public dialogue. Its exhibition, Phillyworks 2012: Qualities of Life in Philadelphia, is on view at The Philadelphia Art Alliance through November 25, and a book about the exhibition is now available.

Public Art and Public Action: Strategies and Tactics

Candy Chang and James Reeves are principals in Civic Center, a New Orelans-based interdisciplinary collaborative that blends art, design, education, research, and urban planning to create tools that help people navigate and improve their cities. They believe that public spaces should inspire conversation, make the machinery of the city more accessible, and restore a sense of dignity to the public realm.

Sara Ansell is program manager for the Mural Arts Porch Light Initiative, a three-year program to improve community health in three Philadelphia neighborhoods. Mural Arts is building teams of behavioral health service providers, artists and community residents to address drug addiction, mental illness, homelessness and other behavioral health issues. Sara graduated with a Masters of Social Work and a Masters of Social Policy from the University of Pennsylvania.

Theresa Rose is the Visual Arts Program Director with Philadelphia Live Arts/ Philly Fringe, where she is expanding programming to include visual arts performative and participatory work. Formerly, Rose was the Public Art Project Manager for the City of Philadelphia's Office of Arts, Culture & the Creative Economy where she administered the Percent for Art program and produced the City’s first temporary public art commission, Soil Kitchen, by the artist team Futurefarmers. Rose received her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where she co-chaired of the Visiting Artist Lecture Series Program.

Cassim Shepard is the founding editor of Urban Omnibus, an online publication dedicated to redefining the culture of citymaking, published by the Architectural League of New York. Trained in filmmaking, urban geography and urban planning, he teaches non-fiction filmmaking at Columbia University and is a Poiesis Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. His film and video work has been exhibited widely, including at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2006.


Multimedia Artist Ashley Hunt:
Curatorial Conversation with Philip Glahn
Notes on the Emptying of a City

A Critical Conversation with Curator Philip Glahn
Monday, September 10, 7 p.m.
Temple Contemporary at the Tyler School of Art, 2001 N. 13th Street
RSVP: Visit or call 215 777 9138

Presented in collaboration with Tyler School of Art

Notes on the Emptying of a City
Tuesday, September 11, 7 p.m.
Broad Street Ministry, 315 South Broad Street 

Presented in collaboration with the 2012 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. For festival information, call 215-413-1318, or visit

Ashley Hunt is an artist and activist who uses video, photography, mapping and writing to engage social movements, modes of learning and public discourse. Among his interests are structures that allow people to accumulate power and those which keep others from getting power, while learning from the ways people come to know, respond to and conceive  of themselves within these structures.

Notes on the Emptying of a City is a performance that explores the first-person politics of being in New Orleans with a camera in the months following Hurricane Katrina, when he engaged with community activists to research the city’s refusal to evacuate the Orleans Parish Prison.

Philip Glahn is an assistant professor at Temple, who focuses on the development of the relations between art, social formations and the public sphere.


The Whole Site

Tuesday, October 18 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.
center for archictecture 
1218 arch street 

As part of this year's DesignPhiladelphia, join a stimulating muraLAB conversation with Mural Arts and internationally renowned design partners as we discuss how design can be used to transform the whole space - both physical and social - when deployed creatively in communities. Panelists include: 

Haas & Hahn is the working title of artistic duo Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn who strive to bring outrageous works of art to unexpected places, best known for painting enormous murals in the slums of Brazil. (Photo above: Haas&Hahn project in the Santa Marta favela). 

Interface Studio is an innovative planning and urban design practice based in Philadelphia. Hip and nimble, Interface Studio is a team of creative thinkers and doers. Founding principal Scott Page will join us. 

Intenational Design Clinic is a nonprofit that provides students, artists and designers the opportunity to use their unique creative talents to design and construct projects for communities in need throughout the world. IDC Director and President Scott Shall will moderate. 

PrePost is a Brooklyn-based architectural design firm combining architecture, art and research in their practice. Principals Joshua Draper and Joseph Vidich will join us. 

Artist Rigo23 and curator Mark Beasley

Thursday, September 8, 7-9 p.m.
Lincoln Financial Mural Arts Center
at the Thomas Eakins House
1727-29 Mount Vernon Street

Join us for a special conversation between renowned artists Rigo23 (pictured) and independent curator Mark Beasley.

Rigo23 is a Portuguese muralist and painter now living in San Francisco whose work has centered around social and political change.  Considered by some critics as part of the first generation of the San Francisco Mission School art movement, Rigo23 has created art for over 20 years throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Mark Beasley is a curator, writer and artist based in New York. He currently works as a curator for the Performa Bienniale. Prior to that he worked as a curator at Creative Time and organized the New York public art quadrennial.

This event is part of an ongoing muraLAB speaker series called Thought Experiments, which brings leading thinkers and artists to Philadelphia.


Wendy Ewald and Brett Cook

Wednesday, June 22, 6 - 8 p.m.
Lincoln Financial Mural Arts Center
at the Thomas Eakins House
1727-29 Mount Vernon Street

Mural Arts is hosting photographer Wendy Ewald and painter Brett Cook as part of an ongoing muraLAB speaker series called Thought Experiments, which brings leading thinkers and artists to Philadelphia.

Brett Cook and Wendy Ewald first began their creative collaboration over ten years ago, creating large-scale public artworks often based in portraiture, that are a result of deeply collaborative community-building processes. Using interpersonal dialogue, participatory pedagogy, and contemplative curricula, Ewald and Cook build environments where participants help generate the subject, emotion and power behind each work. 

Sponsored by: Ford Foundation

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