Press Room

Praxis Dialogues: Arts and Culture

Philadelphia—On April 11, 2016, PennPraxis and PlanPhilly will present the next installment of Praxis Dialogues, a series of public conversations among design professionals, artists, business and civic leaders, and students on ideas and issues of broad interest to their work. The second in this series focuses on the role of the public good in the arts and culture sector. Panelists include leading practitioners in Philadelphia, discussing how arts and culture organizations and individual artists are working to address equity, community identity, and other social issues affecting the public good. It takes place Monday, April 11, 2016, 6:30pm - 8:00pm, at FringeArts, 140 North Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia. Admissions is free and open to the public. Registration is online. 

Panelists include Todd Bressi, Interim Director, muraLAB and Interim Coordinator of Artistic Planning at Philadelphia’s MuralArtsProgram; Nancy Chen, Senior Program Manager at the Asian Arts Initiative; Paul Farber, Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing and Postdoctoral Fellow at Haverford College and Director of Monument Lab; and Nick Stuccio, President and Producing Director of FringeArts.  Each will describe his or her own experiences at the intersection of art and the public interest, while contributing to a dynamic conversation exploring challenges, opportunities, and cooperation among those working to foster the public good with respect to arts and culture. The panel will be moderated by Ken Lum, Professor and Director of the Fine Arts Undergraduate Program, PennDesign.

The constantly shifting concept of “public good” poses a challenge to designers, stewards and managers of public space, as well as to politicians, elected officials, community organizers and citizens. How are public-good ideals rendered and tended in public spaces, sites, buildings, infrastructure and institutions, and communicated to society at large?

Public good in Arts and culture practices manifest the public good in many ways. Most immediately, public art inteprets and expresses ideas of what public life means–or questions what it means to be a citizen.  More subtly, cultural expressions are reflected in storefronts and streetscapes, the sounds and moves of public spaces, and the sociability of the street. The participants in this Praxis Dialogue will explore gaps and connections between different forms of expression of arts and culture in Philadelphia, and how it advances (or fails to advance) the public good.

In the weeks leading up to the event, each panelist will contribute an essay published by PlanPhilly.com, an online start to the Dialogue conducted live at FringeArts on April 11. In the first of these essays, Lum asks Is public art dead or alive?

Panelist Biographies

Ken Lum is a Vancouver -born artist, curator, and scholar who presently is Professor and Director of the Undergraduate Fine Arts program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. Prior to PennDesign, Lum served on the faculty of the University of British Columbia, Bard College, and the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. In addition, Lum has been an invited professor at numerous institutions throughout the world. Lum is co-founder and founding editor of Yishu Journal of Chinese Contemporary Art, and has published extensively. As curator, Lum has worked at the 7th Sharjah Biennial (2005), and Shanghai Modern: 1919-1945 (2005), and has exhibited widely at biennials and exhibitions throughout the world. Lum is also active in public art, realizing permanent works in Vienna, St. Moritz, Edmonton, Vancouver, St Louis, Leiden, Rotterdam, Toronto, and Utrecht.  He has forthcoming exhibitions at BASE Florence, Galerie Draxler Nagel, Berlin and Marc Jancou Gallery, New York, and is working on a public art piece in Santiago, Chile. Locally, Lum was co-curator for Monument Lab, a public art and historical research project convened in Philadelphia’s City Hall in the summer of 2015. He is Chief Curatorial Advisor to the next iteration of Monument Lab involving city wide temporary art pavilions that investigate the dynamics of Philadelphia. due to open summer 2017.

Todd W. Bressi is an urban designer and public art consultant, educator and writer. He manages his own public art consulting, design and planning practice, in addition to serving as interim Artistic Planning Coordinator and director of muraLAB for the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. At Mural Arts, he has overseen the muraLAB public lecture series, the Visiting Curators Initiative, and long-range project and program development for more than five years. He has worked on public art and arts district master plans, has managed complex public art commissions, and teamed with artists on collaborative design projects. His projects creatively meld the visual aspects of city design, the activation of public space, and the visions of the organizations and communities he works with. Todd’s consulting has inspired 11 projects that have been recognized by the Public Art Network “Year in Review.” His work has also won recognition from the American Planning Association, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the American Institute of Architects, the Environmental Design Research Association and the International Downtown Association.

Nancy Chen was the Public Program Manager at Asian Arts Initiative from 2011 through 2016. During her five years there, she was an integral part of planning, conducting community outreach for, and implementing all of Asian Arts Initiative’s exhibitions, artist residencies and neighborhood projects. Two of Asian Arts Initiative's community-engaged programs that she coordinated and managed were the Social Practice Lab residency series and the Pearl Street Project, both focusing on the neighborhood of Chinatown North, Philadelphia.

Paul Farber is a scholar of American studies and urban visual culture. He is currently a Postdoctoral Writing Fellow at Haverford College. Farber’s research focuses on urban monumentality, cultural memory, and creative approaches to civic engagement. His current book project is a study of representations of the Berlin Wall in American art, literature, and popular culture from 1961 to the present. He has published contributed essays to numerous books on public art and history, and has appeared in media venues including the Guardian, Washington Post, and on NPR. Farber is also the curator of the traveling exhibition, The Wall in Our Heads: American Artists and the Berlin Wall, and the Inaugural Scholar in Residence for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Farber was the Director of MonumentLab, a public art and historical research project convened in Philadelphia’s City Hall in the summer of 2015.

Nick Stuccio, is the President and Producing Director of FringeArts in Philadelphia. Stuccio co-founded the Philadelphia ringe Festival in 1997, and has been named one of the most influential people in the city. His many production credits include co-founding Shut Up and Dance, the annual benefit that showcases work choreographed and performed by dancers of the Pennsylvania Ballet and raises money to benefit the Metropolitan Aids Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA).  Stuccio was also the original curator of the Wilma Theater’s Dance Boom series, from 2002 to 2005. Other leadership roles include producing two dance films and serving on the Philadelphia Cultural Fund board for the past six years. In 2005, Nick was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts by the University of the Arts. Nick Stuccio’s studied classical ballet and biology at Skidmore College, retiring as a dancer in 1995, when he began producing full-time.

Media Contact: Julie Donofrio, Managing Director, PennPraxis, 215.573.8719, donojt@design.upenn.edu.