By Lynda DellIn mid-July, families flocked to historic Philadelphia’s Franklin Park Square to take Sample Philly for a joy ride. They tapped into an archive of musical loops drawn from upcoming and legendary Philadelphia-based or themed music and choice sound bites, like Rapper Schoolly D, Rocky’s anthem, Hall & Oates, vocalist Patti LaBelle, available until November 19, 2017.Sample Philly is more than a boom box. Local artists can download their music to the sound bank. “If you are taking the classic sounds of Philadelphia and melding them into new sounds and different genres, it’s really cool. I love music; I actually play the saxophone,” said Jonathan Grode, a dad from Queen Village. “It’s a neat idea because it exposes people to the arts who might not otherwise have the inclination or opportunity to get involved with it.”
Music Producer Patrick Parker, 40, who has been creating musical loops for the past 20 years, was invited to download his music to the archive. He thought it was pretty awesome. “There are many combinations so there is no right way to mess around with the machine.”Emily Xiong’s test drive was “super cool because you could produce your own music instantly.” Once inside the booth, Darlene Mani, 34, got to live out her dream. “After I heard the finished product, I thought: I’m probably supposed to be a DJ,” which is a popular response among many participants.Mural Arts Philadelphia gave the public a first look at Sample Philly as part of a summer preview event for Monument Lab, “a nine week innovative art and history project that will feature temporary public art in 10 locations across the city to be launched September 16, 2017,” said Cari Feiler Bender, president of Relief Communications, LLC.Monument Lab grew out of a discussion about monuments that Professor Paul Farber, co-curator of Monument Lab, had with his students that later evolved into this ground-breaking project.
Artist Adkins Struck a Chord
Back in 2015, Farber never imagined, during its discovery phase, that 35,000 people would come to the City Hall courtyard and think, feel, and respond to the late artist Terry Adkin’s 3-D model of an empty classroom, his tribute “to honor our educational feats and mark moments of crisis and challenge for students in the city,” he explained. Moreover, “about 455 left their own monument proposals, which led to a new partnership with Jane Golden’s nonprofit Mural Arts Philadelphia.
“We are really excited to push people beyond their preconceived idea of what a monument is,” said Golden. “You have to ask, ‘what are the untold stories, the invisible moments? What are the hidden histories that have not been documented in public space?’ If we could imagine a city, where all of the people’s stories are represented, where struggles and triumph are seen, where equity and justice are illuminated, lifted up in our physical space, then we could speculate together about the future of our city, considering the past and the present.”The Monumental TaskArtist Crombie never thought that her speculative proposal would be selected. “So I imagined the most spectacular thing that I could.” Her vision was to create an endless organic archive in the city where we could record music, have sounds that define us, and find a new way to monumentalize our shared history, which would continue to grow and evolve.It was designed with the underserved 10-year-old kid in Philadelphia in mind, who no longer has music education in the classroom, nor does he/she have access to these tools and equipment.“I am constantly stunned by the amount of talent, but they just don’t have the resources like the kids in the suburbs, and they don’t have the technological education to empower themselves, simple media literacy–not even high-end music production, just computer literacy to engage in the world.”
Reclaiming Our History
“As our country addresses major cultural and social issues, and the national conversation has turned to the discussion of monuments and memorials, especially in the South, I think that this project has gained relevance and timeliness that is really critical,” noted Golden. “I believe that if healing and reconciliation is going to be achieved in our frayed world, it is going to be through the deep spiritual, emotional understanding that I believe that art can foster. You change the world by changing people’s hearts and imaginations, and you change the world by entering into a dialogue about what the problem is and what is possible.”