May 17, 2017 - Philadelphia Museum of Art - Philadelphia Assembled
May 17, 2017

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Image courtesy of Philadelphia Assembled.

Philadelphia Assembled
April 21–December 10, 2017
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The first exhibition of its kind at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Assembled tells a story of radical community building and active resistance. Initiated by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk, working alongside an extensive network of collaborators—among them artists, writers, builders, storytellers, gardeners, healers, and activists—the project aims to shape a collective narrative about our city and some of the most urgent issues it faces at a time of heightened transformation. Deeply integrated into the fabric of the Museum, the project also questions the place of the institution in the midst of this change. Challenging, inspiring, and as expansive as the city, Philadelphia Assembled asks: how can we collectively shape our futures?

From now through the summer, the project manifests as a series of activities and actions throughout the city to illuminate and amplify a broad set of hopes, visions, and questions about Philadelphia’s future. 

Following this spring season of city-wide programs, the project will culminate in an exhibition opening in September at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This participatory installation, on view through December 10, 2017, will transform the Perelman Building’s ground floor galleries, café, and store into spaces that will celebrate the people, sights, sounds, and tastes of a resilient city’s multi-faceted identity. Admission will be pay what you wish.

Evocatively referred to as “atmospheres of democracy," Philadelphia Assembled addresses a number of issues that are central to the future the city by focusing on key themes such as reconstructions—how we deal with questions of social displacement and reentry into society; sovereignty—how we define self-determination and autonomy; sanctuaryhow we understand self-care, asylum, and refuge; futures—how to re-imagine our tomorrow; and movement—how we facilitate action and collective learning.

In this spirit, the project brings together voices of those who care about the changing landscape of Philadelphia and who, in life and work, seek to champion and secure a prosperous and equitable future for all of its citizens. Denise Valentine, a collaborator and Philadelphia storyteller, reflected on this process: “We intend to re-imagine the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a place to unearth stories hidden deep in the soil of Philadelphia. We envision a place where narratives of the enslaved, the incarcerated, the displaced, and the disenfranchised are held in as high esteem as Eurocentric ideas about art, history, and culture.”

Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and CEO, stated, “Some of the most interesting work being done by artists today straddles the boundary between art and life. In 2013, we invited the artist Jeanne van Heeswijk to consider what an artist might do in engaging Philadelphia’s many neighborhoods and diverse communities. What began as a conversation has grown, and it has been fascinating—and rewarding—to watch Philadelphia Assembled take on a life of its own. We are looking forward to the moment when our galleries are appropriated to become a stage for the city itself. It promises to be exciting and full of surprises and presents an opportunity to consider how we might define the roles and responsibilities that the Philadelphia Museum of Art can play as a civic institution in a changing city in the 21st century.”

Members of the public are invited to join the conversation and engage with collaborators by visiting the Philadelphia Assembled website and sharing their experiences via #phlassembled @phlassembled @philamuseum.

Program events

The Lighting of the Bridges
May 20, 7:30–10pm 
1808 W. Tioga Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140 

Blueprint for a Just Neighborhood: House-raising/opening celebration
May 26, 5:30pm–8:15am 
1335 N. 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122 

Seed Keeping with Urban Creators/Soil Generation/Black Dirt Collective
June 2, 6–9pm
2315 N. 11th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19133 

Toward Sanctuary: Launch
June 15, 6–8pm 

Marketplace, Seeds of Sovereignty
June 24, 11am–6pm 
52nd Street between Walnut & Spruce St., Philadelphia, PA 19139 

Finding Common Ground: Mobile Futures Institue workshop
July 2, 1–5pm 
Historic Strawberry Mansion, 2450 Strawberry Mansion Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19132 

For a full list of public programs, locations, collaborators, and community partners, please visit the dedicated website at All Philadelphia Assembled programs are free to the public unless noted otherwise.  

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