Smith Memorial Arch (1897-1912) in West Fairmount Park is one of the recommended stops on aPA’s Public Art Bike Map. Photo by Craig Harris, courtesy of the Association for Public Art (aPA).
Whether walking near City Hall, hanging out in Rittenhouse Square, driving down the Parkway or biking along Kelly Drive, you are likely to encounter an impressive variety of public artworks along the way. Philadelphia has one of the largest collections of public art in the United States, including countless historic artworks with stories waiting to be heard. Many of us have yet to fully discover the rich and unique histories behind this extensive collection.
To better connect cyclists, joggers, and other passersby to Philadelphia’s public art treasures, the Association for Public Art (aPA) the nation’s first private, nonprofit organization dedicated to integrating public art and urban planning has developed Museum Without Walls: AUDIO, an award-winning interpretive audio program for Philadelphia’s outdoor sculptures. Launched in 2010, the program features over 150 voices sharing a wealth of stories about Philadelphia’s collection of public artworks.
All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors (1934) by J. Otto Schweizer. Photo courtesy of the Association for Public Art (aPA)
Unlike audio tours that have a single authoritative guide or narrator, each program is told by authentic voices a variety of people from all walks of life who are directly connected to the sculpture by knowledge, experience, or affiliation. For example, David Kim, Concert Master with the Philadelphia Orchestra, discusses Haydn, Schubert, and Verdi; artist Mark di Suvero describes his abstract sculpture, Iroquois; and John B. Kelly III tells about his grandfather’s legacy in the audio program for the John B. Kelly sculpture located on Kelly Drive.
Cyclists preparing for a public art bike tour at Mark di Suvero’s Iroquois (1983-1999). Photo courtesy of the Association for Public Art (aPA).
Museum Without Walls: AUDIO is meant to be experienced at your own pace. The 3-4 minute audio segments are accessible by cell phone, online, or by downloading the free mobile app for iPhone or Android. Corresponding permanent signage with the MWW: AUDIO phone number (215-399-9000) has been installed at each of the sculptures as part of the program.
A Museum Without Walls: AUDIO map is available which lists the 65 stops throughout Center City and Fairmount Park. Download the map from aPA’s website or pick up a copy at the city’s Visitor Center in Love Park. For bikers, a separate public art bike map is available that offers a recommended 10-mile route or an easier 4-mile route, highlighting artworks on Kelly Drive, in West Fairmount Park and around the Horticulture Center. These suggested routes are merely a glimpse at the limitless paths you can create. Design your own walking tour down the Parkway or explore the environs of City Hall one afternoon. On your regular jog down Kelly Drive, plan to stop at a different sculpture each day and take three minutes to learn something new about an artwork or be really ambitious and experience all 65 stops on one bike ride. The possibilities are endless!
So take this time to check out the Museum Without Walls: AUDIO website, call the number, or download the app and connect with Philadelphia’s preeminent collection of public art.