Friday Arts:  Arts Logo

Museum Without Walls

Produced by Karen Smyles

January 2011

Museum Without Walls audio is an innovative and accessible outdoor sculpture interpretive program for Philadelphia's preeminent collection of public art. A "multi-platform" interactive audio experience — available for free by cell phone, audio download, or on the web — Museum Without Walls audio offers the untold histories that are not typically expressed on outdoor permanent signage.

Unlike audio tours that have a single authoritative guide or narrator, each speaker featured in Museum Without Walls audio is an "authentic voice" — someone who is connected to the sculpture by knowledge or experience. Nearly 100 unique voices are featured, including artists, educators, scientists, writers, curators, civic leaders, and historians.

Each Museum Without Walls audio program compliments the viewer's experience of outdoor sculpture with a story that is as unique as the artwork it describes, featuring different voices, themes, and production styles, produced by award-winning public radio producers and journalists. Programs explore personal and cultural connections to the art, while offering insights into the artists and their processes, what the sculptures represent, the history surrounding the works, and why the pieces were commissioned and installed at specific sites in Philadelphia.

Dialing instructions for accessing the program by cell phone are attached to the signage at 35 stops for 51 sculptures along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Kelly Drive, and a map listing all of the artworks in the program is available at local visitor centers and nearby cultural institutions or can be downloaded from the website. Visitors to the Museum Without Walls audio website can also listen to the audio programs online and submit their own sculpture stories and personal photos of Philadelphia's public artworks.

Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Charles Fuller, discusses this work along with the artist's great-grandson, Samuel Hart Jones, Jr., and Michael B. Roepel who is a community planner and President of the Committee to Restore and Relocate the All Wars Memorial. Learn more about this work by visiting the Museum Without Walls website.

In this month's program Penny Balkin Bach, Executive Director of the Fairmount Park Art Association talks about her personal connection to one of the works on the tour. The All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors by J. Otto Schweizer is located on Logan Square here in Philadelphia. However, it has not always been at this location. Because of racist views at the time it was constructed, it was not placed along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as originally planned, but was placed at a site in West Fairmount Park. In 1994 it was restored and relocated to a prominent position on the Parkway. Below are before and after photos.