Announcing the Public Trust

Feb 25, 2021

We are excited to announce that beginning in 2021, Public Trust became the parent organization under which Slought operates.

This newly formed interdisciplinary organization will encompass a variety of educational efforts—some of which have yet to come into being—that are rooted in an intersectional and integrated approach to public culture, health ecology, and social justice.

Aaron Levy, PhD, MPhil was the Executive Director and Chief Curator of Slought (2002-2022), a...

The multiple pandemics and crises facing our nation compel us to reimagine civic life and cultivate new forms of democracy that serve us all. As communities navigate the intersecting pandemics of coronavirus, racism, and widespread poverty, the centrality of health and social justice to life itself is indisputable. This pivotal moment calls for the radical reshaping of our organization's purpose, and demands that we re-examine our organizational practices and relationship to public life and the idea of trust itself.

In a moment of immense precarity for democracy itself, we have formed the Public Trust. The Public Trust acknowledges the pervasive distrust that exists between publics as well as institutions. Through its formation, we affirm a genuine commitment to not only rebuilding trust within Philadelphia and more broadly, but also recognizing and making visible the complexity and contradictions inherent in any such effort.

At Slought, our experimental effort has always necessitated struggle, continued adaptation, and creativity with institutional forms. This historic moment characterized by widespread polarization and precarity compels us to adapt our organization yet again and to renew our commitment to collaboration and experimentation around pressing issues. This is a time to be bold.

The Public Trust is a consortium of educational initiatives fostering learning and collaboration across the arts and culture, health and wellness, and social justice sectors. The name Public Trust emerges from the public trust legal doctrine, a foundational component of the modern environmental movement which embodies the idea that we must collectively safeguard that which belongs to all. The concept of the public trust doctrine relates back to the origins of democratic government itself in Greek and Roman civil law; we take as our starting point its seminal idea that within the public lies the true power and future of a society.

We hope that through these efforts, the Public Trust will help to bring publics together, build greater trust between individuals and institutions, and steward ideas and cultural heritage for the common good.

Join us in this work.