Activism, Evangelism, Art

A conversation about the shifting dynamics in how artists and communities interact in Philadelphia


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Comm. Development
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Pedagogy
  • Public culture

Organizing Institutions

Slought, The Artblog

Contributing Institutions

Village of Arts and Humanities


Knight Foundation

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St Philadelphia, PA 19104

On the web



0% Formal - 100% Informal

Slought and The Artblog are pleased to announce "Activism, Evangelism, Art," a public conversation with artists and educators Pepón Osorio, Ken Lum, Aaron Levy, and Amy Sadao as respondent, on Monday, March 23, 2015 from 6:30-8:00pm. The conversation seeks to bring together diverse voices from the Philadelphia cultural community for a wide-ranging discussion about the shifting dynamics in how artists and communities interact in Philadelphia.

By foregrounding the term "evangelism" in this conversation, we seek to complicate conventional understandings of how artists and communities interact, and raise complex questions about advocacy and authorship. We also seek to explore the resonance of this term in Philadelphia, where there is a rich history of evangelism across civic and religious registers, beginning with historical groups such as the Quakers (1660-) and Richard Allen's African Methodist Episcopal Church (1794-), the printing of Thomas Paine's Common Sense (1776), and more recently in the cultural community the work of Mural Arts (1986-) and Spiral Q (1995-). By calling attention to these historical precedents, we seek to enable a conversation about the relationship of this city's past to current artistic practices and the contemporary imagination.

In evoking the term "evangelism" we also acknowledge art historian Grant Kester's formative essay "Aesthetic Evangelists" (1995), which critically explores the power dynamics between artists and communities. Join us for a lively discussion concerning these issues and others, including the development of social trust and the role of ownership and collaboration, in community art practices in Philadelphia today.

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Featured conversants include:

Amy Sadao is the Daniel W. Dietrich, II Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Previously, Sadao served for ten years as the Executive Director of Visual AIDS in New York City. (Read more)

Pepón Osorio is a Puerto Rican-born artist based in Philadelphia. For decades Osorio has worked collaboratively with communities to create and exhibit work. Osorio teaches at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. (Read more)

Ken Lum is a Vancouver-born artist and the co-curator of Monuments Lab, a public art and urban research project. Lum is the Director of the Fine Arts Undergraduate Program and a Professor in the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. (Read more)

Aaron Levy is the Executive Director and co-founder of Slought and a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of English and the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. (Read more)

About the images

From the Juvenile Textile Workers strike of 1903, to the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign of 2000, or, more recently, Spiral Q's street theatre, public culture and social justice are integral to the narrative of Philadelphia as a city.

Yet there is no simple way to learn about these ephemeral acts, and at times finding any information can be extraordinarily difficult. Why is this so? The images featured above represent our attempt to excavate these communal moments of social engagement.

What other histories would you add? How can these histories be made more accessible?