By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia kicks off one of its most ambitious public art projects ever this week: “Monument Lab” invites suggestions for what kind of memorial best captures the city at this moment. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment.

Mural Arts director Jane Golden has been incubating Monument Lab for years. She could not have guessed it would hatch at the very moment Americans are debating statues of losing generals, reviled causes and, in Philadelphia, former Mayor Frank Rizzo. By the same serendipity, the project includes, next to the Rizzo statue, a piece by Hank Thomas called “All Power to the People,” an 8-foot tall Afro pick.

untitled34 Philly Mural Arts Latest Project Has Uncanny Timing

(credit: Holli Stephens)

“He was looking at Rizzo, but he also looked at the clothespin, he looked at the game pieces,” Golden said. “For a public artist, context is everything. So sometimes things are just in the works and then this becomes part of a larger conversation.”

That is exactly the point of Monument Lab. Temporary art works are installed at the five Center City squares and five neighborhood parks, with “labs” so visitors can offer feedback, suggestions and draw their own ideas about an appropriate monument.

“What we’re collecting is going to influence how we’re working at mural arts,” Golden said. “We’re going to be looking at people’s ideas and thinking, ‘oh, maybe we should be thinking about that.'”