Art, Science, and the City

The "Library of Life" exhibition brings life and art to Philly's most famous hall.


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“Library of Life”
Art in City Hall
Free admission
March 11, 2013 – May 24, 2013

Throughout Philadelphia, many organizations are celebrating the bicentennial of The Academy of Natural Science, a current subsidiary of Drexel University. From its opening in 1812 to the present, the Academy has experienced many notable accomplishments, such as being the first institution to assemble a full dinosaur skeleton for display. To celebrate the bicentennial, the Academy has partnered with Art in City Hall, an organization that features different exhibitions from local artists within the walls of City Hall.

This collaboration includes forty local artists whose work has been selected by Jennifer Sontchi, Director of Exhibits at the Academy of Natural Science, and Sean Stoops, a Philadelphia curator and artist. “It’s our 200th year so this is a sort of celebration of nature and science, [which is] what we’re all about. We’re really excited to be out in the community and sharing the passion that we have with nature and science through artwork in all of its forms.”

The carefully selected pieces include paintings, sculpture, photographs, and combinations of these, all reflecting science and nature. Some of the pieces, like Robert McKeage’s Muskrat Skull, incorporate natural elements into the art; this piece is a photograph transferred onto beeswax. Others like this are abundant in the exhibition, with animal remains and tree bark among the many materials.

Another one of the driving forces behind this exhibit, Tu Huynh, City Hall Exhibitions Manager, commends the combination of art and science in the presentation of the art. “I think science and the arts play a very pivotal role in our community… The artwork is content-driven, not just aesthetically driven; it could be partly that, but it’s really about raising awareness about man’s impact on the environment.” Walking through the gallery and floors displaying the pieces, it is clear that this is one of the inspirations behind the Library of Life exhibition.

Admiring the beauty and creativity in the exhibit, I had to wonder why there was so much art scattered throughout the hallways and rooms of City Hall. Huynh was quick to explain, “In [City Hall] we have all three branches of government, and yet we also have art done by local Philadelphians, whether school kids, professional artists, community organizations, non-profits, museums. Whenever there’s a critical issue in the country, artists respond to it. Artists in Philadelphia do not shy away from social engagement, so here we are in this building. What better place to raise people’s awareness?” This of course began to make sense after learning that in 1984, this area was deemed “The People’s First Gallery.”

To experience the science-inspired art, Philadelphians need only visit City Hall. The main gallery is located in Room 116 on the ground floor right off of East Market Street, and there are signs guiding visitors to the room. The gallery extends to various hallways throughout the building, which can be found by viewing the maps found in the main gallery room. The gallery will be displayed until May 24th, and is free to guests.

Alyssa Shaw is a first year English Major at Drexel University.

“An Ode to an Old Friend” by Riccardo Berlingeri
“Doll and Fish” by Maria Markovich
“Sea Turtle Head” by Elisabeth Nickles