Panel at PAFA Discusses Philadelphia’s Status as a World Heritage City

On November 17th, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) hosted a panel discussion about the city of Philadelphia and the perception of the city from the outside. The panel consisted of Leah Douglas, Director of Image and Chief Curator at Philadelphia International Airport; Peter Gonzales, President and CEO of Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians; and Josh Sevin, President and CEO of International House Philadelphia. The panel was moderated by Global Philadelphia Association’s very own Board Chair, John F. Smith, III.

With Philadelphia receiving the World Heritage City designation in 2015, each panel member discussed their work and how this status positively affects their field. There were also discussions regarding some frustrations of their work, such as the parochialism or narrow vision of people outside the city of Philadelphia who do not understand the importance or value of our city. Some feedback from the panel was around potential concerns that Philadelphia is overshadowed by cities like California, New Yok City, or Washington, D.C., and perhaps that identity politics plays a part in outsider's perceptions. The panel stated that there is also a possibility that those citizens are just not well aware of Philadelphia's diverse culture.

John Smith opened discussions to attendees to comment on their own experiences and to ask questions to the panel directly. The focus of the discussion became a talk about how to overcome the frustration of parochialism. One attendee suggested that social media could be used to help advertise points about what cultural institutes like PAFA offers, as well as highlight what patrons of PAFA have to say about their work and why it matters to help tell our region's unique story.

After the end of the discussion, PAFA invited all of those who attended to view their new exhibit, Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World, in which PAFA is partnered with artist Rina Banerjee, who creates sculptures using materials collected from all over the world, such as lightbulbs, saran wrap, and seashells. The themes of self-identity, politics, exoticism, cultural appropriation, globalization, and feminism are portrayed in her pieces and are on display at PAFA until March 31, 2019. Click here to learn more about this exhibit.


Article written by Kyle Purchase on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association