Keynote Speakers

Keynotes presentations will be opened to the University of Pennsylvania community. This decision, as well as the speakers' domains, embodies this year's theme: Connecting Community.


Sheri Parks

"Everyday Aesthetics. Community and Social Justice"

Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

"Everyday Aesthetics. Community and Social Justice"

Aesthetic experiences, like spirituality and sexuality, are manifest in every culture.  Their presence in the lived experiences of so many individual lives, families, communities and cultures makes them strong mechanisms for social justice.  Using empirical examples, Sheri Parks will explore the links between the valued and often deeply felt aesthetic experiences and social movement. 

Sheri Parks, Ph.D. is Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. Previously, she was Associate Dean for Research, Interdisciplinary Scholarship and Programming and Director of the Center for Synergy at the University of Maryland, College Park. 


She has been Principal Investigator (PI), Co-PI or Community Liaison on a number of sponsored projects, including those funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Commerce and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. 


She led Baltimore Stories:  Narrative and the Life of an American City, which was named a national model of deep community conversations by NEH.  She has also served on boards and helped to lead strategic planning for a number of cultural and community institutions, and public humanities centers. 


Sheri is also a public intellectual, quoted in a variety of media, and a national award-winning National Public Radio affiliate host and commentator. She is the author of Fierce Angels: Living with a Legacy from the Strong Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman, selected as an editor’s pick by Essence Magazine.


Her academic field is Public Aesthetics, or how ordinary people weave aesthetic forms and meanings throughout their everyday lives, with an emphasis on race, gender, social class and sexuality.  

PHOTO KEN LUM_MG_3644. Photo courtesy Misa Shin Gallery, Toyko.jpg

Ken Lum

“A Look at Monuments: Perception and Apperception.”

Artist, chair of the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design

“A Look at Monuments: Perception and Apperception.”

In recent years, the status of the public art category of the Monument has occupied an increasingly important place in the politics of the United States. Monuments have long demanded to be seen and accepted, passively perceived rather than critically apperceived. Monuments demand that the relationship of memory and the imagination is restricted to the circulation of the system of representation upon which they are premised. A monument must claim the space of the imagination in coercive ways to deny the possibility of alternative narratives.


But these demands of monuments do not ineluctably mean that the viewer can only be announced in compliance to their aesthetic and semiotic operations. Monuments can be scrutinized to enable the viewer to reflect critically on the act of interpretation, calling up Bertolt Brecht’s famous two words from The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny: “Something’s missing.” To sense that something is missing is to recognize the difference between identity and subjectivity. It is to recognize that identity is a fixing category constituted by the social interchange of symbolic signs while subjectivity is an immanently unstable assemblage of the indexical relations between lived experience and the self. There is nothing more material than one’s physical presence in the world, a presence to which a monument claims semantic convergence, yet a self is also abstract and the embodiment of all perceptual experience.


Despite their distinctions, is it possible for the imbricating fields of science and art to facilitate a deeper understanding of a monument’s functioning as dually derived from what is observed and what is subjectively sensed? 

Ken Lum is an artist best known for his conceptual and representational art in a number of media, including painting, sculpture and photography. His art is concerned with how meanings are assigned to images, texts, and objects based on cultural, racial and social codes. Lum is Marilyn J Taylor Penn Presidential Professor and Chair of Fine Arts in the Stuart Weitzman School of Design, the University of Pennsylvania. 


A book of his collected writings Everything is Relevant: Writings on Art and Life 1991 – 2018 was published by Concordia University Press in 2020.  He has given keynote speeches for the inauguration of the Melly Space in Rotterdam, 2020, World Museums Conference in Shanghai 2010, Sydney Biennale 2007, and the Universities Art Association of Canada 1997. 


Lum has an extensive art exhibition record that includes Documenta 11, the Venice Biennale, Sao Paolo Bienal, Shanghai Biennale, Carnegie Triennial, Sydney Biennale, Liverpool Biennial, Gwangju Biennale and the Whitney Biennial. He is represented by Magenta Plains Gallery, New York, Royale Projects, Los Angeles, Galerie Nagel-Draxler, Berlin and Misa Shin Gallery, Tokyo. 


Since the mid 1990s, Lum has realized several permanent public art commissions including for the cities of Vienna, the Engadines (Switzerland), Rotterdam, St. Louis, Leiden, Utrecht, Toronto, and Vancouver.   


Lum was co-curator for several large-scale exhibitions, including Shanghai Modern: 1919 – 1945, Sharjah Biennial 7, and Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia.  He is Co-Founder and Senior Curatorial Advisor for Monument Lab, a thinktank dealing with memory and public space. He was project manager for the exhibition The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa: 1945 to 1994. 


In 2020 and 2021, he completed two feature length screenplays on the topic of indenture history in America.  

The event program will be released after abstracts are chosen for presentation. For now, look forward to...

  • Reception at the Barnes Foundation (included in registration)

  • Museum tours

  • Public art experiences