Mission and History

The Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association) was established in 1872 and is the nation’s first private, nonprofit civic organization dedicated to creating a Museum Without Walls™ by integrating public art and urban planning. The Association for Public Art (aPA) carries out its multiple objectives to commission, preserve, promote and interpret public art in Philadelphia through exemplary and innovative programs and advocacy efforts. By engaging diverse segments of the community, the aPA seeks to respond to the conditions of our time, creating a legacy and maintaining a heritage for future generations, while promoting Philadelphia as a premier city for public art.

Founded in 1872 by concerned citizens who believed that art could play a role in a growing city, the Association for Public Art (aPA) initially focused on enhancing Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park with sculpture. The organization’s concerns soon expanded beyond the park to the city as a whole. The aPA has supported planning projects such as the design of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a grand boulevard punctuated by outdoor sculpture; the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial Sculpture Garden along Kelly Drive and the Schuylkill River; and the International Sculpture Garden at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River. The aPA also advocated the establishment of the city’s Art Jury (the forerunner of the current Art Commission) and the adoption of the country’s first “percent for art” ordinance under which a percentage of construction costs for city projects must be set aside for fine arts. Today, through its diverse programs, the aPA continues to promote the important role that public art plays in the creation and enhancement of civic spaces. We serve thousands of people directly through our commissioning and educational programs, and even more indirectly, as they benefit from the accessibility of public art that is one of Philadelphia’s hallmarks and a key contributor to its quality of life.