“It takes all sectors to make civic impact happen,” said Sarah Johnson, one of the volunteer organizers at OpenAccessPHL, as she introduced the May convening of OpenAccessPHL at Benjamin’s Desk. Speakers included Laurie Allen, Colonel Michael A. Bliss, Chris Dima and Shelton Mercer.
Laurie Allen, Monument Lab
Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia is a public art and urban research project taking place at City Hall in Spring 2015. It asks the question: “What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?”
Laurie Allen shared how she is helping the project collect data about the project, which opened May 15 at City Hall. The installation, which looks like a classroom with benches and an empty chalkboard frame in the center of City Hall doubles as a research site, staffed from noon to 7 p.m. daily through June 7, in order to collect suggestions from the public and input them into a database and a map.
The project will also have a lunchtime speaker everyday through June 7, speaking about speculative monuments.
Colonel Michael A. Bliss, Army Corp of Engineers
“We are your nation’s engineers,” were the five words (coming in one under in OAP’s requirements to describe what you do in six words) that Colonel Michael Bliss of the Army Corp of Engineers used to describe what they do.
He spoke about how all of the projects done by the Army Corps of Engineers are civic-related, most of the projects are water-related, and most who work with it aren’t soldiers. According to Bliss, the Philly division focuses on the Delaware Bay Watershed.
Chris Dima, Walnut Street Labs
Chris Dima highlighted Walnut Street Labs’s coworking and events in West Chester, including a weekly startup meetup and Night Owls meet ups (with demos from startups every other week). The startup also runs an incubator for “pre early-stage” innovations that can be brought to market quickly.
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Dima mentioned how people in the suburbs (such as West Chester) don’t bump into each other on the street like you will in Philadelphia, so Walnut Street Labs created the clubhouse for those interactions. The space also helps to host office hours with people who donate their time — Dima said 15 minutes with the right person can save a lot of time.
The group also recently partnered with the Philadelphia-based Next Fab to offer maker classes.
Shelton Mercer, Chief Strategy Officer at Benjamin’s Desk