Exploring the multitude of Philadelphia arts venues/collectives/organizations is a rewarding endeavor. There is an incredible diversity of approaches and attitudes towards aesthetic practice here in the city. About a year ago I was introduced to the Slought Foundation by a professor of mine. Just now am I realizing the scope of the Slought Foundation’s projects and the nature of their inspiring mission.

Slought Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia that engages the public in dialogue about cultural and socio-political change. As an institution, it occupies a unique and perhaps voided space between artistic/cultural practice and political activism/civic engagement.

Certainly Slought is not the first organization to simultaneously engage these entities, but they are exploring the relationship between the two bodies of discourse in a notably rigorous fashion not often executed: Slought projects seem to understand both sides of the conversation to be ends in themselves – art and aesthetic practice are not a means to a political discussion, and political discourse is not a means to art. Both are of equal standing and have the potential to change each other. Slought seeks to understand this potential as a site for positive change.

A current project of particular interest is entitled “The Perpetual Peace Project.” It is an ongoing joint initiative with the European Union National Institutes of Culture (EUNIC), the International Peace Institute (IPI), the United Nations University (UNU), and the Syracuse University Humanities Center. The project is rooted in some way in Immanuel Kant’s foundational essay Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (1795). Most basically, it aims to start a conversation between philosophers, practitioners, and governing bodies about the potential for peace as a sustainable reality. The project will take on a variety of forms, including a symposium, an exhibition, workshops, and a film. In this way, the project embodies inclusive collaboration and a high standard of critical engagement. For more information on the project visit either slought.org or perpetualpeaceproject.org

Slought is located on the northwest corner of 40th and Walnut in West Philadelphia. Check it out.

Christine Stoughton

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