At Penn, Making a Difference Through Art

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Media Contact:Jeanne Leong | | 215-573-8151January 25, 2013

Ken Lum thinks Philadelphia will be an inspiration for his work as an artist.

“I see it as an opportunity in teaching, to use the social landscape as a laboratory in terms of asking questions and making propositions and perhaps effecting some change for the better,” Lum says.

He immediately began exploring and learning more about Philadelphia after arriving from his Canadian hometown of Vancouver over the summer to become director of the Undergraduate Fine Arts Program in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design.

Lum loves the city’s rich history, the architecture, the neighborhoods and the diversity of the city, with people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Through Penn partnerships with community organizations, Lum has worked overseeing a ceramics class in West Philadelphia, and he looks to become even more engaged in the community. He wants to help form more partnerships between the University and the surrounding community. 

“I like to think of the city as a place where we have a responsibility. As a committed citizens we should try to make our presence felt and be there to help when we can and to create partnerships.”

During his career, Lum has curated and been involved in art projects throughout the world, including West Africa, India, the Middle East and China.

In communities where he has worked, he has used his art to effect change. In China, Lum co-founded a journal of contemporary Chinese art. In the six months he’s lived in Philadelphia, he’s considered ways he can make a difference possibly through an art exhibit to raise awareness of some of the city’s issues. One issue that’s caught his attention is the rise of charter schools in the city and the closing of many public schools.

As an administrator, Lum is currently working on revising the Fine Arts curriculum. And, he’d like to raise the profile of the program. 

“We serve a real function in terms of what students need to become citizens of the world. We have Wharton students come to take classes, medical students. And they say it changes their way of thinking and how they see the world.”