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[Courtesy Andrea Blum] The public-art work 'Plateau' will be located on 40th Street next to the Walnut Street West branch of the Philadelphia Free Library.

The area across the street from the shops at 40th Street will look dramatically different in a few months.

A sculpture by artist Andrea Blum will be installed at the corner of 40th and Locust streets this fall, as part of the University's public arts program.

Blum described her piece "Plateau" as "multiple horizontal layers which form a three-dimensional puzzle designed to orchestrate the social negotiation of the site."

The project is being undertaken as a part of the University's participation in Philadelphia's Percent for Art Program, which mandates that 1 percent of costs for construction involving redeveloped land be used for public art.

"The idea is to bring art to people who might never really interact with it," said Susan Davis, director of public-art programs for the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia. "It's for all citizens, and it's about making the city more interesting and more visually significant."

While the public art is intended to be tied to the development of construction sites, Davis said the piece intended for 40th and Locust is highly unusual because it is not site-specific.

During the construction of the Inn at Penn complex in 1999, the University was allowed to put the 1 percent of construction costs into a general fund that is only now being used. Davis said that Penn is the only developer that has ever been allowed to hold funds for a later project.

She added that Penn was allowed to put funds in an escrow account at the RDA through a special agreement between the RDA and the University.

The University has to abide by the percentage program since it is developing land it obtained through the city's Redevelopment Authority.

This land includes the site at 34th and Chestnut streets, which is being developed into a $100 million, mixed-use complex. Consequently, the developer -- the Hanover Company -- has to spend $1 million on public art on the site.

Many different parties have a voice in the process of selecting the artist and the piece.

The developer along with a public art committee with members from various artistic and academic fields makes the final decision.

Andrew Zitcer, the cultural-asset manager for the University, said the committee is in the process of narrowing down the finalists for the Hanover Company project.

In the case of the piece at 40th and Locust streets, the University is the developer and has final say.

Claudia Gould, the director of the Penn Institute of Contemporary Art, was involved in the decision-making progress.

"I suggested Andrea Blum because of her functionality," she said. "She is looking at art through the eyes of architecture and making spaces that are contemplative but also thought-provoking."

But while certain faculty members were consulted, there is no medium for soliciting student input.

"It's not in place now, but it is something that we should definitely look at," Facilities and Real Estate Services spokesman Tony Sorrentino said about involving the greater Penn community.

But that would also be unusual.

Davis said that the community is never involved in the decision-making progress. "This is private property and private money," she said.

The city's 1 percent program, one of the first of its kind nationwide, was created in 1959 and since then has had a tremendous cultural impact on the city and the University.

Well-known pieces like Claes Oldenburg's "Clothespin" next to City Hall and his "Split Button" in front of Van Pelt Library, as well as Alexander Lieberman's "Covenant" near Penn's high rise dormitories, were all funded as a part of the percentage program.

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