Temple Contemporary’s mission is to creatively re-imagine the social function of art. We believe in democratic leadership as the most appropriate way to produce an artistic program that inclusively responds to pressing issues of local and national significance. Embodying this democratic ethos, our program development is guided by a forty-member advisory council representing a broad spectrum of Philadelphia, including neighboring high school students of color, Temple University students and faculty, as well as civic/cultural leaders representing a range of skills (nurses, farmers, philosophers, artists, community activists, local historians, etc.). To each annual meeting every adviser brings one question of local relevance and international significance to which they do not know the answer. After all of the questions are communally discussed, the council votes for the issues deemed to reflect Philadelphia’s greatest social and cultural needs.
This process puts Temple Contemporary into a position of public service to address contemporary questions of urgency and simultaneously necessitates a fundamental philosophical shift for the organization: from a single curatorial/authorial voice to one that recognizes social engagement and debate as the determining factor of our programming. This re-ordering of conventional gallery values foregrounds curatorial accountability, reciprocity, and exchange as the basis of Temple Contemporary’s social life, and by extension, our social values. The questions guiding our work have prompted recent projects including Funeral for a Home (What to do about about Philadelphia’s deteriorating housing?); reForm (If the walls of a closed public school could talk, what would they say?); Restoring Ideals (How does our non-profit community reflect Philadelphia’s founding ideals) and most recently Symphony for a Broken Orchestra. Temple Contemporary is part of Tyler School of Art at Temple University.