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Fundred Dollar Bills at The New Temporary Contemporary. Photo by Carlos Avendaño. Uncommon Wealth by the People of Philadelphia, 2010. Photo by Lonnie Graham. Uncommon Wealth by the People of Philadelphia, 2010. Photo by Lonnie Graham.
Fundred Dollar Bills at The New Temporary Contemporary. Photo by Carlos Avendaño.
Uncommon Wealth by the People of Philadelphia, 2010. Photo by Lonnie Graham.
Uncommon Wealth by the People of Philadelphia, 2010. Photo by Lonnie Graham.

Mel Chin:

Uncommon Wealth by the People of Philadelphia

April 18, 2010–Summer 2011

The Fabric Workshop and Museum (FWM) and The New Temporary Contemporary, in partnership with conceptual artist Mel Chin, present Uncommon Wealth by the People of Philadelphia, a citywide drawing initiative. This interactive exhibition works in collaboration with the Fundred Dollar Bill Project, a national project that supports Operation Paydirt, whose critical mission is to implement a scientific solution to the problem of lead-contaminated soil. The Fundred Dollar Bill Project works to help end lead poisoning in cities across the country by raising awareness and spurring action about its negative health effects on a community, particularly its children. 

The artist has worked with FWM to conceive a Philadelphia-centric exhibition space. The installation is themed with significant aspects of Philadelphia culture and will display the individual expressions of the city’s citizens. This is the Philadelphia Fundred Mint where participants can draw, and exhibit, their own Fundred Dollar Bills.

People of all ages are invited to contribute. Each may draw one interpretation of his or her Fundred Dollar Bill on the provided template that is an adaptation of a United States one-hundred dollar bill. Each Fundred drawing for this unique currency could include an image or abstraction from your thoughts or use suggestions found on the Fundred Dollar Bill template. All Fundred drawings will be displayed on the gallery walls of The New Temporary Contemporary.

This community-wide creative contribution helps support the message to Congress to grant three hundred million dollars to transform the lead-contaminated land of New Orleans, the second most lead-contaminated city in the country, into a city that is lead-safe. The goal of the project is to collect three million hand-drawn Fundred Dollar Bills and exchange that currency for the equivalent of real cleanup costs for New Orleans. New Orleans can then be a model for attaining lead-safe soil for cities across the country, including Philadelphia, also recognized as one of the top ten lead-contaminated cities.

Mel Chin’s concept of the Philadelphia Fundred Mint to exhibit the work of the local citizens (and, of course, willing visitors) and the 27.5 ft Philadelphia Footed Minting Table is predicated on more than one Philadelphia-specific inspiration.

For example, it is situated not far from the original United States Mint of 1792 where Ye Olde Mint was painted on the building’s Filbert Street façade. Also, the city is home to Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), and Fundreds are “all about the Benjamins.” In addition, the project was inspired by the investment in Democracy made by the Philadelphia founders of America, who put a focus on what is truly valuable, human expression. To emphasize this democratic inspiration, the space was cleared to allow the gradual covering of one gallery wall with 6,279 individual hand drawn Fundred Dollar Bills “by the people.”

The Philadelphia Fundred Mint will be serviced by Sous Terre Transport, a security, transportation company conceived for this project. The armored truck, running on used vegetable oil, collects the Fundreds from collection centers nationwide and will ensure secure delivery to Washington D.C.

American, born 1951, lives in New York City and Burnsville, North Carolina
Mel Chin was raised in Houston, Texas, the first generation of his family born in the United States. Of Chinese descent, he grew up in a predominantly African American and Latino neighborhood and worked in his family’s grocery store. He began making art at an early age and earned his BA from Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1975. Chin is best known for under taking collaborative and crossdisciplinary artistic investigations into political and often ecologically charged topics. For example, in 1991 Chin worked with a group of scientists to create gardens of plants that draw heavy metals from contaminated areas to make Revival Field. His numerous one-person exhibitions and innovative projects have been sponsored by List Center for Visual Arts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA (2000); the Metro Transit Authority, New York City (1995–1997); the Headlands Center for the Arts, Marin County, CA (1994–1999); the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1990); and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (1989).