The Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association) is the nation's first private, nonprofit organization dedicated to integrating public art and urban planning. Founded in 1872, the Association commissions, preserves, promotes, and interprets a significant collection of public art in Philadelphia. With Center support, the Association for Public Art (aPA) launched Museum Without Walls™ in 2009, a program of audio "labels" for more than 60 works in the collection, accessible by cell phone. The Center also supported aPA's follow-up efforts to engage audiences in online dialogues utilizing social media and smart phone technologies, and to develop strategies responding to advances in digital media. In 2015, aPA received Center support to commission internationally recognized artist Cai Guo-Qiang to create Fireflies, an interactive public artwork of 27 luminous, kinetic sculptures inspired by Chinese pedicycles.
The Association for Public Art (aPA) implemented the first phase of Museum Without Walls: AUDIO—individual audio programs about 35 public art pieces in Philadelphia that are accessible by cell phone or podcast. Working with a team of professional audio producers and historians, aPA created interpretive audio programs that interested "visitors" can access through their cell phone as they walk, jog, or bike past an artwork. The free audio segments feature personal narratives by people with intimate connections to the works and their subjects. The audio programs are designed to incorporate what the organization calls the "authentic voice"—the story of each piece as told by people with important connections to it. "There's no narrator," said aPA Executive Director Penny Balkin Bach at the time of the project's launch. "There's nobody speaking to you. It's more like eavesdropping into a fascinating conversation." Surveys conducted by aPA revealed that Philadelphia natives felt a greater sense of civic pride after listening to the audio segments and learning more about these historic works, all part of the largest and oldest collection of public art in the nation. Museum Without Walls has been featured in such media outlets as USA Today and The Huffington Post.