Aaron Levy, PhD, MPhil is a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of English and the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 2002. He also teaches for the School of Social Policy and Practice, the Weitzman School of Design, the Perelman School of Medicine, and the Barnes Foundation. A longtime advocate for the healing potential of the arts and humanities, he is the inaugural Director of the Health Ecologies Lab and the Social Justice and Arts Integration Initiative in the School of Social Policy & Practice. He is also Special Advisor for Health and Humanities Initiatives at Penn Medicine Academy, Director of the Penn Medicine Listening Lab, and Co-Director of Rx/Museum -- projects and initiatives that reflect his dedication to the medical humanities and the development of new approaches to listening and care.
As an educator and organizer, Dr. Levy has worked for nearly twenty years to challenge seemingly intractable socio-political problems and the diverse factors affecting the health and well-being of individuals and communities. He believes passionately in the power of the expressive arts and listening to transform socio-cultural norms and create openings for change to occur. For Dr. Levy, the arts and humanities embody a form of care that, much like the social and biomedical sciences, can contribute to the complex matrix of things that impact healing. In helping institutions make space for vulnerability and embrace greater porosity and collaboration, Dr. Levy’s work seeks to help dismantle pervasive inequities and social suffering.
Dr. Levy is also the Executive Director and Chief Curator of Slought, an non-profit organization and network he founded on the university campus that engages the public in multifaceted dialogue about topical cultural and socio-political issues facing Philadelphia and the world. With a network of university and community collaborators working in solidarity, Dr. Levy has supported the development of hundreds of public programs that elevate stories and histories of the struggle for justice in Philadelphia and beyond, and testify to the power of volunteerism within the public sector.
His many curatorial projects include Into the Open (2008-9), the US representation at the Venice Biennale for Architecture, which explored the work of grassroots architects working collaboratively to invigorate community activism and environmental policy, and traveled to Parsons and the National Constitution Center; the Perpetual Peace Project (2010-11), a global peace movement launched with the International Peace Institute, the United Nations University, the European Union National Institutes of Culture, and other partners, which traveled to the New Museum and several international venues; and Mixplace Studio (2009-12), a summer school for young adults in Philadelphia facing food, housing and other forms of insecurity, produced with People’s Emergency Center and Estudio Teddy Cruz. More recently, he organized Photographies of Conflict, a two-year exhibition cycle with artist collectives who use photography to contest dominant narratives of conflicts, and No Mud, No Lotus, a retrospective of Louverture Films exploring how filmmakers, thinkers, and activists can engage and record some of the most devastating and urgent issues of our day (both 2018-19).
He is the editor of over twenty publications, including Cities Without Citizens (2002); Helene Cixous’s Ex-cities (2007); On the Living History of the Venice Architecture Biennale (2010); Four Conversations on the Architecture of Discourse (2011); John Cage's How to Get Started (2010); Evasions of Power (2011); Utterly Precarious: Carolee Schneemann (2013); Art, or Listen to the Silence: Soun-Gui Kim with Jacques Derrida and Jean-Luc Nancy (2014); On Listening as a Form of Care (2020); On the Poetics and Politics of Health (2021); The Language of Care: Stories from the Penn Medicine Listening Lab (2021); and Rx/Museum: 52 Essays on Art and Reflection in Medicine (forthcoming, 2022).
Levy has twice served on the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions, was a United States Cultural Envoy to Pakistan, is on the board of directors of AICA-USA, the International Art Critics Association, and is a member of the Artist Protection Fund Selection Committee. Prior to Levy’s life in the academy, he was a poet and visual artist. He received his PhD from the School of Fine Art, History of Art, and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds.