Philadelphia is home to the fictional boxer, Rocky Balboa, who rose as a champion and “patron saint of the underdog” in eight films. This franchise is one of the most popular in history and timelessly resonates with audiences.
Near the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s steps, an 8.5-foot Rocky Statue celebrates the fictional boxer as it stands near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It is estimated that 4 million people travel from around the globe to visit the statue every year.
WHYY’s new podcast brings “The Statue” to your ears in six episodes to share about “the most famous Philadelphian who never lived.” Tune in to learn about the statue that was created by A. Thomas Schomberg in 1981, real-life stories of Philly boxers, and more about the significance behind this monument that commemorates the fictional character.
The podcast is hosted by Paul Farber, co-founder and director of Monument Lab, a non-profit public art and history studio in Philly. Monument Lab investigates how monuments link with our memories. Farber’s mom recommended the Rocky statue as a way to learn more about the city. For the podcast, Farber dove into each Rocky film, documentaries about the story, and explored all work about the character and films, including artwork and texts.
Farber often visited the statue and took note of how tourists engaged with it. On the podcast, you’ll hear from tourists, the city’s residents, film crew members, researchers, and art historians as they share history. They will unpack Rocky’s impact, Philly’s boxing history, and the importance of monuments. What does a statue about a fictional character say about how we choose to honor stories over other ones?
“The Statue” also examines the Philadelphian heavyweight boxing champion from 1965 to 1981, Joe Frazier. In real life, he beat Muhammad Ali and ran up the Art Museum’s steps, just like the memorable Rocky scene. Farber sought out places that were important to Frazier’s life and Philly’s overall boxing history.
Check out new episodes of “The Statue” on Tuesdays, wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.