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Pew Fellows News: Four Artists in Whitney and Venice Biennials, Major Awards for Sonia Sanchez, and Imani Perry’s Latest Book

Catch up on the many activities and accomplishments of our Pew Fellows, and find out where you can see, read, and hear their newest work.

New Releases

Imani Perry’s (2019) latest book, South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation, was published in January. The multi-genre non-fiction work follows Perry on her journey through the South to reveal deeply buried stories about race. The New York Times calls the book “an essential meditation on the South, its relationship to American culture—even Americanness itself.” Perry spoke to Fresh Air about the book.

Sun Ra’s Journey Featuring Marshall Allen, a collaboration by founding Sun Ra Arkestra member and bandleader Marshall Allen (2012) and Arkestra alumnus Tyler Mitchell, was released on March 18. The album celebrates the legacy of jazz musician Sun Ra through an ensemble featuring four generations of musicians. Interviews with Allen about his work with Sun Ra will also be included in a forthcoming documentary, Sun Ra and the Roots of Afrofuturism.

Kambel Smith, 2021 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.
Kambel Smith, 2021 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

On View Now & Soon

Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet As It's Kept includes works by three Pew Fellows: visual artists Alex Da Corte (2012) and Denyse Thomasos (1995) and composer and sound artist Raven Chacon (2020 Fellow-in-Residence). The exhibition is on view April 6 through September 5, 2022, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

This year’s Venice Biennale, The Milk of Dreams, includes work by visual artist Carolyn Lazard (2019). Running April 23 to November 27, 2022,  the biennale will elevate the work of women and gender-nonconforming artists and “challenge the figure of men as the center of the universe,” director Cecilia Alemani told ArtForum.

Sculptor Kambel Smith (2021) is presenting a selection of his large-scale architectural recreations (made from cardboard, foam board, and a variety of other materials) at a solo exhibition at Fleisher/Ollman through May 26. Works on view include recreations of the Friendship Gate (the iconic arch in Philadelphia’s Chinatown), the Lincoln Memorial, and New York’s Flat Iron Building.

Visual artist Wilmer Wilson IV’s (2017) sculptures and a series of gelatin silver prints are on view April 13 through June 3, 2022 in the solo exhibition To lessen the demand of visibility at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery. “Appropriating everyday objects...Wilson has obsessively utilized materials such as brown paper bags, stickers, postage stamps and discarded lottery tickets,” the gallery says.

Ceramic works by Roberto Lugo (2019) are included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room, on view at the museum on an ongoing basis. Lugo will present new work in an exhibition at New Jersey’s Grounds for Sculpture running May 22, 2022, through January 8, 2023, following a residency that is already underway. Roberto Lugo: The Village Potter will include “new monumental-sized work that will provide opportunities for visitors to physically interact within the form,” according to the Grounds for Sculpture website.

Visual artist Karyn Olivier (2019) has new work on view at The Delaware Contemporary in a solo exhibition titled The Platform Gallery. Olivier’s photographic banners juxtapose natural scenes of trees and water with fibers and cloth, producing “compositions in which individual components—ripples of water, single garments—accumulate into dynamic, expansive forces,” according the art space’s website.

Airea D. Matthews, 2020 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.
Airea D. Matthews, 2020 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

Awards & Recognition

Poet Airea D. Matthews (2020) has been appointed Philadelphia’s 2022-2023 Poet Laureate. In a January announcement, the Free Library of Philadelphia described the poet as embodying “the collaborative and maverick spirit of Philadelphia’s literary community.” Of the city’s six Poet Laureates selected since 2012, five have been Pew Fellows.

Composer Jennifer Higdon (1999) is among the 18 new members to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, elected by vote of the existing members. Membership, among the highest artistic honors in the United States, lasts for life and is limited to 300 architects, visual artists, composers, and writers at a given time. The induction for new members will take place during the Academy’s annual Ceremonial on May 18, 2022.

Poet, activist, and educator Sonia Sanchez (1993) is the winner of this year’s Edward MacDowell Medal, a lifetime achievement honor. “It is a great honor to be this year’s awardee,” Sanchez says. “MacDowell has such a great herstory and history of caring and concern for artists; it is a joy this place exists to keep the world on a path toward re-civilization, peace, and humanity.” Previous winners of the award include Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Sanchez was also awarded the $250,000 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prizein October 2021.

Films by two Pew Fellows have been nominated for Independent Spirit Awards. Test Pattern, written and directed by Shatara Michelle Ford (2020), is nominated in several categories, including Best First Screenplay, Best Female Lead (for actor Brittany S. Hall), and Best First Feature. Philly D.A., directed by Ted Passon (2014) alongside Yoni Brook and Nicole Salazar, was nominated in the Best New Non-Scripted or Documentary Series category.

Jazz pianist Orrin Evans(2010) The Magic of Now was nominated for Outstanding Jazz Album – Instrumental at the 2022 NAACP Image Awards. The Magic of Now is the 20th album in Evans’ career. All About Jazz’s review of the album calls it “a whirlwind of perpetual buoyancy.”

The Center for American Music at the University of Pittsburgh Library System has acquired the archive of jazz pianist Dave Burrell (1996). Opening to the public later in 2022, the collection will include posters, programs, correspondence, and contracts that document Burrell’s career from the 1960s to the present and will continue to grow with musical scores, photographs, and recordings in the coming years.

Jennifer Kidwell, 2016 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.
Jennifer Kidwell, 2016 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

Recent Performances & Exhibitions

Storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston’s (1994) one-woman performance Six-Triple-Eight premiered in February at East Tennessee State University.Six-Triple-Eight narrates World War II’s 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first all-female unit composed entirely of Black women deployed overseas. Alston says, “We are the country we are, but I don’t think we will ever be the country we could be if we continue to ignore these stories…we do not have the right.”

TJ Loves Sally 4 Ever, the newest production by playwright James Ijames(2015), premiered regionally at Theatre Horizon in February. The play reimagines Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson as college students at a fictional Commonwealth of Virginia University where America’s complex history bleeds into the lives of modern students. Another Ijames play, Fat Ham, will run at The Public Theater in New York City, May 12—June 12, 2022.

Jennifer Kidwell (2016) starred in the world premiere of Ocean Filibuster in February at Loeb Drama Center in Boston, portraying the piece’s two main characters, Mr. Majority and Ocean. In an interview with The Boston Globe, Kidwell says of playing the opposing roles, “I think it’s such a radical thing because it feels dangerous for us to embrace contradiction, to acknowledge how opposing viewpoints can actually be encased in one neat carcass.”