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Pew Fellows News: Interviews with Jamaladeen Tacuma and Lorene Cary, New Works from Michelle Angela Ortiz and Brian Teare, and More

Jamaaladeen Tacuma, 2011 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.
Jamaaladeen Tacuma, 2011 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.

Catch up on this month’s Pew Fellows news, including the latest recognition, new works, and press coverage.

Honors and Awards

Documentary filmmaker Jonathan Olshefski’s (2018) film QUEST, which follows one Philadelphia family for nearly a decade, is nominated for a Peabody Award—honoring “the stories that matter” across TV, radio, and digital media. The recognition led Olshefski to realize his “little film has a life I don’t even know about sometimes.” He discussed the nomination with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Digital media artist Tim Portlock (2011) has been awarded an Artist Fellowship by the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis. The multidisciplinary program seeks to afford artists “time and space to study, reflect, experiment, explore, practice, and create.” Read more about Portlock and the other 2019 RAC Fellows.

Visual artist Alex Da Corte (2012) has been awarded a residency at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, where he will conduct research and exhibit new work. Da Corte said the work is driven by “the idea of pushing beyond an image or breaking through the screen” in an interview with The Washington Post.

In Print and On Screen

Poet Brian Teare’s (2015) latest book of poetry, Doomstead Days, is a reflection on beauty and nature in an age of dramatic ecological change. The New York Times described the work as “solitary but intimate: Teare’s voices let us weigh the insoluble questions of how to live as an ethical being in the face of violence and environmental collapse.”

Visual artist, filmmaker, and curator Tiona Nekkia McClodden (2016) wrote about the creative process behind her contribution to the Whitney Biennial in an essay for Artforum, explaining: “I could not separate my artistic work from my spiritual work in this moment.”

Visual artist Michelle Angela Ortiz (2018) has created a documentary titled Las Madres de Berks, as part of her ongoing art activism project, Familias Separadas. The film addresses the experiences of four undocumented mothers detained with their children at the Berks County Residential Center, one of three such facilities designated by ICE and the only one in Pennsylvania. Read more in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Al Dia News.

Artist Interviews

Bassist and producer Jamaaladeen Tacuma (2011) spoke with Philadelphia Weekly about the Outsiders Improvised & Creative Music Festival, which he curates, and about his own experiences of outsider and insider status throughout his musical career. Recently, Tacuma produced Transcending Toxic Times, the latest album of the spoken word collective the Last Poets. The album, which features Tacuma on bass and poet Ursula Rucker (2018) on the track “Don’t Know What I’d Do,” was described as a “sobering new rallying cry” by Rolling Stone.

Rucker shared some of her work in an interview for WHYY, referring to poetry as “an absolute blessing and the most challenge.” Rucker performed alongside poet Sonia Sanchez (1993) and other alumni of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in April. Read about the reunion at The Philadelphia Inquirer and WHYY.

Writer Lorene Cary’s (1995) latest book, Ladysitting: My Year with Nana at the End of Her Century, has been reviewed by NPR as a “thoroughly engaging” memoir that “captivates with humor and forthrightness.” Cary discussed this project, as well as the intertwined joys and challenges of caretaking, in an interview with NPR.

Poet Major Jackson (1995) discussed his personal library and reading habits in an interview with The Boston Globe, explaining, “When I got a Pew Fellowship a good deal of that money went to buying books. I even began collecting.”

Poet Ron Silliman (1998) spoke on Public Radio Tulsa about the Language Poetry movement, artistic practice, and his magnum opus, Ketjak, a set of four long poems, the last of which is still underway.

Poet, musician, and interdisciplinary artist Camae Ayewa (2017), also known as Moor Mother, is a new member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and performs on its latest album, We Are on the Edge. Ayewa discussed her involvement with the Art Ensemble, her creative process, and upcoming work in an interview with Philadelphia Weekly. Read more about the Chicago Art Ensemble and Ayewa’s collaboration with the group in The New York Times.

Visual artist Ken Lum (2018) spoke about art as “something that is beyond material production, as a means to come to an understanding of one’s relationship to the world” in an interview with CultMTL. Lum presented a public talk, “Not My Type: Thoughts on Typographic Taste,” in Montreal in May.


Philadelphia-founded art space Tiger Strikes Asteroid (TSA) is celebrating its tenth anniversary with Orbits, a multi-site exhibition featuring several Pew Fellows at locations around the country. The Philadelphia Inquirer reviewed the local exhibition and described featured artist Pepón Osorio (2006) as “the anchor of the show, with his two freestanding floor sculptures constructed from everyday materials and found objects.” Rasheedah Phillips (2017) and Camae Ayewa (2017) are participating in the Chicago iteration of Orbits as the collective Black Quantum Futurism, and Leroy Johnson (2014) will show work at the TSA site in New York City.

Installation artist Richard Torchia (1994) and visual artist Tristin Lowe (1995) are two of eight artists participating in Emanation 2019 at the Museum of American Glass in Millville, NJ. Though none of the participating artists work primarily in glass, all utilize this material for their contributions to the show, which runs through the end of this year.

Painter Sarah McEneaney’s (1993) solo exhibition at the Locks Gallery last month was described by The Philadelphia Inquirer as “one of best shows to see in Philly.” In Callowhill, McEneaney is “offering a longer, broader view than ever” of her home, studio, and neighborhood. Tristin Lowe’s Tiny Bangs at Fleisher/Ollman, also mentioned in the Inquirer piece, featured some glass pieces designed in preparation for Emanation at WheatonArts.

Work by photographer Emmet Gowin (1994) is on display at France’s Musée de Grenoble in Souvenirs de Voyage, an exhibition of the personal art collection of Antoine de Galbert. The show brings together an eclectic set of “paintings, drawings, photographs, installations, primitive art, religious and popular objects” by modern and contemporary artists.

Visual artists Joy Feasley (2011) and Paul Swenbeck (2013) have collaborated to create Midnight Sun, a mixed media installation. The project is on display at NADA House, a space for members of the New Art Dealers Alliance on New York’s Governors Island.

Ceramist Lauren Mabry (2015) is presenting her work in Fused, a solo show at Ferrin Contemporary in North Adams, MA. The artwork in the exhibition “looks like I’m going in a new direction, but I’m not,” Mabry told the Berkshire Eagle, explaining that her focus on glaze as a dimensional or structural element is still central. "I've taken the direction that I've been going in and pushed that even further."

Performances and A New Performance Space

Harpist Mary Lattimore (2014) was featured in a PBS News Hour segment about Midwinter, an art and music festival co-organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and Pitchfork. Lattimore, who performed at Midwinter, observes that “a really dynamic performance in a weird space” can elevate music when the medium is so often relegated to the background.

Phildanco’s Dance Philly Style, which ran at the Kimmel Center in April, featured the world premiere of Fear by choreographer Rennie Harris (1996). The program also included choreographer Dawn Marie Bazemore’s presentation of Oshun, which “opens with Brenda Dixon Gottschild (2017), a dance scholar and professor, reciting poetry from Langston Hughes and Sonia Sanchez (1993).” The Philadelphia Inquirer reviewed the program.

Musician Chris Forsyth (2011) and his wife, visual artist Maria Dumlao, have opened a music venue in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. Forsyth hopes Jerry’s On Front will fill a need in the neighborhood and prove “a really good thing for a community of people who like coming here.” The Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed Forsyth about the enterprise.