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Pew Fellows News: Kate Watson-Wallace Premieres Work at LA’s REDCAT, Tayarisha Poe’s Film to be Adapted by Amazon Studios, Benjamin Volta’s Mural Honored by Americans for the Arts

Tayarisha Poe, 2017 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.
Tayarisha Poe, 2017 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

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

On Screen & On Stage

Filmmaker Tayarisha Poe (2017) will work with Amazon Studios to adapt her debut feature, Selah and the Spades, into a series. Telling the stories of students in a Pennsylvania boarding school, the drama made its world premiere to critical acclaim at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Poe told Variety she is “excited to see the world of The Haldwell School expand and develop in the serial format.”

Choreographer and visual artist Kate Watson-Wallace (2007) will premiere kim. August 1—3, 2019 at REDCAT in Los Angeles, as part of its New Original Works Festival. The performance is “an investigation of notions and experiences of desire, contagion, failure, ritual, pleasure and the ecstatic,” according to REDCAT.

Composer Robert Maggio (1999) collaborated with Grammy Award-winning choir and Center Project grantee The Crossing and Finnish theater company Klockriketeatern on Aniara: fragments of time and space, which premiered in Philadelphia in June, followed by tour dates in the Netherlands and Finland. Maggio told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Aniara’s score employs “diverse styles to serve a symbolic function…that we’re not trying to solve but are letting them co-exist." Read more about the project in The New York Times.

DJ and musician King Britt (2007) served as guest curator for Solstice 2019, an outdoor concert at the Cleveland Museum of Art with a diverse lineup including Sun Ra Arkestra, led by 2012 Fellow Marshall Allen. According to Cleveland Scene, Britt was selected for “his extraordinary range and taste across all genres of creative music.”

Theater artist Geoff Sobelle’s (2006) performance piece HOME (the cast of which includes 2016 Fellow Jennifer Kidwell) showed at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven, Connecticut, in June. In a short video, Sobelle reflects on some of the work’s themes, observing that “we’re living in a moment where these questions of home and homeland…are very much in the air.”

On View

Visual artist Virgil Marti (1995) crafted a vibrant interior, complete with original furniture, wallpaper, and lighting fixtures, for Less is a Bore, an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston that celebrates maximalist sensibility (through September 22, 2019). The Art Newspaperdescribed Marti’s “immersive, sugary parlour with playful rococo influences,” along with other work on display, as “vitally relevant.”

Mixed-media artist Leroy Johnson (2014) is the final artist on the roster to work as artist-in-residence in the Mural Arts Studio at the Barnes Foundation, housed in the museum’s former guest services center at 20th Street and the Ben Franklin Parkway. Through early September, Johnson is working on paintings and sculptures related to the Civil War. “I think of Leroy as being a constant heartbeat within the Philadelphia artistic scene,” Kathleen Greene, the Barnes’ curator of public programs, told WHYY in a profile on the artist.

Visual artist Eileen Neff (1994) curated the 78th Woodmere Annual, an exhibition of local artwork on display at Woodmere Art Museum through September 2, 2019. The Philadelphia Inquirer reviewed the “often enigmatic but very stimulating” exhibition, which “seems to consist not of discrete artistic statements, but rather a set of related installations orchestrated by Neff.”

Visual artist Gabriel Martinez (2001) created Tonight is Forever, an exhibition exploring the past half-century of LGBTQ activism, at the William Way LGBT Community Center. The project incorporated clippings and ephemera collected from William Way’s John J. Wilcox Archives. Martinez explained to Penn Today that while this archival material “dealt in some way with acts of resistance, struggle, defiance, I wanted to intermingle [those acts] with aspects of celebration, joy, pride.”

Visual artist Wilmer Wilson IV (2017) is one of eleven artists participating in Bodies of Knowledge, an exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art (through October 13, 2019) that explores the “role that language plays in archiving and asserting our cultural identities.” Last month, the Baltimore Museum of Art acquired work by Wilson, ArtForum reports.

A recently completed project by architect Brian Phillips (2011) of Interface Studio Architects was featured in Architect Magazine, which describes Tiny Tower, located in Philadelphia’s Brewerytown neighborhood, as “an especially compelling prototype for infill housing and proof that overlooked sites can be opportunities for architectural ambition.” WHYY explores ISA’s mission to use “leftover lots” normally deemed too small for construction. Phillips’ Center-funded project Rowhouse Workshop is also on view at Cherry Street Pier through August 25.

In Print

Writer and multimedia artist Anthony Smyrski (2012) has released a book of twelve short stories set in a Philadelphia of the recent—but immensely different—past. The characters in Good for One Fare, as described on Smyrski’s website, “live in a fully idiosyncratic world, a world reliant on its own codes and customs, opaque to the outsider.”

The late poet Essex Hemphill (1993) is the addressee of an essay by poet Danez Smith, who has written a series of notes to Hemphill over the years. Reflecting on queer community, Smith explains that “reading ‘Ceremonies’ I learned a name for our rituals and ways, saw the experiences and magic that made us all unruly kin.” Read the full piece in The New York Times.

Writer Judith E. Stein (1994) reflected on “the gravitational pull” of 1995 Pew Fellow Susan Stewart’s book On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection in “Anxiety of Influence.” The essay was published in Ursula, a new quarterly print magazine by Hauser & Wirth.

Media artist Louis Massiah (1994) contributed to Collective Wisdom: CoCreating Media within Communities, Across Disciplines and Algorithms, a study produced by the Co-Creation Studio at MIT Open Documentary Lab. An executive summary of the project described it as a “hybrid field study that sets out to map, define, and shed light on co-creation methods within media…and adjacent areas of knowledge.”

Honors & Awards

Diligence, a work by visual artist Benjamin Volta (2015), has been honored through the Year in Review program of the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network as one of “50 outstanding public arts projects" from across the US. Commissioned by Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy, the mural is located at the Tacony Library and responds to the industrial history of the surrounding neighborhood. Read more on the OACCE website.

Digital media artist Tim Portlock (2011) was one of three artists selected for the 2020 Great Rivers Biennial. This competitive honor, co-presented by the Gateway Foundation and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, includes a monetary award and will culminate in a group exhibition in spring and summer of 2020.

Theater artist Jennifer Kidwell (2016) has been awarded a Kimmel Center Theater Residency in a collaborative team with artists Jarvis Benson, Juliette Jones, and Jaamil Kosoko. This intensive two-week program supports the creation, development, and production of new works of theater. Read more from the Kimmel Center.

Visual artist Hilary Harp (1995) has been awarded a Research and Development Grant by the Arizona Commission on the Arts for her project Better Out Than In. A continuation of Harp’s longstanding collaboration with artist Suzie Silver, the piece is part of a “series of experimental gender-fluid folk tale videos,” according to the Arizona Commission on the Arts’ announcement.