Pew Center for Arts and Heritage

Get our monthly newsletter in your inbox for the latest on cultural events, ideas, conversations, and grantmaking news in Philadelphia and beyond.

Main page contents

Pew Fellows News: Major Award for Tiona Nekkia McClodden, New Commission for Karyn Olivier, and a Photography Book Release from Emmet Gowin

Karyn Oliver, The Battle is Joined, 2017, Vernon Park. Presented as part of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Monument Lab. Photo by Mike Reali.
Karyn Oliver, The Battle is Joined, 2017, Vernon Park. Presented as part of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Monument Lab. Photo by Mike Reali.

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

Honors & Awards

Multidisciplinary visual artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden (2016) has won the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Bucksbaum Award of $100,000 in recognition of her creative practice. Adam Weinberg, director of the Whitney, describes McClodden’s work as “bold and original” and her Whitney Biennial installation I prayed to the wrong god for you as “extraordinarily rich with cultural, historical, and spiritual resonances.” Read more about the award from ARTnews.

Composer Jennifer Higdon (1999) has received a Grammy Award nominationin the category of Best Contemporary Classical Composition for her piece Harp Concerto. Higdon has previously won two other Grammy Awards, in 2010 for her Percussion Concerto and in 2018 for her Viola Concerto. Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis also received a nomination in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category for her performance on the piece.

Doomstead Days by poet Brian Teare (2015) was nominated for the National Book Award for Poetry. The New Yorker observes that many of the ten books in this year’s poetry nominations were “inflected with a sense of political urgency, and emergency.”

Visual artist Karyn Olivier (2019) has been selected to create a memorial to Dinah, an enslaved woman who lived at Stenton mansion and who is credited with saving it from burning by the British in 1777. The memorial is part of Stenton’s Center-supported Inequality in Bronze project. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Olivier’s piece will include “a sculpted silhouette of Dinah’s face engraved on limestone among benches surrounded by gardens and a small fountain.”

Pew Fellows Jennifer Kidwell (2016) and Nichole Canuso (2017) have been awarded residencies for the summer of 2020. Kidwell, a theater artist, will spend hers at the Ucross Foundation Residency Program in Wyoming, and Canuso, a dancer and choreographer, will be in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts in California.

Academic Appointments

Visual artist Ken Lum (2018) was appointed the inaugural endowed Marilyn Jordan Taylor Presidential Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design, where he has taught since 2012 and served as the chair of the Department of Fine Arts since 2016. Lum is also one of eight artists featured in the second season of In The Making, a documentary series produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that presents “groundbreaking and iconoclastic artists from across the creative spectrum.” Learn more about Lum’s practice as well as his latest book, Everything Is Relevant, in an audio interview with Artblog.

Musician King Britt (2007) has joined the faculty of the music department at the University of California San Diego, his first full-time academic position in a decades-long career of composing, producing, and performing worldwide. Britt explains in an interview with the university’s Division of Arts and Humanities that he is looking forward to the “exchange of energy between generations of knowledge” that takes place in an academic context.

New Releases

The New Yorker reviewed a new book of photographs from Emmet Gowin(1994). The Nevada Test Site examines the Nevada National Security Site, where the US government tested more than 900 nuclear weapons between 1951 and 1992. The reviewer notes that the photographs “feel like art, but they feel even more like life.”

Musician and interdisciplinary artist Camae Ayewa (2017) released her latest album as Moor Mother, titled Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes. The album has received a number of favorable reviews, with Pitchfork noting that Ayewa “gives voice to implacable rage and impending cataclysm.”

Visual artist Charles Burns (1994) has released a new book of drawings, sketches, and cartoons, published by Fantagraphics. The book is a compilation of 25 sketchbook zines, self-published and distributed by the author on a small scale since 2000—now publicly available for the first time. Read more about the project from Fantagraphics.

Poet Thomas Devaney’s (2014) latest book, You Are The Battery, is available from Black Square Editions. Artblog lauds the work for valuing the “flickers and smudges of transcendence where they appear.”

A new book of poetry from Julia Bloch (2017) will be published in February 2020. Titled The Sacramento of Desire, the prose poems connect “the vulnerabilities of the body with the economies of assisted reproduction, landscape disasters, and language itself,” according to a press release from the publisher.


Visual artist David Hartt (2018) was commissioned by Beth Sholom Synagogue to create David Hartt: The Histories (Le Mancenillier), a Center-supported multimedia installation that activates the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed space. The Art Newspaper notes that the project “respects Wright’s interior design yet transforms the visitor’s perception of it.” Read additional coverage from The Architect’s Newspaper and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Hartt’s photographs of the former offices of the Johnson Publishing Company were also recently on display in Stray Light at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum.

Work by visual artist Michelle Angela Ortiz (2018) is on display at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston in When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art. The exhibition features work by 20 artists responding to global migration, immigration, and displacement, “ranging from personal accounts to poetic meditations,” according to the ICA Boston website.

Poet Emily Abendroth (2013) is the co-curator of How Are We Free, an exhibition that “explores the nature of freedom and confinement through creative collaboration between people who have been sentenced to die in prison and visual artists outside the prison walls.” Produced by LifeLines: Voices Against the Other Death Penalty, a media and cultural project that pursues the abolition of life imprisonment without parole in Pennsylvania, How Are We Freehas toured across the state, most recently at Vox Populi in Philadelphia.

Visual artist Leroy Johnson (2014) held a three-month residency at the Barnes Foundation this past summer, working in what he describes as “the fishbowl,” a windowed studio just east of the museum. In an interview with WHYY, Johnson discusses his creative process and his latest work, assemblages of disparate materials and found objects that represent individual Civil War battles.

Screenings and Performances

Let ’Im Move You, a multi-part dance project by choreographers Jumatatu M. Poe (2012) and Jermone Donte Beacham, was warmly reviewed in The New York Times, which noted that it “seems to ripple out beyond its originators, with no limits to what it can contain.”

Jazz composer and musician Odean Pope‘s (1992) year-long project Sounds of the Circle culminated in October with a concert at La Rose Jazz Club titled Framed in a Picture. The Center-supported project celebrated the community of jazz musicians that thrived in Philadelphia in the 1950s through 1970s.

Composer and violinist Diane Monroe (2018) performed her evening-length suite Violin Woman, African Dreams at Cliveden of the National Trust in November. The interdisciplinary Center-supported project bridged jazz, classical, and traditional African music genres and featured visual artist Curlee Raven Holton, string ensemble PUBLIQuartet, banjoist Ayodele Maakheru, and Yacouba Sissoko, an internationally recognized master of West African kora and traditional storytelling.

Filmmaker and director David Scott Kessler (2015) organized a second iteration of Middle of Nowhere, a music, arts, and film festival, in conjunction with Atlas Obscura. Kessler founded Middle of Nowhere in Browns Mills, New Jersey, in 2016, occasioned by the creation of his documentary, The Pine Barrens. Read more about the festival from WHYY.

The world premiere of composer Andrea Clearfield’s (2016) Home in Me will be performed in February at Carnegie Hall by a consortium of 12 treble choirs conducted by Sandra Snow and Meredith Bowen as part of the National Concerts event What is Home?.