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Pew Fellows News: The Whitney Acquires Works by Jonathan Lyndon Chase and Alex da Corte, Trapeta B. Mayson Named Philly Poet Laureate, Tina Satter’s Play on NY Times “Best Of” List

Jonathan Lyndon Chase, sweet gospel men, 2019. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Jonathan Lyndon Chase, sweet gospel men, 2019. Photo courtesy of the artist.

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

Honors & Awards

Poet Yolanda Wisher (2015) has been awarded a Leeway Transformation Award, which recognizes Philadelphia artists whose practices demonstrate long-term commitment to social change work. Wisher is the curator of spoken word at Philadelphia Contemporary and has held numerous fellowships, residencies, and honorary posts, including the position of poet laureate of Philadelphia.

Trapeta B. Mayson (2002) has been named Philadelphia’s newest poet laureate, a two-year position that will allow her to establish programming that supports civic engagement. Yolanda Wisher, co-chair of the Free Library’s laureate selection committee, told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Trapeta’s commitment to this city and its people is brilliantly evident in her work, art, and life.” Read more from WHYY.

Black Quantum Futurism Collective, the collaboration of artists Camae Ayewa and Rasheedah Phillips (2017), was awarded one of five $15,000 Added Velocitygrants. The grant supports the collective’s Black Womxn Temporal Portal project: a sculptural booth that will appear at various community-based locations in North Philadelphia and a web-based platform. Filmmaker Jonathan Olshefski (2018) and visual artists Nadia Hironaka (2006) and Matthew Suib (2011) also received $5,000 grants from The Velocity Fund, established by Temple Contemporary at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture with support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

ISA, co-led by Brian Phillips (2011), received the 2019 AIA Pennsylvania Architecture Firm of the Year Award, part of the Architecture Excellence Design Awards Program. In a press release, Bob Kelly, chair of the Committee on Design, described the firm’s work as “compelling, consistent and diverse,” setting “a high bar for housing design not only in the Philadelphia region, but also on the national level.”

Visual artist Michelle Angela Ortiz (2018) was celebrated as the “Angel of the Year” in Artblog’s annual Liberta Awards, which the blog says embody “the spirit of collaboration, hard work, fun and generosity.” Ortiz works across media including murals and documentary film to raise awareness about immigrant rights and mass incarceration.

Cultural Highlights of 2019

Playwright and director Tina Satter‘s (2019) play Is This A Room was highlighted by The New York Times in a list of the best theater of 2019. In staging the transcribed interrogation of whistleblower Reality Winner, Satter “turned this exercise in theater vérité, in which the blandest conversational clichés come loaded with unspecified menace, into a Kafka-like nightmare with a tension level worthy of Hitchcock.”

Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War 1965–1975, an exhibition curated by Melissa Ho (2005) at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, topped Hyperallergic’s list of the best US art shows of the past year. The exhibition was characterized as “challenging and expansive, an example of the kind of ambitious and groundbreaking work our national museums should be doing.”

Work by choreographer Rennie Harris (1996) was recognized by The Washington Post as one of the best dance performances of the past year. Lazarus, a full-length piece he created as artist-in-residence at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in tribute to Ailey himself, depicts “the black experience in the South, during and after the Great Depression” and “continues to reverberate inside you for some time.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s best classical works of 2019 included Aniara, a new work performed by the choral group The Crossing with Project grant support from the Center. Robert Maggio (1999) composed the score, which “showed just how accomplished he has become in his ability to dramatize most any situation with just the kind of music that’s warranted.”

Solo exhibitions of the work of Sarah McEneaney (1993) and Tiona Nekkia McClodden (2016) were featured in Vulture’s list of the 10 best art shows of 2019. The piece describes McClodden as a “preternaturally gifted multimedia artist and psycho-metaphysician” and praises McEneaney’s work for its “retinal radical vulnerability.”

In The News

The Whitney Museum of American Art recently acquired works by visual artists Alex da Corte (2012) and Jonathan Lyndon Chase (2019). Scott Rothkopf, senior deputy director and chief curator of the museum, explained that “the Whitney is committed to adding new voices to our collection, but we’re also deepening our relationships with artists already represented in it.” Read more from The Art Newspaper.

Writer Imani Perry (2019) was lauded by The New York Times for “[forsaking] the safe harbor of academic objectivity for the wilds of personal vulnerability” in her recent book, Breathe: A Letter to My Sons. The book investigates how parents of black children can, the Times says, “instill enough self-love in your children that it will buoy them when racial hatred threatens to pull them under.”

Ceramist Roberto Lugo (2019) spoke with Architectural Digest about the themes of his work and his purpose as an artist, observing that “ceramics last thousands of years…Someday these pieces could tell the history of my community.” Lugo’s work was shown by Wexler Gallery at Design Miami in December.

Two Pew Fellows were recently interviewed on WHYY’s Radio Times. On December 24, poet Thomas Devaney (2014) read from his latest collection, Getting to Philadelphia, which explores his relationship to the city. Dito van Reigersberg (2002), who performs as the drag queen Martha Graham Cracker, joined the show on January 2 to discuss Martha’s new album, Lashed but Not Leashed.

Visual artist Ken Lum (2018) co-edited Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia, a book documenting the 2017 Center-supported Monument Labproject, which explored the question of what might constitute “an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia” through 20 commissioned works of public art. Read a review of the volume from Broad Street Review or an excerpt from the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design.