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Pew Fellows News: Karyn Olivier Pens Washington Post Op-Ed, Marshall Allen Leads New Sun Ra Album, and New Essays from Imani Perry

Pew Fellow Karyn Olivier, Wall, 2020, installation view of Everything That’s Alive Moves exhibition, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia. Photo by Constance Mensh.
Pew Fellow Karyn Olivier, Wall, 2020, installation view of Everything That’s Alive Moves exhibition, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia. Photo by Constance Mensh.

Honors & Awards

Writer Lorene Cary (1995) was honored with an Anne D’Harnoncourt Award for Artistic Excellence from the Arts + Business Council for Greater Philadelphia. The award recognizes “an artist who has achieved national or worldwide acclaim, embodies artistic achievement and serves as an inspiration to the Greater Philadelphia region both as an artist and a leader,” according to the Council’s website.

Filmmakers Barbara Attie (2005) and Janet Goldwater (2005) were recognized by the American Film Institute for their documentary Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa, which follows the work of counselors at a Philadelphia abortion helpline. The film won AFI’s Short Film Grand Jury Prize, which is a qualifying award for Academy Award eligibility.

Composer James Primosch (1996) received the 2020 Virgil Thomson Award in Vocal Music, administered by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The award recognizes an American composer of vocal works and includes a prize of $40,000.

Cleanse, 2020, projection on a Ninth Street Market wall, Philadelphia. Photo by Lori Waselchuk.
Cleanse, 2020, projection on a Ninth Street Market wall, Philadelphia. Photo by Lori Waselchuk.

Public Art

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, visual artist Karyn Olivier (2019) writes that the removal of a much-debated mural at the University of Kentucky ”mutes” the work she created in response to it. In 2018, Olivier unveiled “Witness,” an installation displayed outside the room that contains the mural. She says that “removing the mural chooses silence, erasure and avoidance over engagement, investigation and real reconciliation.” Olivier is also quoted in a New York Times piece about the artwork.

Visual artist Michelle Angela Ortiz (2018) led a community process to project works onto a newly blank wall in Philadelphia’s Ninth Street Market. The projections included photos, videos, and poetry from the neighborhood’s multicultural, multigenerational communities. The wall had previously displayed a mural of Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo. Photographer Lori Waselchuk (2012) and poet Ursula Rucker (2018) also contributed to the project. Read more about the work at WHYY.



The Sun Ra Arkestra, led by Marshall Allen (2012), will release its first new album in 20 years in October. Rolling Stone reports on the record, which includes new recordings of Sun Ra standards, the first recording of Sun Ra composition “Darkness,” and a new Allen composition called “Swirling.”

Musician Jamaaladeen Tacuma (2011) was interviewed for Bass Magazine’s Lockdown Check-In series. He discusses the pivot from live performance to virtual event programming necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harpist Mary Lattimore (2014) and guitarist Paul Sukeena contributed to Mexican Summer’s Looking Glass, a series of digital singles that focus on the “human condition as reflected through remote connection,” according to the record label. Lattimore explains that their track, “Dreaming of the Kelly Pool,” is inspired by “this beautiful Olympic-sized swimming pool which was open to the public but still never crowded,” which she and Sukeena visited during their years in Philadelphia. Listen to the song or read more about the collaboration from Atwood Magazine. Lattimore also announced a new album, Silver Ladders, due out in October. Hear a track from the album at Pitchfork.

Musician and sound artist Camae Ayewa (2017), also known as Moor Mother, released ANTHOLOGIA 01 with musician Olof Melander, the first installment in a series to raise funds for disability justice. All proceeds from the project will be directed to the Afrofuturist Affair’s Futurist Fund, according to The Quietus. Ayewa also released a new track with rapper billy woods and a new album with interdisciplinary artist Yatta.

Musician Orrin Evans (2010) has released a new album with the Captain Black Big Band, titled The Intangible Between. WRTI praises the band’s “knack for blending the majesty and precision of a large jazz orchestra with the improvisational pliability of a small group” on the album. The Bad Plus, which features Evans on piano, wrote and performed the score for Nice White Parents, a new podcast from The New York Times’ Serial Productions.

Composer David Serkin Ludwig (2018) was commissioned by violinist Jennifer Koh to write a piece for her “Alone Together” series, a response to the COVID–19 pandemic. Ludwig’s contribution, titled All the Rage, is available in the Week 5 installment of the series on Koh’s YouTube channel. Read more from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Rea Tajiri, 2015 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.
Rea Tajiri, 2015 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.


Filmmaker Rea Tajiri (2015) was one of twelve Asian American film and video artists whose work was featured in My Sight is Lined with Visions, an online festival organized by Sentient Art Films. In an essay about Tajiri’s 1997 film Strawberry Fields, Theresa Wang observes that the “moral complexity of the film is in how it navigates rhetorical strategies of memory, accountability, and legacy against the emotional need for self-determination.” Read the full text at Sentient Art Film.

Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, filmmaker Tayarisha Poe’s (2017) film Selah and the Spades has received numerous accolades and was listed among “The 8 best movies you can now watch at home” by Vox. The list describes the film as mixing “the classic tropes of mobster movies with the cliques and concerns of high school films, but with a twist that’s all Tayarisha Poe’s.”

Multimedia artist Carolyn Lazard‘s (2019) work—which centers disability, accessibility, and experiences of chronic disease—is the subject of an essay in Artforum. Lizzie Homersham reflects on how Lazard’s 2018 video piece CRIP TIME resonates differently under “the conditions brought on or exacerbated by COVID-19 and the pressure points it touches.”

Filmmaker David Scott Kessler’s (2015) The Pine Barrens will be included in the New Jersey Film Festival 2020, presented by The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center. The festival will be streamed online September 13–October 25.

Filmmaker Glenn Holsten‘s (1997) new documentary Live Out Loud premiered on WHYY on July 26. The film follows students from Overbrook School for the Blind as they join dancers-in-training from the Pennsylvania Ballet Second Company in learning to tap dance. The Pennsylvania Ballet website will stream the film for free on its website later this year. View a trailer at Pointe Magazine.

Brenda Dixon Gottschild, 2017 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.
Brenda Dixon Gottschild, 2017 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

Writing & Literature

Poet Afaa Michael Weaver (1998) published his poem “In a Border Town” in the June 29 issue of The New Yorker. Read the piece or listen to Weaver read it on the New Yorker website.

Writer Imani Perry (2019) recently contributed essays to two magazines. In The Paris Review, “A Little Patch of Something” explores the long history of Black Americans finding nourishment and pleasure in home gardens, even in the face of racial oppression. In The Atlantic, “Racism Is Terrible. Blackness Is Not.” reflects on the “immense and defiant joy” of Blackness, which prevails alongside—and in spite of—suffering.

Writer Brenda Dixon Gottschild (2017) was a guest on WHYY’s Movers & Makers, to discuss Philadanco on the occasion of the dance company’s 50th anniversary. Dixon Gottschild is the author of Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance, a biography of Joan Myers Brown, who founded Philadanco.

Poet Major Jackson (1995) was one of six new guest editors for the Academy of American Poets’ series  Poem-A-Day, which features new work by contemporary Black poets every weekday this summer. Read the Academy’s full press release.

Playwright James Ijames (2015) spoke with WHYY’s The Why about adapting his creative practice to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic and the role of theater in addressing social change. He notes that a rethinking of habits and assumptions “are what the next couple of years is going to be about. And on some level, the arts are connected to that.” Ijames’ Is God Is, streamed online as an audio-only performance via The Wilma Theater, was featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Brooklyn Rail reviewed author Jay Kirk’s (2005) new book, Avoid the Day: A Nonfiction in Two Movements, calling it “a novelistically novel form of literary investigation that is by turns bizarre and brilliant, hilarious and heartbreaking.”