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Where to Find the Latest Work from Phillip B. Williams, James Ijames, Raven Chacon, and More Pew Fellows

Pew Fellow Phillip B. Williams leaning up against stacks of books.
Phillip B. Williams, 2023 Pew Fellow. Photo by Neal Santos.

Learn where you can see new exhibitions and performances from our distinguished Pew Fellows, plus a behind-the-scenes look at a forthcoming debut novel.  

A Closer Look

Chosen as a “Most Anticipated Book of 2024” by Oprah’s Book Club, Elle, Reader’s Digest, and more, Phillip B. Williams’ (2023) debut novel Ours will be released on February 20, 2024, by Viking Press. The publisher describes the book as being about “an enigmatic woman named Saint, a fearsome conjuror who, in the 1830s, annihilates plantations all over Arkansas to rescue the people enslaved there. She brings those she has freed to a haven of her own creation: a town just north of St. Louis, magically concealed from outsiders, named Ours.”

“I wanted to write this story in particular because I needed to see what the world of those recently freed from slavery looked like when slavery itself was not the main antagonist,” Williams says.

Williams first began writing the story in 2006, as a submission for an undergraduate short story contest. The story placed fourth, but the judge—fiction writer Crystal Wilkinson, whose books Williams had “devoured”—told him the story seemed like part of something longer. He kept working on it, inspired by a story from his grandfather, until he had the makings of a novel, “one that melded the historical with the magical in ways I hadn’t yet read as it relates to the Antebellum period.” 

“My mother had read the chapters I’d written from 2008 to 2009 and got hooked,” Williams says. “For over a decade, she asked me when I was going to finish, and I kept telling her ‘soon, soon’ but never really worked on it. In 2017, she asked me once more, and I knew I had to return to it more seriously. I started the book for me and finished it for my mom.”

James Sprang, 2022 Pew Fellow. Photo by Neal Santos.
James Sprang, 2022 Pew Fellow. Photo by Neal Santos.

New Exhibitions

Interdisciplinary artist James Allister Sprang’s (2022) solo exhibition Rest Within the Wake is on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art & Design until April 6, 2024. The multisensory exhibition features textual, wall-based, and audio elements weaving together modalities of Black life. The gallery describes the work: “Composed while Sprang was pursuing a scuba certification off the coast of Belize, the Rest Within the Wake score and exhibition recreate the experience of a deep-water descent and its physical, metaphysical, and historical associations.”

Swiss Institute presents Raven Chacon: A Worm’s Eye View from a Bird’s Beak, the first institutional solo exhibition for Raven Chacon (2020). Including new commissions alongside sound, video, performance and sculpture from the past 25 years, the exhibition is on view in New York until April 14, 2024. The next solo exhibition for the artist, Raven Chacon: Three Songsopens at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, New Mexico, on February 24, 2024. Combining visual, sound, and video elements, this exhibition brings together three of Chacon’s projects that each highlight the multiplicity of contemporary Indigenous women's artistic and political expressions against ongoing systemic oppression.

The 2024 Whitney Biennial will include several Pew Fellows: visual artist Sharon Hayes (2016), interdisciplinary artist Carolyn Lazard (2019), visual artist Karyn Olivier (2019), and Alex Tatarsky (2020). The biennial opens to the public March 20, 2024. The curators note that the exhibition “focuses on the ideas of ‘the real’…Many of the artists presenting works—including via robust performance and film programs—explore the fluidity of identity and form, historical and current land stewardship, and concepts of embodiment, among other urgent throughlines.”

At White Cube in London, interdisciplinary artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden (2016) has a solo exhibition running February 14 through March 24, 2024, titled A MERCY | DUMMY. Inspired by Toni Morrison’s 2008 novel A Mercy and Jean Genet’s 1958 play The Blacks: A Clown Show, McClodden explores “interiority, performativity, and violence” in sculpture, installation, and painting, according to the gallery.

Woodmere Art Museum is presenting an exhibition of visual artist William Daley’s (2010) figurative sculptures and works on paper. Drawn from Earth runs through July 14, 2024 with a focus on Daley’s work in the 1960s. The museum notes, “The sensuality and expressiveness of Daley’s work will be evident through this show.”

Printmaker Daniel Heyman (2009) collaborates with Lucy Ganje in portraying present-day members of North Dakota Native American nations in In Our Own Words: Native Impressions at the Amarillo Museum of Art in Texas. In Our Own Words features portraits along with the personal oral history of the sitter as told to the artist while posing. The exhibition will be on view until March 17, 2024.

Ada Trillo (2022) is exhibiting new photographs at Bridgette Mayer Gallery through March 23, 2024. Trillo says, “This new series holds a place in my heart as it captures the beauty of the unique flora that thrives in the arid, yet resilient environment found in the Southwest, specifically photographed in the town I grew up in, El Paso, Texas.”

Visual artist Becky Suss (2019) is presenting new paintings at ICA Chattanooga through March 16, 2024. The paintings are inspired by Ann Patchett’s 2019 novel The Dutch House. “By grounding these paintings in her personal landscape, Suss contorts Patchett’s narrative of memories to honor her own lineage,” the museum explains. “Suss’s paintings contain a unique ability to render the large-scale intimate.”

Pew Fellow Karen Smith stands playing drums.
Karen Smith, 2023 Pew Fellow. Photo by Neal Santos.

Upcoming Performances

Theatre in the X is reintroducing its staged reading series, The OG Reading Series, with members of Philadelphia’s theater community, including percussionist Karen Smith (2023) with her play 57. Each OG Reading Series event includes a staged reading and a talk with the playwright. The reading of 57 will be Monday, March 11, from 6 to 9 pm. 

1812 Productions, in collaboration with Delaware Theatre Company, will present the world premiere of The Flatlandersa play by playwright Bruce Graham (1993). The production runs through February 18, 2024, at Plays & Players Theater and then continues at Delaware Theatre Company from April 17 through May 5, 2024.

Kill Move Paradise, a satirical play by playwright James Ijames (2015) exploring the lives and experiences of Black men, will be the first 2024 main stage production at South Camden Theatre Company. Of the play, Ijames says, “This play contains a lot of pain, a lot of sorrow, but I hope it also offers my own community a space of healing and hope.” Kill Move Paradise will open on April 26 and run until May 12.

Lauren Mabry, 2015 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.
Lauren Mabry, 2015 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

Awards & Recognition

Ceramic artist Lauren Mabry (2015) is one of twelve artists selected for a residency at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its arts/industry residency program. Each artist will spend three months in the Kohler Co. factory, creating new work to be shown in exhibitions at the Kohler Arts Center throughout the year.

Poet M. Nzadi Keita (2017) is the recipient of a 2023 Leeway Transformation Award. The Leeway Foundation’s Transformation Award grants unrestricted annual awards to women, trans, and gender nonconforming artists and cultural producers in Philadelphia who demonstrate a long-term commitment to creating art for social change. Keita is one of twelve artists to receive the $15,000 award for 2023.

Fat Ham, James Ijames’ take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Broadway Production. Honoring those in the media who have shown exemplary achievements for fair, accurate, and inclusive representation of the LGBTQ community, the New York ceremony will be Saturday, May 11, 2024.