12 Exhibitions, Performances, and Arts Events in Philadelphia This Fall

23 Aug 2021


Sun & Sea (Marina), opera-performance by Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė, and Lina Lapelytė, La Biennale di Venezia, 2019. Photography by Andrej Vasilenko, courtesy of the artists.

The Philadelphia cultural calendar is packed with experimental performance works, retrospectives on groundbreaking artists, and more, with programming available both in person and online. Take a look at what the Center’s grantees have to offer in the coming months below.

Visit our events calendar for more, and sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about Center-supported events.



Suzanne Valadon, The Utter Family, 1921, Centre Pompidou – Musée National d’Art Moderne/CCI, Paris, Gift of Doctor Robert Le Masle, 1974. © 2021 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo by Jacqueline Hyde / Image © CNAC/MNAM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY. Photo courtesy of The Barnes Foundation. 


Exhibitions on the History of Art, Design, and Philadelphia

Designing Motherhood: Things That Make and Break Our Births
Through April 22, 2022
Two Maternity Care Coalition exhibitions—one at the Mütter Museum (open now through April 22, 2022) and one at the Center for Architecture and Design (September 10 through November 14, 2021)—survey the arc of human reproduction through the material culture that has defined it over the last century. Ranging from health zines and strollers to obstetrical forceps and early IUDs, exhibition specimens examine both how bodies influence design and how design influences bodies. The Designing Motherhood book—featuring interviews with and essays by more than 50 designers, reproductive justice advocates, and others—will be available September 7.

Pool: A Social History of Segregation
September 3–30, 2021
Set inside the former Kelly Pool within Fairmount Water Works, this multidisciplinary project examines the history and present-day implications of segregated swimming pools in America.  Philadelphia artists have created site-specific installations and experiences for the project, including an animated film by Pew Fellow James Ijames and a multimedia “storytelling canvas” by Pew Fellow Homer Jackson featuring 15 stories told through video, animation, and poetry. Contemporary swimming icons, activists, and scholars share how swimming has affected their lives in a series of vignettes projected on the pool’s floor.

The Contest of the Fruits
September 10–December 12, 2021
The Berlin-based artist collective Slavs & Tatars culminates its Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities residency with an exhibition at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. Through the lens of the titular 19th-century Uyghur allegorical poem—which examines boundary crossings to cultivate understanding, tolerance, and identity—The Contest of the Fruits explores Uyghur culture and includes the collective’s first animated film, which reinterprets the source text as a Turkic rap battle. Additional programming includes lectures, performances, and a book launch.



Ulysses Jenkins, Two Zone Transfer, 1979. Still of video transferred to DVD, color, sound, 23:52 min. Photo courtesy of the artist.


Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation
September 17–December 30, 2021
The Institute of Contemporary Art presents the first major retrospective on influential video artist Ulysses Jenkins. Beginning his career in the 1970s, Jenkins has been expanding the form for decades, inspiring generations of Black video artists in the process. The exhibition will include restagings of two of his major performance works, Bay Window (1991) and Talking Hut (1994), using current video technology, as well as a curator-led tour on September 18.

Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel
September 26, 2021–January 9, 2022
An exhibition of the work of painter Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938), the first self-taught woman to exhibit at the Salon de la Nationale des Beaux-Arts, places her unapologetic portraits and bold nudes in conversation with The Barnes Foundation’s collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century paintings by male artists, interrogating the male gaze and provoking questions about the representation of women in the art-historical canon. Exhibition curator Nancy Ireson will provide an introduction to the exhibition in a lecture at the Barnes on September 26.

Building Knowledge, Breaking Barriers
Through December 31, 2021
Students from the Community College of Philadelphia worked with professional exhibitors and Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) staff to mine 500 years’ worth of documents and ephemera in the PHS archives. These findings are on view in indoor and outdoor exhibitions at PHS, as well as online, to offer new perspectives on topics like the history of the Black Presbyterian Church, the historical norms surrounding the words “abolition” and “revolution,” and the western Christian influence on Japan, among other topics.



Nichole Canuso Dance Company, Being/With in development. Photo by Johanna Austin.


Performances Contemplate Connection, Nature, and Legacy

Love Unpunished
September 3–11, 2021
Pig Iron Theatre Company is restaging its movement-theater homage to the final moments before the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Without direct reference to the towers, the contemplative, unsentimental piece—originally mounted in 2006—visualizes bodies in motion descending escape stairs, embodying confusion, and trying to stay calm.

September 10–October 2, 2021
In Nichole Canuso Dance Company’s participatory performance piece, audience members in South and West Philadelphia connect virtually for a guided conversation and movement duet. Each participant is paired with a counterpart in the other location to work together, bringing together people of divergent backgrounds for an intimate, collaborative performance.

Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley: Blood Moon
September 24, 2021–February 20, 2022
Artists Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley culminate their two-year residency at the Fabric Workshop and Museum with an immersive exhibition centered around the duo’s two new film works, blending performance, installation, drawings, and sculpture across two floors of the museum. The films—featuring the Kelleys’ distinctive black-and-white palette and wordplay-heavy scripts—draw from John Steinbeck and Jackson Pollock to interrogate the mechanics of power and fallibility.



Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley, Blood Moon video still, 2021, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Image courtesy of the artists.


Where is my B-O-D-Y
September 25
As part of choreographer Kun-Yang Lin’s collaboration with fellow dance artists Gus Solomons jr and Pallabi Chakravorty, Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers presents the results of the trio’s investigation of movement methods for mature artists with physical limitations. This community sharing event (with another showing in New York City on September 19) includes movement demonstrations, discussion, and an audience Q&A. 

The Philadelphia Matter – 1972/2020 Screening
September 28–29, 2021
Building on pioneering choreographer David Gordon’s foundational piece The Matter, this film work weaves together the performances of more than 30 artists recorded separately in Philadelphia, New York, and elsewhere, along with archival footage from previous versions. These free screenings at Christ Church Neighborhood House include additional programming: a panel discussion on September 28 and a performance, class, and panel discussion on September 29. 

Sun & Sea
September 30–October 3, 2021
Arcadia Exhibitions presents this 60-minute looping opera-performance, which won the Golden Lion for best national presentation at the 2019 Venice Biennale. Set on an artificial beach, the work plumbs humans’ strained relationship with a warming planet, as swimsuit-clad singers convey anxieties ranging from sunburn to environmental catastrophe. The original cast is joined by a non-singing ensemble of local performers. 

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