Catch up on this month’s Pew Fellows news, including interviews, accolades, and how to see their latest work.
Still from the film Test Pattern, 2018, directed by Pew Fellow Shatara Michelle Ford. Pictured center: Brittany S. Hall as “Renesha.”
This month, The Annenberg Center is presenting a series of films by Pew Fellows, including Shatara Michelle Ford’s (2020) Test Pattern, Deron Albright’s (2012) Destiny of Lesser Animals, Rea Tajiri’s (2015) Strawberry Fields, and Tom Quinn’s (2020) Colewell. BlackStar Projects artistic director and CEO Maori Karmael Holmes curated the series. Ford’s Test Pattern is also available to stream online via Kino Marquee and has garnered significant critical attention. Variety’s review observes that the “intelligent and engrossing feature debut packs an enormous amount in, while still finding room to let characters, moments and difficult, provocative issues breathe.”
Opera Philadelphia is presenting the world premiere of Courtney Bryan’s Blessed, a collaboration with filmmaker Tiona Nekkia McClodden (2016). The digital piece (available online through May 31) is a “response to the milestone events of 2020,” says Opera Philadelphia, and weaves together musical recordings and film footage from New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia.
Philly D.A.—a documentary series by filmmaker Ted Passon (2014), Yoni Brook, and Nicole Salazar—premieres on PBS on April 20. The eight-episode series follows Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s first term in office and his attempt to reform the city’s criminal justice system. The series will also screen in its entirety for the first time at the Visions du Réel film festival in Switzerland April 15–25.
Fellow-in-Residence Raven Chacon (2020) launched Radio Coyote, a 24-hour broadcast available online and by FM radio that runs through June 30. Chacon and guest collaborators host music, archival lectures and recordings, interviews, and improvised material. Listen live on the Radio Coyote website.
The New York Times highlighted OverTime, a new augmented reality app from Monument Lab that offers free historical tours of the city. Poet Ursula Rucker (2018) leads the app’s first tour, which begins at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “All of our memories matter,” Rucker said. “We are our own monuments.”
Jane Irish, 2011 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art will present New Grit: Art & Philly Now, an exhibition of the work of contemporary Philadelphia artists, opening May 7. Of the 25 artists to be featured in the exhibition, 17 are Pew Fellows: Nichole Canuso (2017), Jonathan Lyndon Chase (2019), Alex Da Corte (2012), Micah Danges (2015), David Hartt (2018), Sharon Hayes (2016), Jane Irish (2011), Roberto Lugo (2019), Ken Lum (2018), Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Eileen Neff (1994), Michelle Angela Ortiz (2018), Tim Portlock (2011), Judith Schaechter (1992), Becky Suss (2019), Kukuli Velarde (2003), and Wilmer Wilson IV (2017). The museum’s press release says the exhibition “will examine in new and striking ways how artists tackle the complexities of being and belonging, connectedness and community in our 21st-century world.”
The New York Times published a new interactive piece by poet Yolanda Wisher (2015) and photographer Jessica Lehrman as part of its The Week Our Reality Broke series “reflecting on a year of living with the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected American society.” Titled “We Were Born to be Kissed in the Dark,” the prose poem reminisces about the emotions and physical sensations of gathering and dancing together in public places.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present visual artist Alex Da Corte’s new work As Long as the Sun Lasts—a metal and fiberglass rendering of Sesame Street’s Big Bird—in its rooftop garden April 16 through October 31. “When I think of [Big Bird actor] Carrol Spinney,” Da Corte told The New York Times, “I think what a selfless labor of love—how beautiful. To do that all of your life. It’s difficult to run around with these young people and ask questions and educate them. That brings me hope. That’s something I want to be a part of.”
The Museum of Modern Art has acquired visual artist Pepón Osorio’s (2006) installation Badge of Honor. The work has been exhibited in numerous venues internationally since 1995. It made its Philadelphia debut in a North Philadelphia community center in 2007, which Artblog described as “like a theater set—dramatic and a little forbidding.” Read the announcement and see a photo of the work on MoMA curator Stuart Comer’s Instagram.
The Locks Gallery presented an exhibition of recent paintings and ceramic works of visual artist Jane Irish in February and March. A review from Hyperallergic describes many of the exhibition’s pieces, referring to one piece, Tapestry Hall, as a “truly virtuosic work” and observing that Irish’s “intertextual artworks posit war as a curse that we can’t escape.”
A new book of Sonia Sanchez’s (1993) poetry, Collected Poems, is available now via Beacon Press. Sanchez spoke to Philadelphia Magazine about her early life and family, her political awakening, what brought her to Philadelphia, and her reflections on the past year.
Visual artist Jonathan Lyndon Chase’s exhibition Big Wash is on view at The Fabric Workshop and Museum through June 6. Artforum called the show’s collection of laundromat-themed new works “a paean to queer Black sociality in layers of ecstatic intimacy, limpid melancholy, and soapy ablution.”
In a compilation of recommended April book releases, ABC News includes You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience, a new anthology edited by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown, to which writer Imani Perry (2019) contributed. Perry was also featured on CNN’s Silence is Not an Option podcast, hosted by Don Lemon, to examine the history, endurance, and cultural significance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black National Anthem.
Tim Portlock, 2011 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.
Awards & Recognition
Visual artist Pepón Osorio, writer Imani Perry, and photographer Ron Tarver (2001) received 2021 Guggenheim Fellowships. The full list of fellows includes 184 artists, writers, scholars, and scientists. Edward Hirsh, president of the Guggenheim Foundation, stated that the fellows’ work “will help us understand more deeply what we are enduring individually and collectively.”
Interdisciplinary social practice artists Camae Ayewa and Rasheedah Phillips (2017), whose collaborative practice is known as Black Quantum Futurism, received two recent awards: a Knight Arts + Tech Fellowship, a $50,000 award from the Knight Foundation for artists “using new and emerging technologies in thoughtful, creative, and poetic ways to expand the field;” and Arts at CERN’s Collide residency, which includes a two-month residency at CERN in Switzerland and a one-month residency in Barcelona at the Hangar Centre for Art Research and Production. In a WHYY feature about the duo, Phillips explained, “Art costs money, you know. It’s not a cheap practice. We’re two Black women from North Philly who have not had the same ability to focus on our art practice in the same way as if we were classically trained or able to go to school for our art. To be able, in just a few years, to build our practice and get to this level is amazing.”
Multidisciplinary artists Carolyn Lazard (2019) and Sharon Hayes are recipients of United States Artists’ 2021 fellowships, which include $50,000 unrestricted awards for each artist. Artists are chosen for their “bold artistic vision and significant impact” and “generosity and care toward field-building that continues to inspire and propel their discipline.”
Visual artist Tim Portlock is among three artists chosen for the Great Rivers Biennial Arts Award Program, a collaborative initiative between the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM) and the Gateway Foundation, which included a $20,000 award and an exhibition at CAM. CAM describes Portlock’s work as focused on “the divergence between the idealism of American exceptionalism and the lived realities of contemporary American cities with declining populations.”
Musician and composer Jamaaladeen Tacuma (2011) is among 23 recipients of a Black Music City grant between $1,000 and $3,500 to create new artistic works inspired by Philadelphia’s Black music history. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Tacuma will use his grant toward creating a tribute to bassist Ronnie Baker, guitarist Norman Harris, and drummer Earl Young “as early architects of the Sound of Philadelphia.”