Pew Fellows News: Jennifer Higdon Wins Grammy, New Yorker Profiles Becky Suss, Rebecca Rutstein Debuts AT&T Building Mural

31 Mar 2020

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Jennifer Higdon, 1999 Pew Fellow. Photo by Andrew Bogard.

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

Honors and Awards

Composer Jennifer Higdon (1999) won a Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” for Harp Concerto. The piece was recorded by the Rochester Philharmonic and harpist Yolanda Kondonassis, who was nominated in the “Best Instrumental Solo” category for her performance. Higdon has been nominated for six Grammys and has won three, including one for Viola Concerto in 2018. Read more from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Choreographer jumatatu poe (2012) has been granted a 2020 Creative Capital Award for his in-progress multimedia performance installation terrestrial, which Creative Capital describes as “a rigorous imagination of Black humans as earth, epic, and finite.” The award includes $50,000 in project funding alongside $50,000 of career development services.

Visual artist Ken Lum (2018) was awarded the 2019 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the Art Gallery of Ontario for his “outstanding contribution to the visual arts in Canada,” Artforum reports. Lum recently debuted a work of public art in Burnaby, British Columbia, titled The Retired Draught Horse and the Last Pulled Log, and published a book, Everything is Relevant: Writings on Art and Life 1991 – 2018. The Monument Lab website has an excerpt.

Filmmaker Tayarisha Poe (2017) was included in the 2020 Alice Initiative List, a roster of twenty emerging female directors who are poised for studio directing roles. Poe’s feature film, Selah and the Spades, premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2019 and is scheduled to be released by Amazon Studios in April 2020. Read more from The Hollywood Reporter.

The Da Vinci Art Alliance has named a new fellowship after visual artist Michelle Angela Ortiz (2018). The fellowship will provide “an opportunity for an artist/curator exploring international identities and personal narratives to curate a show in the Da Vinci Art Alliance gallery space.” The Michelle Angela Ortiz Fellowship is named in recognition of Ortiz’s “years of work using her art to represent people and communities whose histories are often lost or co-opted.”

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James Ijames, 2015 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

Profiles & Reviews

Painter Becky Suss (2019) was profiled by The New Yorker in advance of the opening of her solo exhibition, Where They Are, at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City. The large-scale paintings in the show draw their subject matter from children’s literature and “prod whatever false distinctions have been erected between feminized domestic culture…and Art with a capital ‘A.’” The gallery is currently closed due to COVID-19 precautions, but the exhibition may still be on view when it reopens.

Playwright and director James Ijames (2015) was praised by The New York Times for TJ Loves Sally 4 Ever, a “whip-smart satire” that engages with the historical figures of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings while set on a contemporary college campus. “As much as this is a play about dismantling an ugly legacy,” the Times notes, “it is even more about constructing something better in its place…This confrontational, compassionate takedown of a host of social toxins is a step in that direction.”

Visual artist Sharon Hayes (2017) spoke with Design Weekly about Performance Intensive (“a laboratory in which a group of participants collectively explore performance” across genres), Hayes’ own background in performance art, and her current artistic practice. Hayes sees performance as a medium that is “foundationally invested in liveness and in the idea of being present with others, so when people gather in a specific place at a specific time to encounter something together, it can be quite profound.”

Visual artist Karyn Olivier‘s (2019) solo exhibition of large-scale sculptures at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (ICA) was reviewed by The Architect's Newspaper. In keeping with Olivier’s ongoing exploration of monuments and memorials, Karyn Olivier: Everything That’s Alive Moves thrusts these public symbols “into new contexts that pose questions about the larger concepts of citizenship and responsibility.” (The ICA is currently closed due to COVID-19 precautions.)

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Julia Bloch, 2017 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

New Work

Visual artist Rebecca Rutstein (2004) designed the mural that now adorns the AT&T Building near Philadelphia’s South Street Bridge. Titled Convergence, the 7,800-square-foot diptych is a colorful, geometric abstraction of the adjacent Schuylkill River. Rutstein told The Pennsylvania Gazette that the mural “ties into the rest of my work and my interest in geology, the fractals found in nature, and the complexity of systems.”

National Concerts presented a program at Carnegie Hall last month titled What is Home?, which featured the world premiere of Home in Me, a new work by Andrea Clearfield (2016). Clearfield, a composer-in-residence with National Concerts, created the piece for treble chorus, percussion, and piano.

My General Tubman, written by Lorene Cary (1995) and directed by James Ijames (2015), has received praise from critics during its extended run at the Arden Theater. The play is Cary’s first work for the stage. Featuring a time-travelling Harriet Tubman, the play is “really about a deeper connection between the past and the present,” according to Philadelphia Magazine. Listen to Cary and Ijames discuss the work on WHYY's Radio Times.

Poet Julia Bloch (2017) has released her third book of poetry, The Sacramento of Desire. Bloch told Penn Today that the work is “about the desire for making a family in a world that can make that very difficult, especially for queer people who don’t fit neatly into the categories that are offered them.”

A short documentary by filmmakers Barbara Attie (2005), Janet Goldwater (2005), and Mike Attie screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa follows the work of counselors at the Philadelphia abortion helpline as they stretch limited resources to serve women whose access to abortion is restricted by economic circumstance. Read more from The Philadelphia Inquirer.