Summer Syllabus: 15 Documentaries, Books, and Other Artistic Works to Watch and Read

01 Jun 2022


Recent grantee publications. Photo courtesy of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Exhibitions and performances don’t always end at the gallery, museum, or theater exit. The works below—drawn from recent, ongoing, or upcoming projects funded by the Center—include a mini-documentary about artistic collaboration during a pandemic, a survey of the material culture of maternity, a series of conversations about the power and potential of Black archives, and catalogues from major artist retrospectives.

Revisiting History

Archiving Black Culture: Ethics and Practices of Change
This series of discussions brought together archivists, scholars, and curators to explore the work being done to restore Black cultural presence, expand content, and reimagine access. In her role as The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage’s 2020–21 Visiting Scholar, Linda Earle convened talks with six speakers presenting thoughtful insight and conversation on how Black archives can serve as a framework for a multivalent exploration of Black cultural production.

Designing Motherhood: Things that Make and Break Our Births
Maternity Care Coalition’s Designing Motherhood project surveyed the designs that have shaped the many elements of birth and maternity over the past 100 years. Accompanying two exhibitions, this book, edited by project curators Michelle Millar Fisher and Amber Winick, features interviews with and essays by more than 50 designers, reproductive justice advocates, and others on designs related to human reproduction and fertility, contraception norms, fertility enablement, pregnancy termination, and the choice to be child-free.

David Hartt’s The Histories
A monograph from Pew Fellow David Hartt documents a trilogy of works known as The Histories, which highlights “the complex entanglement of peoples and cultures as place is explored.” The first installment, Le Mancenillier, was a Center-supported, site-responsive multimedia installation at Beth Sholom Synagogue, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed National Historic Landmark in Elkins Park, PA, prompting dialogue between congregants and the new visitors who discovered the historic site for the first time.

Shofuso & Modernism
Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia’s Shofuso & Modernism exhibition celebrated the relationships of Shofuso architect Junzo Yoshimura, furniture designer George Nakashima, architects and designers Antonin and Noémi Raymond, whose mutual respect and transcultural exchange of ideas are demonstrated through their collaborative architectural projects. This documentary from the project features interviews with artists and scholars to provide deeper context for the historic site’s architectural history and the collaborative relationships of the exhibition’s subjects. A catalogue from the exhibition will be available in summer 2022.



Milford Graves, Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal, 2020, installation view, presented by Ars Nova Workshop, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Constance Mensh.


Artist Retrospectives

Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal
This illustrated catalogue accompanies Ars Nova Workshop’s retrospective on the multidisciplinary work of Milford Graves, curated by Mark Christman and Anthony Elms. The free jazz pioneer and polymath traversed music, activism, medicine, botany, and martial arts. The catalogue documents the eponymous show at the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia and details Graves’ intricate, multifaceted work, including hand-painted album covers and posters, idiosyncratic drum sets, recording ephemera, multimedia sculptures, photographs, and costumes, with elements from his home and scientific studies.

Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation
The Institute of Contemporary Art’s exhibition, curated by Meg Onli and Erin Christovale, was the first major retrospective on groundbreaking video artist Ulysses Jenkins, who emerged in the late 1970s and was enormously influential for Black video artists of the 1990s and early 2000s. This catalogue collects early documentary films, photographs, ephemera, and video art from Jenkins’ archive to survey his critical depictions of multiculturalism.

Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel
The Barnes Foundation’s monographic survey of Suzanne Valadon’s painting career, curated by Nancy Ireson, was the first major American exhibition of Valadon’s work. Echoing the exhibition, this catalogue considers the artist’s rich contributions to and role within the Parisian art world, where she challenged social norms in both her lifestyle and art-making, painting unapologetic portraits and bold nudes.



Miss Bennett, shoot for Voices from the Broad Street Ministry film series, 2021, Broad Street Ministry. Photo by Freshfly.


Community Voices

Unity x AAI Zines
Asian Arts Initiative’s Unity at the Initiative project offered a number of ways to experience diverse representations of queer and trans BIPOC artists and skateboarding communities through both indoor and outdoor exhibitions, and from home. Each of these catalogues includes four community-produced zines and two posters.

Voices from Broad Street Ministry: Stories of Strength, Resilience and Creativity
Each film in this 21-part series presents the thoughts, ideas, and experiences of Broad Street Ministry community members through poetry, musical performances, interviews, and other formats. BSM guests created the pieces during a series of workshops with filmmaker and Pew Fellow Glenn Holsten and art therapist Michael Galarraga.

Kanaval: Haitian Rhythms & the Music of New Orleans
WXPN’s radio documentary, hosted by Haitian American and New Orleans-based artist and musician Leyla McCalla, chronicles the history of Haiti and Haitian influences on the music, culture, and community of New Orleans. The documentary includes interviews and music from Haitian artists as well as historical perspective and insights from experts on the history of Haiti and the Haitian diaspora.

Staying Power Newspapers
The Village of Arts and Humanities’ Staying Power project, a public art exhibition curated by Monument Lab, was installed in North Philadelphia’s Fairhill-Hartranft neighborhood, offering new public artworks and programs in response to two questions: What is your staying power in your neighborhood? What is your staying power in a city and world that are rapidly changing? The artists and residents have produced a newspaper to detail and document the project in greater depth, and the first and second issues are available on the Staying Power website.

100 People Listening: A Shared Decade
Philadelphia Contemporary’s ten-year project connects 100 Philadelphian’s of varying racial, economic, social, and political backgrounds so pairs of strangers can have a structured hourlong conversation once a year. The conversational process is guided by listening advocates, who offer video tutorials on productive listening.



The Contest of the Fruits book launch with Slavs and Tatars, 2021, Twelve Gates Arts. Photo by Holden Blanco, courtesy of Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities.


New Works Inspired by Past Works

The Contest of the Fruits
The Hurford Center for Arts & Humanities’ project with art collective Slavs & Tatars included an exhibition and series of events that explored Uyghur language, politics, religion, humor, and resilience through the lens of the titular 19th-century Uyghur allegorical poem. This accompaniment extends the project’s themes with essays, poetry, and shorter “pop-out” texts on subjects including language politics and Uyghur rap in China.

Mary Reid Kelley & Patrick Kelley: Blood Moon
The Blood Moon catalogue documents the work of artists Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley, from their first collaboration in 2008 through their recent residency and exhibition at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, through new essays, an interview with the artists, film scripts, and process imagery. Blood Moon, the duo’s latest project, culminated in an immersive installation centered on the presentation of two new film works: Blood Moon, inspired by John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and I’m Jackson Pollock, which follows the bombastic titular character as he appears and reappears throughout a gallery full of props, sculptures, and sets.

The Tattooed Lady Mini-Documentary
Philadelphia Theatre Company’s forthcoming musical, premiering in October 2022, illustrates a historically inspired survey of women sideshow performers who transformed their lives with tattoos. This video from PTC documents how the creative team developed the work during the pandemic.