Penn Professors and Projects Receive 2017 Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Fellowships and Grants

Three University of Pennsylvania professors were chosen as 2017 Pew Fellows, awarded two of the 12 fellowships funded by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in Philadelphia. In addition, three Penn projects were selected to receive Pew project and advancement grants.

Penn’s Julia Bloch, and jointly Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha, received the Pew Fellowships of $75,000. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology was awarded a multi-year Pew advancement grant. Penn’s WXPN radio station and Kayla Romberger in the School of Design were awarded project grants.

​​​​​​​Bloch, director of Penn’s Creative Writing Program in the School of Arts & Sciences, is a poet whose lyric and prose poems blend the personal and political to, as she says, “negotiate tensions between individual forms of expression and webs of social meaning.”​​​​​​​

Also a professor in the English Department, Bloch earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in English literature from Penn and was previously the associate director of the University’s Kelly Writers House. Her books of poetry include Valley Fever and Letters to Kelly Clarkson, as well as several chapbooks. 

Bloch said she plans to use the grant funding to finish two works in progress, a new book of poetry that deals with futurity and a memoir-inflected poetic work that draws on research she plans to conduct on climate and genealogy on the West Coast and Sydney, Australia.

Mathur, a professor in the Landscape Architecture Department in Penn Design and a Penn alumna, was awarded a fellowship with colleague da Cunha, an adjunct professor of landscape architecture.​​​​​​​

Their collaborative work “imagines new possibilities for design of the built environment and explores the lines separating land and water and urban and rural environments.”

Their interest in how water and landscapes are visualized has taken them to diverse terrains around the world, resulting in several books. They are currently at work on The Descent of Ganga, a multimedia exhibition examining the influence of human intervention on rivers.

WXPN was awarded one of 39 project grants, $288,000 in funding for “Saturday Night & Sunday Morning: The Gospel Roots of Rock & Soul,” to explore the roots of gospel and its influence on secular popular music. 

WXPN General Manager Roger LaMay said the grant will fund several initiatives, including field work to trace gospel’s influence on rock-and-roll and soul music, bringing live performers to campus and Philadelphia churches, as well as to create a media-rich project website. The project will culminate in a two-hour radio documentary for regional and national broadcast in early 2019, which will include performance recordings, interviews with artists and conversations with music historians.

Kayla Romberger, a Fine Arts lecturer in Penn Design, was awarded a project grant for “Publishing as Practice.” The initiative will bring together three experimental art publishers to explore publishing as an incubator for new forms of editorial, curatorial and artistic practice through a residency program based in Philadelphia’s Ulises bookshop. The shop will serve as a public programming hub throughout the residencies, hosting workshops and discussions and inviting the public to engage with the space and the visiting artists. 

The Penn Museum was awarded one of two advancement grants, $500,000 to launch a multi-year initiative to develop new approaches to public programming and communications to enrich visitors’ understanding of human history. The initiatives are set to complement new signature galleries, beginning with the Middle East Galleries, which will open in April 2018. 

Another Penn-related 2017 Pew Fellowship was awarded to Wilmer Wilson IV, who earned his MFA from Penn Design in 2015.