The Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) and the Stuart Weitzman School of Design have been awarded project grants by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. A project by Girard College that involves two Penn faculty, theater director Brooke O’Harra and music composer Tyshawn Sorey, both of the School of Arts & Sciences, also received a grant.
The Pew Center announced 41 grants totaling $10.5 million in support of the Philadelphia region’s artists and cultural programs, events, and artistic work.
The ICA received a $360,000 grant for “Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation,” the first major retrospective on the pioneering work of one of the first Black video artists to emerge in the late 1970s. The exhibition will be on view at ICA in the fall of 2021 and then travel to the Hammer Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the winter of 2022. The exhibition is co-curated by Meg Onli, ICA Andrea B. Laporte Associate Curator, and the Hammer’s Erin Christovale.
“From Jenkins’s critique of racial stereotypes in Hollywood to his use of cutting-edge technology, Jenkins’s remarkable body of work is as relevant today as it was over 40 years ago,” Onli says. “With this incredible support from Pew we are able to realize a comprehensive survey of this under-recognized artist and spark a rediscovery of the work by this seminal figure in contemporary art.”
The Weitzman School received a $360,000 grant for “What Minerva Built,” the first exhibition to survey the work of architect Minerva Parker Nichols (1862-1949). It will reexamine her contributions to Philadelphia’s built environment at the turn of the 20th century, as well as spotlight the broader legacy of women in design. The exhibition, co-curated by the Weitzman School’s William Whitaker, will feature newly commissioned photographs of surviving Nichols buildings, along with drawings and archival materials. The show will be exhibited in the fall of 2022 at the Kroiz Gallery of the Architectural Archives at Penn.
“Thinking about the blind spots in design history is a compelling topic,” says Whitaker, curator and collections manager of the Architectural Archives. “I’m looking forward to working with colleagues Molly Lester, Heather Isbell Schumacher, and photographer Elizabeth Felicella to explore questions about collecting, preserving, and writing history against the backdrop of contemporary cultural change.”
O’Harra, a senior lecturer in creative writing, and Sorey, Presidential Assistant Professor of Music, are part of a project by Girard College, “Be Holding,” which received a grant of $308,520. O’Harra will be the theater director and Sorey the composer for the project to create a musical performance that will engage the tuition-free boarding school’s students in first through 12th grades. The three-year commission will explore themes of Black genius and beauty in the face of racial violence and inequities. The libretto will be the book-length poem by Ross Gay, “Be Holding,” inspired by Philadelphia 76ers basketball champion Julius Erving. The New York-based musical ensemble Yarn/Wire is also part of the project.
“Because we’ll build the performance through a multiyear residency, we’ll have many opportunities to respond and integrate one another’s impulses, working towards discovery and potential instead of driving heedlessly towards the final product,” O’Harra says. “The added benefit of building this work in relation and around the young and amazing Girard College kids keeps the work fun, immediate, and relevant.”
Other Penn-affiliated grant recipients include Maori Karmael Holmes of BlackStar Projects, currently the mediamaker-in-residence at Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication, who will curate two installations “Swarm: Terence Nance” about the Black filmmaker, writer, actor, and musician, supported by a $262,164 grant. One exhibition will be at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the other at The Fabric Workshop and Museum.
Airea D. Matthews, who graduated from Penn with a B.A. in economics, is one of the 12 Pew Fellows this year, receiving a grant of $75,000. A poet, she is an assistant professor of creative writing at Bryn Mawr College.
Jayson Musson, an artist who received his M.F.A. in painting from Penn, has been commissioned for a two-year residency at the Fabric Workshop and Museum. Supported by a grant of $323,520 the project, “Jayson Musson: His History of Art,” will feature videos, film sets, gallery installations, and a publication.
Dan Rothenberg, who was an artist-in-residence at the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities in 2017, will be the director of a production at the Pig Iron Theatre Company, “The Pregnant Speakeasy,” supported by a $360,000 grant.