Pew Fellows in the Arts Move Forward at the MacDowell Colony

1/2: Kara Crombie, 2010 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.
2/2: Jamaaladeen Tacuma, 2011 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.

In November 2011, the Center announced a new initiative through its Pew Fellowships program, which provides support for current and recent Fellows to complete full-time artist residencies in a variety of locales. These opportunities, vital to nurturing and advancing creative work, afford Pew Fellows the valuable gift of time and freedom to concentrate on their art-making without distractions from the world outside. The residencies allow the program to extend its relationships with Pew Fellows beyond the given time period of their awards—offering professional growth opportunities that deeply impact their work and its subsequent development. Many of these residencies fall under a partnership with the Alliance of Artist Communities through which interested Pew Fellows may, by a simple application process, journey to one of four creative communities: Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada; 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, CA; Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA; and the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming.

Apart from these four, the Center has also established an additional partnership with the MacDowell Colony, a renowned community and residency program in Peterborough, NH, whose history encompasses a long list of artistic luminaries. The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Residency at the MacDowell Colony is an award made to one Pew Fellow each year, who gains acceptance through MacDowell’s rigorous application and selection process. The first two Fellows awarded this opportunity were visual artist Kara Crombie (2010 Pew Fellow) and free jazz bassist, composer, and bandleader Jamaaladeen Tacuma (2011 Pew Fellow).

Kara Crombie, a video artist and photographer working with animation, was in residence at MacDowell from December 16, 2011 to January 13, 2012, where she completed the animation of a new video that was exhibited at Philadelphia’s Vox Populi gallery in April of 2012. “[MacDowell’s] environment (quiet, dark woods), facilities (a huge, isolated studio) and awesome staff—they bring you your lunch in a basket!—afforded me some of the productive time I have ever had in the studio,” Crombie recalled. The opportunity to live and work amongst artists working in other disciplines also proved valuable in the development of her practice. “Artistic fields tend to be isolated from each other,” she said. “I loved meeting and talking to writers especially. The ones I met gave me a lot of valuable advice and a fresh perspective on my work.” Crombie traveled to Berlin in the summer of 2012, where she worked on her next project, a piece about “suffering heroes.”

Pew Fellow Jamaaladeen Tacuma completed his residency at MacDowell in early 2012. “It’s a pleasure to wake up every day and create whenever and whatever I so desire,” he said. The project he worked on, “2 Groove Electric,” is a multimedia work that celebrates the musical lives and influences of Charlie Christian, the first electric guitarist, and Monk Montgomery, the first electric bassist—musicians largely overlooked in the realm of music history. Tacuma also worked on a book, Sharp As a Tack, which explores fashion’s influence on music and vice versa—a subject of interest since childhood, when Tacuma saw a host of stylish soul, R&B, and jazz musicians play at North Philadelphia’s Uptown Theater. Like Crombie, Tacuma also benefitted from his time spent around artists working in other fields. He started a program, Jamaaladeen Tacuma’s MacDowell Co-Labs, in which he collaborated with writers, filmmakers, and architects. He believed that the environment at MacDowell provides an ideal space for learning and inspiration. “You have to put yourself directly in the middle and be able to receive, and it will come to you,” he said. “From that you can move forward.”

Watch a clip of Tacuma working in his live-in studio:


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