On September 19, 2011, a group of Pew Fellows gathered at Philadelphia’s Print Center for an evening that was part consumption, part inspiration. The event was the first in a series of dinners and discussions, meant to introduce Pew Fellows to exceptional artists outside of the area and the creative leaps different artists take in their projects and practice.
The special guest for the evening was Rick Lowe, founder of Project Row Houses, a neighborhood-based nonprofit in Houston, which has focused since 1993 on using creative solutions to renovate old homes and thereby revitalizing the mostly African-American community. Lowe began as a painter, until he realized that he could accomplish more outside of his own studio. He described the challenge someone offered him: “We know what the problems in our community are; we live with them every day. You’re an artist—why can’t you create a solution?”
Lowe explained to the Pew Fellows in attendance that with this challenge in mind, he left his studio life behind and went out into the world to volunteer. When he discovered the dilapidated row homes in Houston’s Northern Third Ward, he began to imagine how he and his fellow artists could utilize their collective creativity to transform the homes in order to re-contextualize them, giving them value and a place in the history of the area. A group of artists worked on one house each, working with the residents to ensure that personal touches and cultural flourishes to the homes remained intact. Project Row Houses has since continued to offer creative solutions and alternatives to gentrification.
“The sum of our creativity is much stronger and better than the individual,” Lowe told the Fellows, who were inspired by Lowe’s approach to social good, and how it incorporates that creativity without sacrificing artistic excellence.
Raphael Xavier presents Raphstravaganza, a contemporary circus-style performance featuring street performers, extreme BMX riders, acrobatic contortionists, and live music.
The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania is widely known for giving artists exhibitions at critical points in their careers.
This project allowed Cliveden to adaptively re-use Upsala (a historic home on the site of Cliveden) for office space and community programming.
Raphael Xavier (Pew Fellow, 2013) has practiced “breaking,” an acrobatic street dance style commonly known as breakdancing, since 1983.
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education embarked on a comprehensive re-envisioning of its art program to align it more fully with its overall goals.
Frank Sherlock is named Philadelphia’s new poet laureate, William Daley receives a solo exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, and poets Teresa Leo, Pattie McCarthy, and Jenn McCreary release new books.
Crossroads Music presented a 24-hour marathon concert of Hindustani (North Indian classical) music, featuring leading musicians from India and the United States.
Kim Arrow is a dance artist and a 2003 Pew Fellow.
Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture presents a day-long public forum exploring stories of displacement.
Yolanda Wisher’s (Pew Fellow, 2015) writing addresses both artistic and community-oriented pursuits. The founder and director of the Germantown Poetry Festival, she is dedicated to poetry as a performative, public act, capable of producing environmental and social change.
Filmmaker Heidi Saman’s film Namour is acquired for theatrical and on-demand distribution, theater artist Geoff Sobelle presents The Object Lesson at New York Theatre Workshop, and composer Jennifer Higdon is nominated for two Grammy Awards.
Dito van Reigersberg is a theater artist, a co-founder and co-artistic director of Pig Iron Theatre Company, and a 2002 Pew Fellow.