Fellows Friday: Q&A with Dan Murphy

Dan Murphy and Anthony Smyrski, a.k.a. Megawords, 2012 Pew Fellows. Photo by Colin Lenton.

As part of our “Fellows Friday” web feature, we focus on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges. This week, we speak to 2012 Pew Fellow Dan Murphy, who makes up one half of the artist duo Megawords, along with Anthony Smyrski. Megawords is well known throughout Philadelphia for installations that are equal parts gathering space, artist studio, and storefront. In recent years, Murphy and Smyrski have worked with major cultural institutions such as Creative Time in New York City and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

What images or things keep you company in the space where you work?

I have lots of small clippings, pages, and stickers that really help to inspire me and establish my current direction. For example, I’ve got a picture of John Cardiel—he’s a professional skateboarder who got paralyzed and was told he would never walk again, and now he can skate, ride a bike, and walk. I have a picture of Swami Prabhupada. He came to America in his late sixties with nothing and died 12 years later after circling the globe 14 times and opening over 100 Hare Krishna temples worldwide. I have a drawing by Alexis Ross; he’s an artist from Los Angeles with some of the best style around. I have other things, too, like pictures of friends that have passed away, necklaces, beads, cassettes, etc.

If you could live with only one piece of art, what would it be?

A small Margaret Kilgallen drawing would be a wonderful thing to live with.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?

Something with food. I’m actually considering it. I see positive things happening within the food community and I think I have some ideas and energy to offer.

Do you think about your legacy and, if so, how does your thinking about it affect your practice?

I don’t think about my legacy at all. Planning one’s image or legacy is a setup for disaster, in my opinion. Disappointment can only come from expectation.


In this month’s Pew Fellows news highlights, theater artists Thaddeus Phillips and Pig Iron Theatre Company’s Dito Van Reigersberg, Dan Rothenberg, and Gabriel Quinn Bauriedel, as well as choreographer Kate Watson-Wallace, all have works on stage at FringeArts. Master embroiderer Vera Nakonechny talks to the National Endowment for the Arts about the history behind her work, and novelist Ken Kalfus’ new book is released.

Grants & Grantees

Founded in 2002 by two composers, Chamber Music Now provided the Philadelphia community with original concert productions.

The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia opened to the public in 1954 and is located in the former home of brothers Philip and Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach, international dealers in rare books, manuscripts, and fine and decorative arts.

Grants & Grantees

Orrin Evans (Pew Fellow, 2010) never stops thinking about the traditions and evolution of jazz music, as well as renewing jazz’s legacy in the African-American community.

Choreographer and Pew Fellow Lela Aisha Jones on the importance of “creative spirits” in her family, what motivates her to create, the Philadelphia arts scene, and more.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Susan Bernofsky is an author and German-language literature translator. She directs the literary translation program in the School of the Arts MFA Writing Program at Columbia University.

Grants & Grantees

Frank Bramblett is a visual artist and a 2000 Pew Fellow.

Grants & Grantees

Susan Lankin-Watts (Pew Fellow, 2015) is a singer, trumpet player, composer, and arranger whose complex arrangements draw from tradition, the poetry of her great-grandfather, and a desire to give new voice to the art form and create klezmer culture for a younger generation.

Grants & Grantees

On view in late 2013, the Institute of Contemporary Art’s comprehensive survey of Rhoades’ all-embracing vision was organized around four room-sized sculptures dating from 1993 to 2006.

The Fabric Workshop and Museum presents new work by Artist-in-Residence Sarah Sze in her first solo exhibition in the Philadelphia area.

Visual artist and Pew Fellow Caroline Lathan-Stiefel on creating large-scale installations from ordinary objects, work-life balance, and more.

We speak with Xavier—2013 Pew Fellow, hip-hop dancer, and Post-it aficionado—whose recent work The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching Performance was hailed by Dance Magazine as “artful and mesmerizing.”