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.


Barbara Kasten: Stages curator Alex Klein explains the significance of staging and props in Kasten’s work, in this catalogue excerpt.

Fall kicks off with a packed schedule of Center-funded projects, including exhibition openings from Temple Contemporary and The Galleries at Moore, and performance premieres at the 2015 Fringe Festival that push the boundaries of genre and form.

This month in Fellows Friday news: Vera Nakonechny is named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts, Alex Da Corte exhibits at White Cube, and much more.

Founded in 1887, the Penn Museum has begun to establish relationships with its neighbors in West Philadelphia and open conversations with communities outside the university.

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

Eric Schoefer is a dancer and a 1999 Pew Fellow.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Curator Mary Jane Jacob is professor and executive director of exhibitions and exhibition studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Pedro R. Aponte is an assistant professor of musicology and music history at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.

Born in Venezuela, Kotain works with various Philadelphia-area nonprofit cultural organizations to teach others about his Arab and Latin musical traditions.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Director of Three Aksha School of Performing Arts, Rao is trained in Bharatanatyam, a classical South Indian dance form marked by expressive hand gestures and elaborate rhythmic patterns.

Grants & Grantees

Megawords (run by Dan Murphy and Anthony Smyrski, both Pew Fellows) is self-described as “an experimental media project” that takes the form of a biannual photography magazine, as well as related installation projects and public events.