Fellows Friday: Q&A with Greg Osby

Greg Osby, 2012 Pew Fellow. 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 Greg Osby, an award-winning contemporary jazz musician and the recipient of such honors as a Doris Duke Composition Fellowship and the Chamber Music America Composers Award. In May 2014, National Public Radio included Osby in its list, “Take 75: Great Solos in Blue Note Records History.” He recently performed with Center grantee PRISM Quartet as part of a concert and recording series called Music for Saxophones: Heritage/Evolution.

How does residing in this region contribute to your artistic practice?

I’m able to pursue my work and realize concepts without the hindrance of excessive congestion or sensory overload. I can work at my own pace and I also have easy access to New York without having to live there exclusively.

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

I would live with a blank canvas. Nothing is more powerful to me than the idea of wonder and possibility, which a blank canvas represents. Once a work has been established and fixed, vulnerability sets in.

What do you miss most from your childhood?

I miss the idea of true innocence, when one could embark on a journey without a clear destination—without fear or concern. I also miss a time when there was more tolerance and cooperation between the various art fields. There was far more risk taking, experimentation, and fearless attempts to create new and innovative works. I feel that artists, as a whole, are more cautious these days in their efforts, so as to not offend.

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

Initially, I aspired to be an architect. Many of those leanings have found their way into my work.


“What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?” Five temporary public artworks, created by artists Ai Weiwei, Zoe Strauss, Kara Crombie, Kaitlin Pomerantz, and Alexander Rosenberg, and on-site “laboratories” for public feedback will consider this question and notions of monumentality within the civic sphere.

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts presents a diverse range of programming in a beautiful park setting.

In this month’s Pew Fellows news highlights, CAConrad wins the Believer Poetry Award, Geoff Sobelle’s play The Object Lesson heads to Australia, and Opera Philadelphia presents Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain.

During Dancing around the Bride’s run at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the exhibition received a string of glowing reviews from the New York Times.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Alex Klein is Dorothy and Stephen R. Weber Program Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1910, International House Philadelphia (IHP) presents cultural programs in the areas of music, exhibitions, and cinema—the latter being its flagship program.

Grants & Grantees

You have to almost exhaust yourself sometimes to let yourself say what it is, or do what it is, in the most honest way.

Ceramist and Pew Fellow Lauren Mabry on her creative development, embracing the unexpected, and more.

John Zorn visits Philadelphia for a rare solo organ performance at Girard College Chapel.

Grants & Grantees

The Kimmel Center, Inc. received Center support for the sixth season of Fresh Ink, a series that highlights the work of contemporary composers and performers.

Questions of Practice

Electronic Music 2012, presented by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage on December 13, 2012, investigated the evolving American electronic musical experience and how it relates now to cultural expectations.