Fellows Friday: Q&A with Thomas Devaney

Thomas Devaney, 2014 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

As part of our “Fellows Friday” feature, we focus on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges. Throughout this fall, we’re pleased to introduce the 2014 Pew Fellows, and to unveil their official portraits. Visit us each Friday to meet a new Pew Fellow and to learn more about his or her artistic practice.

This week, we speak to Thomas Devaney, the author of one nonfiction book, Letters to Ernesto Neto (Germ Folio, 2004), and four poetry collections, including the recently released Calamity Jane (Furniture Press, 2014). Philly.com described his collaborative work with photographer Will Brown, The Picture That Remains (The Print Center, 2014), as a “beautifully designed book [that] would shine brightly in any gallery, bookshop—or in the hands of any Philadelphian.”

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

We have about 15 plants in our apartment. I look at them, really look at them, every day. Two African violets, one that’s always blooming and the other with no flowers at all. Two Oxalis plants: one green, one purple, both with tiny white flowers. A number of succulents and a nearly three-foot-tall money tree plant. Some friends think it’s an avocado tree. Actually, it’s a Malabar Chestnut, but the IKEA sticker—this was at least 10 years ago—said, “Money Tree Plant.”

What is your favorite book title, or title of an art work?

One is Spring in This World of Poor Mutts, which is a book of poems by Joseph Ceravolo. The poet C.D. Wright’s One Big Self is another favorite.

If you could collaborate with anyone alive today (someone you don’t know personally), who would it be?

Great question, and a difficult one. I really can’t name only one. Sometimes I feel that my reason for being is to realize this question as much as my own capacity allows. I think about it all of the time. I think we all converse with those people whose work we adore. Off the top of my head: Oliver Sacks, Clark Terry, Joan Didion, and Frank Bruni.

What do you most daydream about when you are working?

I daydream about walking with a close friend.


Grants & Grantees

The Philadelphia Photo Arts Center is a nonprofit organization devoted to the study, practice, and appreciation of photography in the Philadelphia region.

Questions of Practice

A workshop and small grant opportunity, No Idea Is Too Ridiculous allows Center constituents to explore creativity and risk-taking.

Questions of Practice

We asked the 2013 Pew Fellow poets to share samples of their work. Watch Jenn McCreary read selections from “Haunted Forest,” a passage from her recent book & now my feet are maps.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Claire Tancons is a curator, writer and researcher whose work focuses on carnival, public ceremonial culture, and popular movements.

Grants & Grantees

In 1992 the Center awarded Pew Fellowships to 16 visual arts, dance, and music artists in the greater Philadelphia region, including Odean Pope and Judith Schaechter.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Composer Lee Hyla’s musical background includes extensive experience as a pianist in new music, rock, and free improvisation.

Grants & Grantees

Orchestra 2001 commissioned and premiered works by three composers: Pulitzer Prize winners Paul Moravec and George Crumb, and Guggenheim Fellow Robert Maggio.

Raphael Xavier presents Raphstravaganza, a contemporary circus-style performance featuring street performers, extreme BMX riders, acrobatic contortionists, and live music.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Noted abstract painter Thomas Nozkowski is known for his richly colored and intimately scaled paintings.

In an article for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Trust Magazine, Tom Infield explores how the Center fulfills Pew’s long-standing commitment to arts and heritage in the region by supporting projects that reach a wide range of audiences.

Grants & Grantees

Deron Albright (Pew Fellow, 2012) has been a filmmaker since 1994, with work spanning documentary, installation, poetic animation, and short- and long-form narrative.

Chamber Music Now commissioned new works by Philadelphia-based composers, inspired by the history of Eastern State Penitentiary.