Fellows Friday: Q&A with Travis Macdonald

Travis Macdonald, 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. 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 poet Travis Macdonald, who questions authorship with written works that are lively and whimsical without being frivolous, and which offer critique and reflection of the contemporary moment. Macdonald is also the co-founder and co-editor of Fact-Simile Editions, a Philadelphia micro-press dedicated to publishing works of contemporary poetry that use mostly reclaimed or recycled materials.

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

I have a seven-foot-tall nightlight that my father made out of old barn wood, brass doorknobs, a bent table leg, and an early 20th-century metal baby doll’s head. When you plug it in, the light pours out of the doll’s face and seeps through all of the metal’s previously invisible cracks. I’m pretty sure it has scarred me deeply in ways I’m not even aware of and it’s probably a fire hazard, but it’s been with me for all my 34 years, so I can’t imagine life without it.

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

I would like to work with Jenny Holzer to coordinate the entire city’s skyline into a poem that can only be read in its entirety from a single point on the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps.

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

I’ve never subscribed to the idea that an artist, a writer especially, requires solitude to practice his or her craft. So, for me, the amazing community of writers and artists I’ve had the privilege of connecting with here in Philadelphia has been incredibly inspiring. Coming from a relatively isolated and compartmentalized creative environment in New Mexico four years ago to this thriving nexus full of so many brilliant voices eager to engage and exchange…I can’t tell you how grateful I am to every single one of them. I honestly believe there is no better place in the world to be a poet at this moment.

Which artist would you most like to have dinner with, from any time in history?

Aperitif: Georges Perec
Main course: Jackson Mac Low
Scotch and cigarettes: Charles Olson


On Monday, June 15, 2015, we announced and honored the 2015 grantees of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage with a celebration at the Curtis Institute of Music.

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.

Grants & Grantees

Philadelphia Young Playwrights assists students in Philadelphia area schools with telling their stories through theater.

A multidisciplinary theater artist whose practice is rooted in set design, Matt Saunders answers our questions on inspiration, artistic legacy, and more.

Grants & Grantees

Pang Xiong Sirirathasuk Sikoun is a textile artist and a 1996 Pew Fellow.

Pew Fellow Geoff Sobelle and theater artist Charlotte Ford presented a post-apocalyptic absurdist tale of human extinction.

W Magazine commissions visual artist Ryan Trecartin to create cover art for its 10th anniversary art issue, visual artist Caroline Lathan-Stiefel opens a new solo exhibition at the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, and more.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Zeena Parkins is a pioneer of contemporary harp practice and performance, has extended the language of the harp with unusual playing techniques, preparations, and layers of electronic processing.

Choreographer and Pew Fellow Tania Isaac (2011) presents an iteration of her Center-funded discovery project open notebook: crazy beautiful.

Pew Fellow Geoff Sobelle’s award-winning production of The Object Lesson travels to Ohio’s Wexner Center for the Arts.

Grants & Grantees

Stephen Berg (1934–2014) was a poet and a 1993 Pew Fellow.

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