Fellows Friday: Q&A with J.C. Todd

J.C. Todd, 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 J.C. Todd, whose current work-in-progress is a collection of sonnets that “complicates and contemporizes the tradition of war poems.” Her publications include What Space This Body (Wind Publications, 2008), and her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal, The Paris Review, and elsewhere.

What are the primary vehicles you use to support your practice—what makes it possible?

My feet. I often write or jot en plein air or in museums. I wander into sensation, perception, thought. The ground, the feet, and the imagination are always in conversation.

When did you know you were going to be an artist?

I write because I have to—there’s nowhere else to go. But I didn’t think of myself as an artist until a painter at the Hambidge Center referred to all the fellows as artists. She means me too, I thought, almost 50 then.

What do you miss most from your childhood?

Long Island tomatoes for lunch at the kids’ picnic table, which I think my dad built. Lying under the magnolia in bloom. Reading without responsibility. Skittering across the hot sand into the ocean. The mock orange. My mother.

What music are you listening to, and which books are on your bedside table?

Music: Pablo Casals, Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello; Dame Janet Baker, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli, Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder; Mercedes Sosa; Thelonius Monk.

Bedside reading: Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction; David Finkel, The Good Soldiers and Thank You for Your Service; W S. Merwin’s translation of Dante’s Purgatorio; Renee Ashley, Because I Am the Shore, I Want to Be the Sea; Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Kindness.”

What do you most daydream about when you are working?

The writing is the dream wave that surfaces enough to emerge as language. All that doesn’t surface is the dream undertow.


Grants & Grantees

In 2005 the Center awarded Pew Fellowships to 12 Philadelphia-based artists, and grants to 66 dance, music, theater, and visual arts organizations and practitioners in the greater Philadelphia region.

Grants & Grantees

The first artistic collaboration between New Paradise Laboratories founding company members and newer, younger members, The Adults premiered at the 2014 Fringe Fringe Festival in Philadelphia.

Grants & Grantees

Bo Bartlett is a painter and a 1993 Pew Fellow.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Mark Russell is the co-director of New York’s Under the Radar Festival, headquartered at the Public Theater.

Grants & Grantees

In 1995 the Center awarded Pew Fellowships to 16 Philadelphia-based artists, and grants to 23 dance and music organizations in the greater Philadelphia region.

Grants & Grantees

Among the largest art museums in the United States, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a pilgrimage site for modern and contemporary art professionals.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Philip M. Katz, Ph.D., is the director of projects at the Council of Independent Colleges. Previously, he was assistant director for research at the American Alliance of Museums.

We are deeply saddened by the news that Nicholas Kripal, 1999 Pew Fellow, passed away on September 30, 2016.

Grants & Grantees

Fatu Gayflor (Pew Fellow, 2014) learned music, dance, and traditional arts at an early age in rural Liberia. She states that her goal is “to use singing and songwriting to build cooperation and community among Liberians.”

In this month’s Pew Fellows news highlights, sculptor Kukuli Velarde and media artists Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib have been named 2015 Guggenheim Fellows. DJ and electronic musician King Britt lets followers get behind the scenes with a new subscription service.

Grants & Grantees

Laynie Browne’s (Pew Fellow, 2014) poetry explores notions of silence and the invisible, through the re-contextualization of poetic forms.

The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching Performance is an evening-length autobiographical dance, the culmination of Philadelphia-based breakdancer Raphael Xavier’s 30 years of experience in hip-hop genres. Xavier, a 2013 Pew Fellow, plays with the rhythms of rap, break dancing and narrative to draw parallels between the performer’s body and the stage itself.