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Weekly Update (2) – Pen Pals and PEI Grants!


This week’s Weekly includes my preview of Pen Pals, the new exquisite corpse drawing exhibit at Padlock Gallery opening this Friday. Also, there’s a nice, juicy sketch with information on the new Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiatives (PEI) 2006 grant winners. Here’s the link to the art page and below is the copy with some images. And to see the images bigger, go to my flickr set.

It’s a Draw

Artists incarcerated and free join forces in an exquisite corpse show.

Andrew Jeffrey Wright/Ed Campbell collaboration. Words say Stay in School! unless it is art school, then drop out and buy a computer. Stay in School! unless it is law school, then drop out and buy a lawn mower.

Ted Passon wanted to curate an exquisite corpse drawing show at Padlock, his living room gallery in South Philadelphia. But the artist wanted the exhibit-in which two people make one drawing with neither one looking at the other’s work-to have a particular focus: Half of the artists would be incarcerated adults or juveniles, and half would be on the outside. “I was inspired by the Inside/Out Program at Temple,” he says, explaining that a class he attended in that program met 50 percent of the time at Graterford Prison, and half the students were inmates. Passon, 25, has some personal experience with prison from visiting family members there. “I knew a few people in prison-mostly my brother and my cousin,” he says.

Books Through Bars provided Passon with names of inmates throughout the country who make art. Passon approached them to be in his show. Then, through a program for incarcerated juveniles run through the American Friends Service Committee, he made a youth exquisite corpse component to run alongside the adult show. The imprisoned juveniles are paired with students in the Youth Build Charter School for high school dropouts.

Heather Morton/Scott Servus collaboration.

Passon recruited outside artists through his connections. His gallery has been an underground favorite since it opened in 2004, and many artists he’s featured participated, along with local rising stars Andrew Jeffrey Wright, Liz Rywelski, Randall Sellers and Tadashi Moriyama. The small show has 23 drawings: 13 by adults and 10 by kids. Short bios of the artists will be posted alongside the drawings, and Passon says he’s considering creating a book of the project. Interest is high, and the show will also appear at a Puppet Uprising event in West Philadelphia. “If people want to see it elsewhere, I’d be happy to talk with them,” Passon says.

Passon, who’s a filmmaker, didn’t participate as an artist in this project. In fact, when I spoke with him he was in Seattle getting ready to show a film and perform at the World Championship of Experimental Films at the Portland Documentary Experimental Film Festival.

Liz Rywelski/Danny Hawk Smith collaboration

While the show isn’t full of political art, Passon’s idea-to humanize the prisoners to an outside audience and to allow prisoners an empowering experience of showing their work outside the gulag of a “prison art” show-is heartfelt political activism. And by the way, the three drawings I’ve seen in reproduction are great.

If you miss the opening, the best way to see the show is to email Passon at to make an appointment.

“Pen Pals”
Sat., May 6, 8pm-midnight. Free. Through May 28. Padlock Gallery, 1409 Ellsworth St.

Access Granted

With awards totaling $746,550, Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiatives (PEI) announced its 2006 grants this week. This year’s awards to local arts institutions bring the 9-year-old program to an unprecedented total of more than $7.5 million given by the Pew affiliate for the staging of exhibits and exhibit planning in the Philadelphia region.

Three of this year’s exhibitions grant winners are first-time PEI recipients: Philagrafika ($90,000), the Village of Arts and Humanities ($117,050) and a consortium of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and Peregrine Arts Inc. ($200,000). The fourth is the Philadelphia Museum of Art ($200,000). The awards will help fund a solo show by Tom Chimes (PMA); an international symposium and exhibit on printmaking (Philagrafika); a 20th-anniversary celebration (Village of Arts and Humanities); and a two-month exhibition exploring Philadelphia’s “hidden” city treasures (Preservation Alliance/Peregrine).

2006 planning grants were awarded to Asian Arts Initiative ($20,000 for Chinatown In/Flux 2008), Inc. and Basekamp ($19,500 for Plausible Artworlds conference and exhibit), the Institute of Contemporary Art ($20,000 for “The Puppet Show”), and the Print Center ($20,000 for Australian printmakers). Congratulations to all. For more information go to PEI’s website (see link above).