Lists, Part 2-PEI Winners!

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Philadelphia Exhibition Initiative‘s announcement of its 2007 exhibitions grant winners comes today. Three institutions, including first-time grantee, John Bartram Association (Bartram’s Garden) won the big money for exhibits. The Philadelphia Museum of Art got a grant to exhibit South African artist William Kentridge‘s Tapestries in its Notations series, and Curator Sid Sachs of Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery at UArts received funding for his Women in Pop Art exhibit.

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Bartram’s Garden, first-time PEI grantee, whose award was for a Mark Dion project retracing John Bartram’s steps to collect specimens.

In addition, PEI gave four planning grants including two to first-time winners, Philadelphia Art Alliance and Tyler Exhibitions.

This year’s awards — the tenth year PEI has granted money for exhibitions in the region — total $651,650. Over the ten years, PEI has provided almost $8 million to area institutions. This is real money and the program, along with the Pew Fellowship awards to individual artists, is unique in the country and, I believe, has been instrumental in helping create new energy, artist-empowerment, institution-empowerment and momentum for the future.

Paula Marincola, PEI Director, told me yesterday in a phone call that she was especially glad to see the first time winners, something that demonstrates the breadth of the program and its reach into many nooks and crannies of Philadelphia’s art exhibition world. She singled out the Kentridge exhibition at the PMA as perhaps the first time this important South African artist will be showcased in Philadelphia. And she noted that the Women of Pop exhibit at UArts will contribute to art history scholarship, something her program is eager to foster.

William Kentridge Tapestry, one of ten that will be shown at PMA in December.
William Kentridge Tapestry, one of ten that will be shown at PMA in December.

We talked about the various audiences for the different projects and Marincola said audience was very important. The PEI Director, who now also runs the Heritage Philadelphia history program in addition to running PEI said learning about how to put on a (non-art) history exhibition was providing useful information for mounting art exhibitions. For example, in the history world, they always put audience first and build the exhibit around the audience, she said, something that’s not done when staging an art exhibit.

We talked about PEI funding blockbuster exhibits, and she said, “Not every show is a blockbuster but I wouldn’t be upset if a million people saw an exhibit!”

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Marisol, pop artist whose work will be included in the Women of Pop show at Uarts.

As for the awards panel, a group of nationally-renowned professionals from outside Philadelphia that comes together over two days and makes its consensus decisions, this year’s group decided to award three exhibition grants instead of the usual four. Marincola said the decision was based on the strength of the proposals and that money not spent this year would roll over for future awards. I asked about the pool of applicants. “The pool itself, the numbers are never huge,” she said. Maybe 20-26 applications arrive each time. If applicants have an open grant (one that was awarded but hasn’t yet been completed) they are not able to apply. The panel ranks and scores the proposals according to pre-set criteria.”When you get a PEI grant it’s extremely meaningful. The institution knows it’s been through a rigorous review,” she said.

Marincola said that now in their tenth year PEI is thinking about how to bring the program forward and make it better. “More money!” I said, to which she replied, “Stay tuned.” I eagerly await what’s coming!!

2007 Exhibitions grants awardees

John Bartram Association, a first time recipient of a PEI exhibition grant, ($171,650) for Bartram’s Travels Revisited, a collaboration between highly regarded Pennsylvania artist Mark Dion and the nation’s first botanical garden to create a project based on the travels of John and William Bartram, noted early American explorers and naturalists. Dion will retrace the Bartrams’ travels to northern Florida, collect natural specimens and man-made artifacts, and ship them to the Garden to display in an installation of hand-made cabinets in Bartram’s historic house and garden.

Philadelphia Museum of Art ($150,000) for William Kentridge: Ten Tapestries, the most ambitious in the Museum’s ongoing Notations series. Ten large-scale tapestries will be exhibited as a recent development in Kentridges’s work that continue his investigations of the socio-political context of South Africa and his interest in both drawing and the interconnections of multiple mediums through the inclusion of related works. Kentridge is one of the most important contemporary artists and his work has not been seen in depth before in our region.

The University of the Arts ($200,000) for Beyond the Surface: Women in Pop Art 1958-1968, examines a historically urgent topic that has never been addressed in a significant manner. Traditionally, Pop Art has been male dominated, but Beyond the Surface will expand this narrowly defined movement and reevaluate the critical reception of Pop Art, as it rediscovers important female artists working internationally during this period and enlarges the art historical canon.

2007 Planning Grants awardees

The Design Center at Philadelphia University ($20,000), for Lace in Translation, bringing three Dutch design teams together to research the Center’s Quaker Lace archives, a process that will result in new commissions for the gallery and its environs, exploring how the luxury of hand-crafted products intersects with mass production techniques.

Philadelphia Art Alliance, first-time recipient of PEI planning grant, ($20,000) for The Sitting Room: Four Studies, incorporating commissioned works in the realms of furniture design, ceramics, plastic, textiles, glass, metal, and paper to create four separate but interrelated installations based on the historical concept of the sitting room, and the Alliance’s history as a former residence. Four nationally-recognized guest curators will assist in planning for this project.

Philagrafika ($20,000) for Philagrafika 2010: The Graphic Unconscious, bringing together the organization’s consulting artistic director Jose Roca with his team to refine the primary curatorial theses and sub-themes for the multi-sited exhibition which will be the first international festival in Philadelphia devoted to printmaking and its contemporary implications.

Tyler Exhibitions, first-time recipient of PEI planning grant, ($20,000) for Invented Cities, an exhibition that will examine the roles photographic images play in determining and portraying new urban imaginaries in rapidly developing cities across the globe. The project will engage a roster of international artists, scholars, and advisors.

Congratulations to the awardees and keep trying you guys. Maybe next year will be yours!

[Ed note: More photos and information on the panel members at PEI’s website.]

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