Making an independent film is a feat in itself, and having that project recognized and distributed to major theaters is an even harder sell. However, if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s the enterprising and engaging Rel Dowdell, a Philadelphia native whose urban drama, “Changing the Game,” opens in key cities across the country with the prospect of wider release in the future.
“Changing the Game,” filmed almost entirely in the City of Brotherly Love, had an auspicious local premiere at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and is now playing at the AMC Loews Cherry Hill 24, 2121 Route 38, in Cherry Hill, N.J.
An emotionally-charged crime drama directed by Dowdell, and written by Dowdell in tandem with Aaron R. Astillero, “Changing the Game,” begins in March 1986. It is the story of a bright, young school boy named Darrell Barnes (Sean Riggs). Though brutal circumstances have removed his parents from his life, Darrell has thrived under the watchful eye of his nurturing grandmother (“Soul Food’s” Irma P. Hall), and is an inspiration to his teacher, Mrs. Davis (Suzzanne Douglas). The boy is clearly destined for greatness, if he can survive the violence that surrounds him on the streets of North Philadelphia.
Darrell ultimately becomes a rising star in the world of high finance, but soon discovers that the sharks on Wall Street can be just as lethal as the thugs that ran the yard at 8th and Butler streets.
“Changing the Game” is the second film by Dowdell, following his 2005 release, “Train Ride.” The Central High graduate and Fisk University alumnus recently stopped by The Philadelphia Tribune offices to discuss his latest release, which he believes will indeed “change the game” of filmmaking.
“It breaks up so many stereotypes,” said Dowdell, whose passion for his current project is almost palpable. “Especially right now with young African-American men going through so much turmoil in this country. They’re not giving us a voice — like in the Trayvon Martin situation. Young Black men out there need some inspiration. This film shows that your environment does not have to take over your life. This message uplifts the young Black man.”
As Darrell, the likeable, fresh-faced protagonist, Sean Riggs brought an innocence and sincerity that can only come from an actor in the dawning of his career. The performances by a few of the bit players were somewhat lacking, such as Elizabeth Camacho’s brief appearance as the “sexy flight attendant,” which was stilted and contrived.
Still, I laud Dowdell for using as much local talent as possible, including the brilliant Brian Anthony Wilson, who has made his mark in virtually every medium.
Visually, “Changing the Game,” features cinematography by Bob Demers. It is breathtaking, and the smart, imaginative production design by Brian Chacon is indicative of the transition from Darrell’s rough and tumble childhood to the divine excess of the Fortune 500.
Dowdell joins a burgeoning corps of filmmakers in the city, including Robert Golphin, M. Azim George Siddiqui and Mike Dennis, all of whom are dedicated to the evolution and advancement of Black cinema. Dowdell hopes “Changing the Game” will contribute to the greater good of the Black film industry.
“I’m not here by accident,” Dowdell said. “I’ve been working for a long time for this opportunity. Like the days of the Harlem Renaissance, when all the Black writers got together and made great work, I hope that I am somehow able to be a part of a movement of Black filmmakers that all have the same objective — to make uplifting things — at the same time, so that we all come up together.
“That’s the one thing the Black film industry is lacking, is camaraderie. We should all be in this together. It shouldn’t be [that] one person’s out front, the other person’s trying to catch up, somebody’s in the middle. Everybody should know each other, and everybody should be like, ‘Hey! What are you doing next? Oh, cool. How can I help you with that?’ And if you need help, we rally around that person.”
In anticipation of a successful opening weekend, Dowdell called “Changing the Game” a “must-see, satisfying, inspirational, moving experience” and said in parting, “You will leave satisfied. You will leave and you’ll want to see it again. There’s a twist at the end that you don’t see coming.”
For show times, call the AMC Loews Cherry Hill 24 at (856) 486-7420 (Rated “R”)
Normally, the Philadelphia Museum of Art's steps has dozens of tourists and fitness buffs huffing up and down the stairs or taking pictures. On Monday morning, hundreds of music fans lined the famous steps for a glimpse of hip-hop music mogul Shawn "Jay-Z " Carter as he announced the upcoming "Budweiser Made in America" music festival.
Carter, who is married to fellow music superstar Beyoncé Knowles, will curate and headline the blockbuster roster of talent, which will include nearly 30 artists that embody the American spirit performing across three stages on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park on Saturday, Sept. 1 and Sunday, Sept. 2.
A primary goal of this music festival is to have a positive impact on the communities involved. This concert will benefit United Ways in Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, Lancaster County, Pa. and New York City, enabling them to invest more dollars into their regions, strengthening local communities and improving lives. As a result of this concert, the money invested into these communities will positively impact the education, income and health of the most vulnerable and most needy citizens in these regions.
After making history with back-to-back performances at Carnegie Hall, Carter is teaming up with Budweiser and United Way for the Labor Day weekend Live Nation-produced extravaganza to benefit United Way. "Whenever I enter into a project I hit on some touch points, the first being is it great," Jay-Z said. "You can't hit great every time, but sometimes once you start there you'll end up in a great place. The second one is, is it going to push the culture forward. I think this concert would do that. Budweiser did that in the past with the Superfest where they gave a platform for artists to perform mainly hip-hop and R&B arts, and you know when the opportunities wasn't as plentiful as they are today. Third, is there a philanthropic opportunity, and that's where the united Way comes in. We just did some brilliant work at my Carnegie hall concert, and raised a lot of money to help those less fortunate and that's a great thing for us. And they are also going to work with some local charities in New Jersey and the greater Philadelphia area."
As Carter was speaking, a man yelled, "HOV, you're the best!" The audience burst out in laughter when Carter responded, "I agree."
Other fans screamed in the background (and even at times booed anyone other than Jay-Z on the mic).
Local music notables such as rapper Freeway and activist Charlie Mack where among those gathered at the museum.
"Everyone knows my love affair with Philly from the amazing talented artists I've signed from here to the film work I'm about to do with Will Smith and James Lassiter at Overbrook," explained Carter. "And, the last one: I've got to make my momma proud so I can’t do half-baked, so I'm really putting my all into this and can announce that we have over 70 percent of the artists already confirmed. It's going to be a great day in Philly."
The eclectic roster of talent cultivated by Carter will be announced on May 21 and will include acts ranging from rock, hip-hop, R&B, Latin and dance.
Philadelphia Museum of Art’s marketing efforts have been boosted by the arrival of Jennifer Faure Francis.
As the museum’s new executive director of marketing, Francis is charged with promoting one of the city’s premier cultural institutions.
Francis says the museum’s world-renowned collection and the vision of its leadership spurred her to join the institution in August.
“It’s one of the most important museums in this country. It’s a very important museum on the world stage,” Francis said.
She oversees the museum’s Marketing and Communications Division, which is responsible for various functions including editorial services, graphic designs and special events.
Francis came on board at a time when museum officials are working on its five-year strategic plan. She plays a key role in shaping the institution’s communications strategies.
“I think museums have a purpose to really reach out to tomorrow’s generations of audiences, tomorrow’s members and patrons. It’s always about new levels of relevance to those communities and so the Philadelphia Museum of Art is aware that these are journeys it should be embarking upon,” says Francis, who hails from the United Kingdom.
While Philadelphia is being branded as an arts destination to tourists, Francis also wants to market the museum more effectively to local Philadelphians. She says the institution should be at the core of the city’s cultural activity.
“It’s not just a place that a child comes to when they are in school and they never come back again. It has relevance to Philadelphia life and it is a very important collection worldwide. There are various reasons for Philadelphians to embrace it,” Francis said.
She noted that the museum is going through an exciting phase in terms of its programming and plans to roll out new initiatives next year such as pay-what-you wish on Wednesday evenings and family-focused activities.
Francis came to the museum from the Royal Academy of Arts where she worked for eight and a half years as the head of Press and Marketing. While at the Royal Academy, she increased visitor attendance figures, led effective corporate communications and advocacy for the institution and built high public and media awareness. Francis says the experience exposed her to an art history education and high standards in the world of art.
In a press release announcing Francis’ appointment, Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said that she brings a wealth of experience to her role.
“In our initial conversations and indeed throughout the process of finding an individual who would meet our needs, I was deeply impressed by her enthusiasm, her passion for the arts and the creativity she brings to her work,” Rub said.
Francis has such an appreciation for the arts that she took up painting about 20 years ago.
“That’s what I do when I need to use the other side of my brain,” Francis says of her hobby.
While she has exhibited and even sold some of her work, Francis has focused her professional career on marketing.
Her career in the realm of arts and public relations began more than 25 years ago. Prior to joining the staff of the Royal Academy of the Arts, she served as director of communication at the Drum Art Centre, head of media relations at the Royal College of Art, head of media relations at the Victoria and Albert Museum and as an public relations executive for LAPADA. She has also provided consulting services to a number of leading cultural organizations in Great Britain including the London Tourist Board and Royal Opera House.
Francis is a graduate of City University. She recently received a master’s in cultural leadership and policy management. She is a member of the Arts Marketing Association, National Museums Directors Conference Marketing Committee and the board of the Arts Council England – London Region.
During her first few months in Philadelphia, Francis has made several visits to the Reading Terminal Market – a place where she loves to shop – and enjoyed performances at local theaters and dining at the city’s restaurants.
“There’s just a whole range of things to do. It’s an amazing city,” Francis said.
Over the summer, Francis basked in the international spotlight while volunteering during the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremonies. The experience gave her the opportunity to see how things were done behind the scenes for the ceremonies.
“It was absolutely amazing to see world-class events just run together like clockwork. It was second to none as an experience,” she said in regards to serving as a volunteer.
Francis and her team have been working on marketing the museum’s latest exhibition
“Dancing Around The Bride - Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg and Duchamp” which opens today. The exhibit, which runs October 30 through January 21, is the first to explore Marcel Duchamp’s American legacy by tracing his interactions and exchanges with four postwar masters: composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham and visual artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
The exhibition will feature more than one hundred works, including more than 60 by Johns and Rauschenberg and more than 40 by Duchamp and prerecorded and live music by Cage and live performances of choreographies by Cunningham.
“This is a once in a lifetime chance to see five of the masters,” Francis pointed out.
The museum is considered one of the nation’s largest museums with a collection of more than 227,000 works of art and more than 200 galleries presenting painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, decorative arts, textiles and architectural settings from Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States.
“Zoe Strauss: Ten Years” is a mid-career retrospective of the acclaimed photographer’s work and the first critical assessment of her 10-year project to exhibit her photographs annually in a space beneath a section of Interstate-95 (I-95) in South Philadelphia. Strauss’ subjects are broad but her primary focus is on working-class experience, including the most disenfranchised people and places. Her photographs offer a poignant, troubling portrait of contemporary America. Strauss, born in 1970, says her ambition is “to create an epic narrative that reflects the beauty and struggle of everyday life.”
Between 2001 and 2010, Strauss hosted annual day-long exhibitions of her photographs under an elevated section of I-95. She affixed prints to columns in an area roughly the size of a football field, providing visitors with a map keyed to a list of photograph titles. Prints of the exhibited images were available for sale for five dollars, with Strauss stationed at a nearby table to sign them. These installations animated the site with art, commerce and social interaction, transforming it into a vibrant public space. “Zoe Strauss: Ten Years”will examine how, for Strauss, the opposite settings of the abandoned urban zone under I-95 and the galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art complement each other. Her engagement with both places is deep and she highly values the museum as a place for civic discourse, just as she strove to make the space under I-95 a place for social interaction.
Untrained as a photographer or artist, Strauss nevertheless founded the Philadelphia Public Art Project in 1995 with the objective of exhibiting art in nontraditional venues. She turned to the camera in 2000 as the most direct instrument to represent her chosen subjects. In 2006, Strauss participated in the Whitney Biennial. In 2008, she published her first book, “America.” Inspired by other photographers of the American scene, including William Eggleston, Walker Evans and Nan Goldin, Strauss’ art has focused primarily on the fascinating and often disconcerting realities of everyday life. Much of her work has been done in and around Philadelphia, but she has also traveled widely throughout the United States, exploring the South and the West and taking photographs in the aftermath of such catastrophic events as Hurricane Katrina, as seen in “Mom, We’re OK,” (2005), Biloxi, Mississippi.
“It is always welcome to encounter a gifted artist who is not only fully engaged with her world and all of its complexities — political, economic, social, and above all personal — but also determined to make something new and compelling of these realities,” notes Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener director and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “To share this with others requires a strong sense of commitment and a spirit of generosity, and it is fair to say that Strauss is well endowed with both. She has from the very beginning of her career focused both on social change and on the intersection of art and the public realm. Each of these is central to the way she defines her life and her work as an artist.”
“Zoe Strauss: Ten Years” will offer one version of that narrative, presenting approximately 150 of her photographs, along with slideshows displaying more of her imagery, and installations on billboards throughout Philadelphia that will extend the exhibition beyond the museum. A critical focus of the exhibition and the accompanying book will be a thorough assessment of Strauss’ I-95 project. “The relationship between the city and the museum is an important element of the exhibition and an important topic to Strauss herself,” said Peter Barberie, the Brodsky curator of photographs in the Alfred Stieglitz Center. “She seeks to generate dialogue between the two, alerting viewers to the significance of the visual arts and of their own lives, and emphasizing their inter-connectedness. The exhibition’s gallery and the related programs will become a hub or a gathering spot, while the billboards and the exhibition’s connection to I-95 encourage broader civic discourse.”
“Zoe Strauss: Ten Years” will have a number of low- and no-cost initiatives to increase accessibility to the Philadelphia Museum of Art: The museum will be open to the public on Monday, Jan. 16, in honor of Martin Luther King Day, admission will be “Pay what you wish.” Beginning on Monday, Strauss will offer scheduled office hours in the director’s satellite office, where members of the public can meet and speak with the artist. Both the Main and Perelman buildings will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the trolley between the two buildings will run on its regular schedule). The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100 or visit www.philamuseum.org.
Every Philadelphian already knows that the best place to celebrate America’s birthday is right here, in America’s birthplace. The annual Wawa Welcome America! Festival comes back next month with 10 patriotic days of family-friendly and free activities through Independence Day. This week-long, only-in-Philadelphia party kicks off on June 24 and culminates July 4 with a parade through Historic Philadelphia and a mega concert with Grammy Award-winning artists, complete with fireworks, at the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This year’s musical director for the festival is Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, the headline drummer of Philly’s own neo-soul super group, The Roots.
Mayor Michael Nutter recently annouced this year’s Philly Fourth of July Jam will be literally “star”-spangled with some of the brightest and boldest talent on the national music scene descending on Philadelphia to offer an unparalleled entertainment experience.
“In Philadelphia, we save the best for last — an our festival grand finale is ‘The Largest Free Concert in America,’ the Philly 4th of July Jam,” said Nutter. “This year, we’ll welcome back Philadelphia’s own The Roots, to take the stage as the official house band for the Philly 4th of July Jam. They will be joined by an impressive array of some of the brightest and boldest musicians in the country, including Queen Latifah, Daryl Hall, Common, Joe Jonas and other special guests. The concert will end with a bang — literally — as fireworks illuminate the sky over one of the world’s architectural gems, the Philadelphia Museum of Art.”
Wawa Welcome America! — the nation’s largest, free 4th of July festival — runs from June 25 to July 4, 2012. For more information, go to welcomeamerica.com or call (215) 683-2200.
Examining one of the most important chapters in the history of contemporary art, “Dancing Around the Bride” is the first exhibition to explore Marcel Duchamp’s American legacy by tracing his interactions and exchanges with four postwar masters: composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham and visual artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
The exhibition will feature over 100 works, including more than 60 by Johns and Rauschenberg and more than 40 by Duchamp, as well as prerecorded and live music by John Cage and live performances of choreographies by Merce Cunningham. Many of these works will be seen together for the first time and reflect the artists’ multiple levels of engagement across the disciplines of art, dance and music.
“This exhibition is about the relationship between art and life,” said Carlos Basualdo, exhibition curator and the Museum’s Keith L. and Katherine Sachs curator of Contemporary Art. “It tells the story of five extraordinary artists and what happened to art and culture when their lives and work intersected. Their mutual interactions redefined the language of contemporary art in the 1950s and ’60s.”
“Dancing around the Bride” will be organized into four thematic sections. The first section titled “The Bride” will look at the central figure in Duchamp’s painting “Bride (1912).” The second section explores the theme of chance in works that share this Duchampian attitude, and charts the development of chance procedures in the music of Cage, the choreography of Cunningham, and the paintings and prints of Rauschenberg. In a section titled “The Main Stage” visitors can explore the collaborations and stage sets created by Rauschenberg and Johns for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, with one of the exhibition’s centerpieces. As the game of chess was significant to Duchamp, the final section takes chess as both a literal motif and as a metaphor for exchanges among these artists.
The exhibition will highlight formative moments such as Johns and Rauschenberg’s 1958 visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see Duchamp’s “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915–23),” one of the Museum’s greatest masterpieces and the source for this exhibition’s title.
“As the Philadelphia Museum of Art holds the world’s largest and most significant collection of works by Marcel Duchamp, it is only fitting for the Museum to present this first exhibition juxtaposing works by Cage, Cunningham, Johns, and Rauschenberg with one another and exploring their complex and vitally important relationship to Duchamp,” said Timothy Rub, the Museum’s George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer. “This multidimensional and interdisciplinary show will enable visitors to experience and more fully appreciate one of the most exciting and momentous periods in the history of modern art.”
The Museum’s renowned Duchamp gallery (d’Harnoncourt Gallery 182) and two neighboring galleries (180 and 181) will be reinstalled on the occasion of Dancing around the Bride. Following it’s PMA debut, the exhibition will travel to the Barbican Centre in London where it will be on view February 14 – June 9, 2013.
“We are delighted to be working alongside the Philadelphia Museum of Art to present this important exhibition that includes such a rich selection of influential works,” said Jane Allison, senior curator of the Barbican Art Gallery.
In conjunction with the Philadelphia-based performing arts organization Bowerbird, the Museum is presenting a festival celebrating the centennial of John Cage’s birth. The festival, titled “Cage: Beyond Silence,” will focus on Cage’s early music, his Song Books of the mid-1970s, and his Number Pieces composed late in his lifetime, and will take place at the Museum and other locations in Philadelphia. Visit www.philamuseum.org/bride for information on both the dance and music performances and cagebeyondsilence.com for full Cage festival information.
Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853 — July 29, 1890) is generally considered the greatest Dutch painter after Rembrandt. An artist of exceptional intensity, not only in his use of color and exuberant application of paint but also in his personal life, van Gogh was powerfully and passionately drawn to nature. “I … am always obliged to go and gaze at a blade of grass, a pine-tree branch, an ear of wheat, to calm myself,” van Gogh wrote in a letter to his sister, Wilhemina, in July of 1889 — a mere year prior to his death.
“Van Gogh Up Close,” a major exhibition organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Canada, presents a group of the artist’s innovative works that broke with the past and dramatically altered the course of modern painting. Made between 1886 and 1890 in Paris, Arles, Saint-Rémy, and Auvers, the works in the exhibition concentrate on an important and previously overlooked aspect of van Gogh’s work: “close-ups” that bring familiar subjects such as landscape elements, still lifes, and flowers into the extreme foreground of the composition or focus on them in ways that are entirely unexpected and without precedent.
“‘Van Gogh Up Close’ explores an important facet of van Gogh’s work that underscores his importance as a path-finding modern artist,” said Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “In seeking to share the intensity of his emotional response to the world around him as directly as possible, van Gogh took the traditional methods making pictures and changed the rules.”
After unsuccessfully pursuing careers as an art dealer, teacher and pastor, van Gogh encouraged by his brother Theo, began to study art in 1880. In the Netherlands in 1885, he completed his first major works using a palette of browns, greens, grays, and blacks. A year later, his work underwent a striking shift when, arriving in Paris, he was confronted for the first time by the Impressionist paintings of Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and others. These progressive artists inspired him to lighten his palette and modernize his brushstroke. At roughly the same time, van Gogh began to collect Japanese woodblock prints, fascinated by their vibrant color, high horizon lines, tilting perspectives, and truncated or unusually cropped edges. These influences encouraged van Gogh to experiment with a radical treatment of field and space, flattening and compressing the picture plane in his paintings in order to create a sense of shifting perspective and tension.
The exhibition will feature over 70 works, including 46 paintings by van Gogh and more than 30 comparative works such as Japanese woodblock prints by Utagawa Hiroshige and Hayashi Roshü; European prints and drawings by Jean Corot, Camille Pissarro, and Jacob Ruisdael; and photographs by Frederick Evans, August Kotzsch, and others. Van Gogh was an avid collector of Japanese and European prints and drawings by artists whose aesthetic devices served as sources of inspiration for him. While van Gogh was loudly dismissive of photography, the medium offers intriguing parallels with his work and it is possible that van Gogh would have been fascinated by contemporary landscape photographs.
“Studying Van Gogh’s close-ups is essential to understanding the artist’s development, as they demonstrate a visual strategy that has been touched upon in scholarship but has not been systematically separated and addressed,” notes Jennifer Thompson, the Philadelphia Museum’s Gloria and Jack Drosdick Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture before 1900 and the Rodin Museum. “By exploring this astonishing dimension of the artist’s achievements, we will establish a greater understanding of the scope of his work.”
“Van Gogh Up Close” runs from February 1 to May 6 at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street, the only U.S. venue for this major traveling exhibition. For general information, call (215) 763-8100 or visit www.philamuseum.org.
Collection features creations by self-taught painters, sculptors spanning decades
“Great and Mighty Things,”: outsider art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, features drawings, paintings, sculptures and other objects by 27 artists who worked outside the boundaries of the mainstream modern and contemporary art world. The objects, from one of the United States’ finest private collections of works by American self-taught artists, will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“For over three decades, Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz have assembled this extraordinary collection, and with this exhibition have promised it to the museum. A collection-transforming gift such as this — which includes more than 200 works of art — is a rare thing and the Bonovitzes’ remarkable generosity will greatly enhance our collection by increasing our holdings in the field, and establishing the museum as one of the primary centers for the study of outsider art in the country,” said Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener director and chief executive officer of the Art Museum. “We are delighted to be able now to share with the public the creative achievements of artists who have hitherto rarely found a place in the collections and galleries of American museums.”
Operating without academic training and outside traditional artistic discourse, ”outsider” or “self-taught” artists create works which vary remarkably in style, content and execution. Often produced in remote or rural places with unconventional methods and with such materials as reclaimed wood, sheet metal, house paint, and stove soot, outsider art often draws upon the artists’ own experiences, their immediate surroundings, and the abundant imagery of popular culture, resulting in highly personal and intensely compelling works.
Many of these artists, whose works range in date from the 1930s to 2010, have achieved considerable reputations. Important artists such as William Edmondson, Martín Ramírez and Bill Traylor are represented in the exhibition. These three practitioners are iconic figures among self-taught artists and have also been recognized as significant figures in the broader field of American 20th-century art.
“This exhibition will demonstrate how works of art of enduring interest and quality can be created by people without formal training, who have limited or no connection to art dealers, critics, galleries, museums and schools,” said Ann Percy, the museum’s curator of drawings. “In this exhibition, I believe that visitors will discover new and surprising aspects of the art of the 20th and 21st centuries in the United States.”
“Great and Mighty Things”: outsider art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, is on exhibit from March 3-June 9 in the Dorrance Galleries of The Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100, or visit www.philamuseum.org.
Cheryl McClenney-Brooker, director of external affairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will retire on March 2, after 29 years of service.
Over the years, McClenney-Brooker has been a key member of the museum’s senior administration, serving to generate a broad range of initiatives to attract, engage and build audiences for the museum and to advocate on behalf of the museum to elected officials and other constituencies.
“Cheryl will leave behind an exemplary legacy of public service on our behalf. Her efforts have positioned the museum well in relation to numerous cultural organizations, government agencies and community groups,” said Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener director and CEO.”
McClenney-Brooker has been a major force in the museum as a catalyst for community engagement and as an advocate for the arts on behalf of the museum to government officials, according to Gail Harrity, the museum’s president and chief operating officer, to whom McClenney-Brooker has reported since 1997.
“Our audiences have become more engaged as a result of her efforts, and we are deeply grateful to Cheryl for her distinguished public service and abiding dedication to the museum and the communities of Philadelphia,” Harrity said. “We will miss her dedication, wonderful charm, and extraordinary grace.”
In recognition of her retirement, on Feb. 9, City Council will issue a resolution in McClenney-Brooker’s honor, citing her “tireless commitment to the art, cultural, and civic community of Philadelphia.”
“I join the Philadelphia City Council in honoring Cheryl on her retirement from the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “Cheryl has been a cornerstone of the museum for 29 years.
“As the leader of the museum's community outreach efforts she has had a lasting impact on the museum's capacity to better serve all of our city's children, youth, and families,” he added.
Joseph Meade Jr., who has served as the museum’s director of government relations since 2010, will also assume the responsibilities of external affairs to help sustain and build upon McClenney-Brooker’s successes in initiatives that have already launched or are in the planning stages.
“It has been an honor to work closely with Cheryl since I arrived at the museum, and having learned a great deal from her, I am excited to continue this important work of external affairs in service of the museum’s mission,” Meade said.
McClenney-Brooker began her career at the museum in 1983 as assistant director for program, a liaison of the administration to the Department of Education. In that role, she coordinated and supervised programs related to special exhibitions and collections, as well as for schools, families, adults, and disabled visitors.
When she rose to the position of director of external affairs in 1987, she served to coordinate the work of museum departments to build partnerships with civic groups and to augment community participation.
She became the museum’s liaison with the city of Philadelphia, state, and federal agencies. In addition, she was the museum’s presence in local communities through numerous successful outreach programs focused on neighborhood, cultural, and religious groups. More recently she has used her expertise and knowledge to strengthen and extend the museum’s outreach programs.
She was the co-founder, and for 15 years (1990-2005), chair of the city-wide Philadelphia World AIDS Day/Day without Art observance. She is a member of the boards of directors of Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the Multicultural Affairs Congress of the Philadelphia Visitors and Convention Bureau, the Philadelphia Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs, and the Jonathan Philip Ford Memorial Foundation for Bipolar Disorder Awareness.
Her many successes at the museum included community engagement around special exhibitions, among them the retrospective Tanner (1991); India: A Celebration of Independence, 1947-1997 (1997); Degas and the Dance (2003); African Art, African Voices (2005); The Arts in Latin America, 1492-1820 (2006); and Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt (2008). Most recently, for the exhibition Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus (2011), she worked with staff to reach out to faith-based communities, which generated broad-based participation and interfaith dialogue.
McClenney-Brooker’s career in the arts has spanned more than 40 years. Prior to arriving at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, she held positions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal funding agency in Washington, D.C.
Her honors include a National Scholastic Art Magazine scholarship to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; International Council of Museums’ travel grant to Europe; Partners of the Americas’ museum travel grant to Brazil; Leadership Pennsylvania Certificate; African American Women of Achievement Award from the African American Museum in Philadelphia; Individual Achievement Award for Arts Administration from the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations; and the Share the Heritage Award from the Multicultural Affairs Congress of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.
A Chicago native, McClenney-Brooker received a bachelor of Fine Arts degree from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a master of science in organizational Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, the painter and art professor Moe Brooker.
Philadelphia’s “Museum Mile” has extended to now included the backyard of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This week, the Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden added new works on the one-acre site near the Museum’s west entrance, overlooking the Schuylkill River. The Garden’s outdoor gallery spaces currently feature works by Scott Burton, Gordon Gund, Sol LeWitt, Claes Oldenburg and Thomas Schütte, as well as a series of sculptures by Isamu Noguchi and the newly installed is Ellsworth Kelly’s “Curve I” from 1973.
Hovering just above the ground, “Curve I” is one of the few sculptures Kelly created to be displayed horizontally. Similar to Claes Oldenburg’s nearby “Giant Three-Way Plug (Cube Tap)” (1970), it is made of weathering steel. The surface of this industrial material oxidizes over time, developing a rust-red patina that has invested “Curve I” with subtlety and richness.
The work is one of the first outdoor sculptures Kelly made after moving to the New York countryside in the 1970s, marking the beginning of an especially prolific period in his career. Originating from the image of a flattened paper cup, “Curve I” is the result of the artist’s abstracting vision — simplifying an object that has captured his interest into a formalized geometric composition of carefully calibrated size and contours, both curved and straight.
“The most pleasurable thing in the world, for me, is to see something, and then to translate how I see it,” said Kelly, who also created the 40-foot “Barnes Totem” that stands in the garden of The Barnes Foundation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“Ellsworth Kelly is surely one of the great artists of our time and Philadelphia is fortunate to have his work increasingly well-represented in both public and private collections,” said Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Both ‘Curve I’ and the recently unveiled ‘Barnes Totem’ at the Barnes Foundation are extraordinary examples of his work in the medium of sculpture.”
While Kelly’s work has a subtle visual effect, the other site specific sculpture by Late Artist Franz West rises from the Garden in a contoured arrangement of animated shapes. Created specifically for the Garden’s Lower Terrace, “Lips (2012)” is the last commission West realized prior to his untimely death in July, and will serve as a testament to the powerful legacy of the artist’s influential work. “The installation of this exceptional sculpture that so richly animates the garden comes at a poignant moment as we remember Franz West and his many achievements,” said Rub. “It is a joyful, buoyant work that we hope will offer both a sense of wonder and pleasure to our visitors.”
The terraced Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden extends the institution’s vast galleries, encouraging an engaged dialogue with the city and Fairmount Park and is open to the public during Museum hours. For more information, visit www.philamuseum.org.