NW artists of color dominate Pew grant awards

by Rita Charleston
Posted 4/20/23

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage has awarded $1,170,000 in fellowships to 12 Philadelphia area artists of color.

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NW artists of color dominate Pew grant awards


The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, in collaboration with The Barra Foundation, Neubauer Foundation, William Penn Foundation and Wyncote Foundation, has awarded $1,170,000 in fellowships to 12 Philadelphia area artists of color through the Philadelphia's Cultural Treasures (PCT) funding initiative.

Half of those awarded fellowships – artists working in music, performance, film, visual arts, literature and multidisciplinary and community-based art forms – are from Northwest Philadelphia.

The awards range from $75,000 to $120,000 in unrestricted funds, with the higher amounts awarded to artists whose contributions have made an impact on the region for 20 years or more. Additionally, $15,000 in retirement savings will be awarded to each fellow along with professional development opportunities to promote their well-being and assist with advancing their work. The Pew Center would not release the award amounts for each artist.

Germantown resident Vashti DuBois, one of the award winners, said she’s not surprised there is such a high percentage of artists from the Northwest who won.

“I've lived in Germantown for 21 years and have always loved it,” she said. “It's a place that often flies under the radar, but is populated by so many 'invisible' artists who have made their home here that I'm not the least bit surprised so many of us have received the fellowships. Germantown is a powerful place to live and work.”

DuBois said she was not absolutely sure why she was fortunate enough to receive one of the fellowships, but she promises to put it to good use. As founder and co-creator of The Colored Girls Museum in her home at 4613 Newhall St., she said most of the money will be used to further the cause.

“The museum first appeared seven years ago as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival,” DuBois said. “It was created for the women and girls of the African diaspora. I created a space for them where there had never been one before. Today, the museum attracts both national and international attention. We are speaking to an audience that's often been overlooked, and there is no other organization like it. Since we are still a relatively young organization, and funding is always difficult, this fellowship will enable me to help the voices of our artists be heard.”

Another Germantown resident similarly honored is poet, performing artist and activist Ursula Rucker. Her work reflects on personal history, family and social justice over her career spanning nearly three decades. Rucker has released five albums and collaborated with a wide range of artists and cultural organizations. She is also a mentor to emerging poets and a creator and facilitator of programs for communities across Philadelphia.

She, too, is not at all surprised that half of the fellowships awarded were given to area residents.

“I've lived in Germantown for the past 20 years and have always loved it,” she said. “The Wissahickon, nature. It's all around us here. And artists abound here, too. I don't have specific plans for the money yet, but I can't wait to see what this fellowship will allow me to do for the 'club.'”

Rucker, who holds a degree in journalism from Temple University, said she is pleasantly surprised by the reception her spoken word recordings and live performances have received, and, she added, “Thanks to the fellowship I've received I hope to help myself and others do much, much more with our art.”

Other fellowship recipients include:

•Daryl Kwasi Burgee, of Germantown, is a musician and leading educator with four decades of experience in West African music and cultural traditions, Burgee is the founder and artistic director of Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra and Jaasu Ballet African Dance. He has played on more than 250 recordings with a wide range of artists, performed with The Philadelphia Orchestra, and taught in schools throughout the Delaware Valley as well as nationally and internationally.

•Roberto Lugo, of Glenside, is a visual artist, social activist, poet and educator whose ceramic works blend classical pottery forms and decorative patterns with iconography reminiscent of his North Philadelphia upbringing and hip-hop culture. Highlighting themes of poverty, inequality and racial injustice, his work has received international recognition and is held in the permanent collection of several museums.

•Pepon Osorio, of Mt. Airy, is a multimedia visual artist, socially engaged practitioner and educator. He has worked with communities all over the nation and internationally during his 30-plus-year career, creating installments based on people's real-life experiences. His work has appeared in major museums and private homes throughout the world.

•Yolanda Wisher, of Germantown, is a poet, singer, educator and curator who has been commissioned by numerous organizations to organize major programs and events. Her work engages poetry as both an intimate and shared public experience and as a vehicle to nurture and mobilize communities. Wisher has been poet laureate of both Philadelphia and Montgomery County.

For more information, visit pewcenterarts.org