Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Announces 2011 Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative Grants

Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Announces 2011 Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative Grants

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage has awarded $874,900 through the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative (PEI) to nine exceptional visual arts projects. Five exhibition and four planning projects make up the 2011 grant recipients, all of which will contribute to a vibrant arts landscape in the Philadelphia area.

“This year's grants range from exhibitions of extravagant visual pyrotechnics and unusual techniques to those engaging the social and community practice that is so much at issue in contemporary visual art,” notes Paula Marincola, Executive Director of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and PEI Director. “They also promise to reach and engage many different audiences in a variety of imaginative and experiential ways.”

Highlights of the funded projects include an exploration of the topic of happiness by an internationally acclaimed graphic designer; a distinctive preservation project that captures the untold history of a Philadelphia landmark through a new and expansive approach to printmaking; a dynamic installation by an award-winning artist that breaks through the walls of the traditional gallery space; and a 10-year retrospective of photographic work from one of Philadelphia's most charismatic and socially engaged artists.

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) will bring graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, an internationally known figure in his field, to Philadelphia for The Happy Show, a new, fully interactive exhibition that whimsically and substantively explores the concept of happiness. Scientists, psychologists, and even politicians have turned their attention to happiness over the past decade, bringing a new focus to this aspect of human experience, and Sagmeister has been closely following the scientific and pop-culture developments in this area. The Happy Show's dynamic public programs and gallery-based elements will provide visitors with a new kind of museum experience, engaging them directly in the construction of the exhibition's content and instilling a sense of joint ownership of the show's contents. Outside of the design world, Sagmeister's name is largely unknown but he has permeated pop culture with award-winning album cover design for bands such as the Talking Heads. ICA's show will raise his visibility as a figure whose work could be considered within a broader context of the visual arts.

Philagrafika will present Doing Time as part of its continued examination of printmaking in contemporary art. Spanish conservation artists Patricia Gómez and María Jesús González, both of whom have never exhibited in the U.S., will work in Philadelphia's abandoned Holmesburg Prison during a six-week residency. The pair will remove the paintings and graffiti left on the walls by former inmates through a modified version of an intricate process known as strappo, a procedure that consists of the artists gluing canvas firmly to a wall and then peeling away a thin layer of its surface on that canvas. The resulting images or prints will serve as historical records of the site. Viewers will be able to watch the artists as they work via live Web stream, and the large-scale printings will be displayed at a concluding exhibition at The Galleries at Moore College of Art & Design.

Renowned installation artist and MacArthur Fellow Sarah Sze will complete a two-year residency at the Fabric Workshop and Museum (FWM), during which time she will plan and compose an unconventional site-specific installation that makes full use of FWM's building. Sze works with everyday consumer, industrial, and organic materials, such as tea bags and water bottles, and creatively transforms them into the building blocks of dazzling, unexpected installations that are colorful, textured, and dynamic. For the culminating exhibition—Sze's first in Philadelphia—she will weave objects throughout the FWM building, giving visitors access to all types of spaces as they move throughout floors and experience the work. Interactive kiosks will offer insight into Sze's chosen objects in the installation and the experimental nature of her creative process. 

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will present the first comprehensive assessment of the work of dynamic Philadelphia photographer and 2005 Pew Fellow Zoe Strauss in a mid-career retrospective that reaches beyond the gallery space and into the city. Strauss' photographs are a form of social documentary, reflecting upon the working-class experience and, as she puts it, the “beauty and struggle of everyday life” in America. In the spirit of Strauss' I-95 project, for which she displayed photographs under the I-95 highway and sold prints to the public for five dollars each annually for the past 10 years, images will be displayed on billboards throughout the city and will be visible on the PMA's façades in the form of large-scale banners and projections. Strauss will keep regular office hours at the PMA during the run of the exhibit and, in collaboration with Megawords, create a kiosk in the museum's lobby through which audiences can talk with her about her work.

For the complete list of 2011 Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative grant recipients and full project descriptions, please see the attached list or visit

Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative grants are awarded annually on a competitive basis and are selected by a panel of internationally recognized visual arts professionals. These grants foster artistic development and excellence in the region's art community by supporting those exhibitions and accompanying publications which are of the highest artistic caliber and engage the public through innovative means. For a full list of 2011 panelist names and respective credentials, please see the attached list of grantees or visit

The Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative was established in 1997 and has since funded 112 projects, investing over $11 million in bringing outstanding visual arts exhibitions to the region's audiences, as well as the field.

The photo on the home page is credited to Sarah Sze, Unravel (detail), 2005. Mixed Media, 161" x 115" x 100”. Courtesy of the Fabric Workshop and Museum.

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is dedicated to stimulating a vibrant cultural community in the five-county, Southeastern Pennsylvania region. Established in 2005, the Center houses seven funding Initiatives of The Pew Charitable Trusts, and through them supports area artists, and arts and heritage organizations whose work is distinguished by excellence, imagination, and courage. Each year, the Center's grants make possible more than 800 performances in dance, music, and theatre as well as history and visual arts exhibitions, and other public programs for audiences in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties. The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by The University of the Arts, Philadelphia. For more information, visit