CERULEAN ARTS GALLERY 1355 Ridge Ave, Philadelphia 267-514-8647 www.ceruleanarts.com My solo show of 20 rendered collages is displayed at Cerulean from 5 Jul thru 30 Jul 2023. The In-person reception is Sat 8 Jul 2-5 pm and the virtual tour & talk is Weds 19 Jul 2023 at 6pm (must zoom register. Gallery hours are Weds thru Fri 10m-6pm, Sat & Suns 12pm thru 6pm. I may also be at the gallery several Wednesdays. Welcome to come visit.
Theme: As a lifelong Philadelphian (mostly), I explore aspects of the city I love as well as worry about, look at its extraordinary-though checkered- history, and present ideas and images for its future. As an architect and teacher, I can’t stop commenting, pencils in hand. MY PHILLY…for better or worse, for richer or poorer…
JOHN JAMES PRON: ARTIST STATEMENT
I am a lifelong Philadelphian- mostly. I was born in Northern Liberties, raised in the Northeast’s Oxford Circle, rented apartments in West Philadelphia and have lived for over fifty years right across the city’s boundary at Cheltenham Avenue. I went to Philly schools- grammar, high school, undergraduate and graduate. And I worked all of my professorial life in North Philadelphia. My wife has long been intimately connected to this city’s healthcare community and both daughters attended Philadelphia universities.
I am also an architect by profession- certainly a creative artist, but one who was trained to balance my willful imagination with an ingrained moral and ethical responsibility to improve the lives of people, of the health of the community, the viability of cities and indeed the survival of this planet. For almost 40 years, I was fulltime professor in Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and Architecture, nurturing students to believe in themselves as creative forces but also to take responsibility for bettering the world. In this case, the artist is also a problem-solver. In my design practice and teaching, I specialized in ‘adaptive reuse’- preserving the essential character of a building (its ‘soul’), while adjusting spaces and functions for changing needs.
And so, in this solo gallery show, my mode of expression is the juxtaposition of existing images by others (photos or lithographs, archival or current) against my hand-drawn “reimaginings” of the place, the usage, or the meaning. It’s a both/and strategy. While it does make for interesting and unusual images to display, what is more important is that I am using my architectural-art skills to raise awareness of critical issues affecting human lives, even advocating for important social changes. And so, along with the needed information, I am seeking to make an emotional impact on the viewer through my graphics.
Picasso did just that in his monumental Guernica- maybe the most powerful anti-war painting in history. More recently, visual artists such as Keith Haring, Banksy and Ai Weiwei do the same on contemporary issues. The viewer may appreciate the artistic qualities, but one is also asked make a personal decision over the content: take a stand, get involved, connect to others, contribute as you can. Do something.
You can view my professional and academic career (including past gallery shows, architectural designs, lectures, etc) and my bio on my website www.johnjamespron.com
“PHILLY AND ME: FOR BETTER OR WORSE…FOR RICHER OR POORER…”
This is a city that I love- its parks and neighborhoods, its grand public buildings and cultural institutions, its superlative universities and breathtaking skyscrapers. I also love its diversity…old with young, residents and visitors, extraordinary festivals near quiet enclaves, polished gentility and in-your-face grit. A city of many races, many backgrounds, many beliefs. But I also fret about this city: the things that tear it apart, the endemic problems growing ever larger, the social behaviors that destroy unity and civility. Here are my pleasures as well as my concerns, my savoring of its (sometimes checkered) past, my images suggesting a brighter future. Warnings and wishes….I can only hope the new next mayor can rise to the challenge.
Thank you to John James Pron for the content of this post.
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GLASSBORO, NJ: Rowan University Art Gallery presents The Nature of Time, a new installation by stone mason Thea Alvin. On view through July 24th at 301 West High Street, Wednesday – Saturday 11 am – 5 pm, Artist reception July 9th, 2021, 4 – 7 pm. This project complements the anticipated Time Sweeps, her permanent public art work coming soon to the East Garden Courtyard of Discovery Hall at Rowan University.
Made from nearly 14 tons of integrated stone pieces of Pennsylvania Field Stone, which contains fossils, moss, and lichen, the installation consists of three distinctive formations: a winding wall, a stone floor mosaic, and a cairn, which are joined by large format photographs of Thea’s numerous public art projects, ambient projected light, video and a melodic background soundscape.
Time Sweeps is a stone sculpture currently under construction, in the East Garden Courtyard of Discovery Hall at Rowan University. The approximately 264-ton sculpture will be composed of three main features: a 100 ft. long winding wall with an arch, and two non connecting winding walls, and a small passageway between the two walls, often referred to as a squeeze. The sculpture is comprised of primarily Pennsylvania Fieldstone (264 tons), which contains fossils, moss, and lichen, and also includes seven boulders (2-3 tons each) of the primary stone types (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic) including basalt, conglomerate, gabbro, gneiss, granite, rhyolite, schist. Six of the boulders sit at the end of walls and the seventh are columns of basalt that will mark the winter solstice. The wall will be capped in buff sandstone from Colorado (12 tons) containing dendrites.
Conceived as an “organic collaboration,” between the artist, the land, the stone, and the visitor, Time Sweeps is a uniquely interactive public artwork that provides quiet space for personal reflection and experiential learning.
When describing her design process Thea explains, “Each sculpture is a composed expression of the thoughts of the land itself. I’m in the moment with the chosen material, capturing that angst, that patience, that essence, and setting it in stone. The lines are laid and the rhythm is established on paper, but the melody becomes clear as the structure rises from the ground in situ.”
Using the natural world as her primary inspiration, Thea sees stone as an object in motion; as lines pushed by wind and driven by rain, casting shadows, capturing light. It is her intention to create places of rest and reflection, while honoring the natural faces of the stone by not adding too many marks that suggest that it was forced into position. The beauty of the material is allowed to shine through, imperfectly perfect. Not asking too much of the viewer, but acceptance and gratitude.
Thea Alvin is an artist and stone mason, a designer and builder with determination and creativity. She started her career in stone at age 16, working for her father as a tender, then for years as a mason and then stone mason. She refined her stone style while traveling and working all over the world, from China to Iceland, Canada to Italy, and all across North America. She draws on the traditions in stone and expands those to create large site specific, unique, geologic installations.
Time Sweeps, in progress
Contact: Mary Salvante, email@example.com, 856-256-4521
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney released a revised budget for fiscal year 2021 in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic on May 1, 2020. Businesses have been closed and workers have been off the job for weeks, reducing the city’s tax revenue significantly. The Office of the Department of Finance projects that without any changes the city would have a $649 million deficit next year. The city cannot legally operate with a deficit. We understand that hard decisions needed to be made and that cut backs and program budget reductions were inevitable. However, to completely eliminate an office that supports a vital industry in the city of Philadelphia, especially one that has been hit very hard during this crisis, is short sighted and should be reversed.
In the new budget, the Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy was budgeted $0 dollars, down from approximately $4.4 million, effectively closing the office. Most of that budgeted money goes directly to the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, which gives grants to hundreds of non-profits in the city.
The presentation of the budget by the Mayor is only the first step. It still must be approved and voted on by City Council before July 1.
According to the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the arts and cultural sector generates $4.1 billion in economic impact annually and supports 55,000 jobs. That creates $1.3 billion in household income and $224.3 million in state and local taxes.* The creative economy includes but is not limited to artists, musicians, painters, sculptors, dancers, actors, filmmakers, graphic designers, venues, theaters, museums, galleries, bartenders, waiters, chefs, box office workers, bouncers, sound engineers, tech crews, art/dance/recording studios, and all employed by those entities, as well as support industries such as accountants, lawyers, hotels, ride shares, parking, public relations, marketing, and media. On the other side there are the fans, patrons, concert goers, theater attendees, and more who support the arts and make the purchases.
Most of this industry has been shut down during this crisis and needs support now more than ever to rebound during the economic recovery.
The Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy’s mission is to close the gap in access to quality cultural experiences and creative expression through the support and promotion of arts, culture and the creative industries; connecting Philadelphians to enriching, arts-infused experiences; linking local artists and cultural organizations to resources and opportunities; and preserving the City’s public art assets. http://creativephl.org
The OACCE is also responsible for the Music Industry Task Force, the Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council, Art in City Hall, all of Philadelphia’s public art, and funding the Philadelphia Cultural Fund which gives grants to numerous Philadelphia arts and culture non-profits.
Philadelphia is a vibrant city teeming with culture that has been driving our identity for hundreds of years. The art created in Philadelphia reaches well beyond its borders and has touched the world and helps drive our other industries through attention and attraction to our area. As we look to rebound and recover from this crisis, there are certainly sectors that are essential to our health and safety and must be prioritized. However, unless we take care to ensure our cultural health is also revived, we risk losing our spirit.
Philadelphia’s creative economy deserves proper representation in City Hall. Understandably, it is likely not possible for the OACCE to be budgeted at the same level as the original budget, however, the industry’s economic impact alone justifies that the office’s budget be more than zero. We are simply asking that the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy not be eliminated.
Philadelphia Museum of Art: October 22, 2019–March 8, 2020
Walker Art Center: September 12, 2020–January 3, 2021
Art Institute of Chicago: February 6 –May 16, 2021
The role of designers in shaping how we think about the future is the subject of a major exhibition that will premiere at the Philadelphia Museum of Art this fall. Designs for Different Futures brings together some 80 works that address the challenges and opportunities that humans may encounter in the years, decades, and centuries ahead. Organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Art Institute of Chicago, Designs for Different Futures will be presented at the Walker and the Art Institute of Chicago following its presentation in Philadelphia.
Among the questions today’s designers seek to answer are: What role can technology play in augmenting or replacing a broad range of human activities? Can intimacy be maintained at a distance? How can we negotiate privacy in a world in which the sharing and use of personal information has blurred traditional boundaries? How might we use design to help heal or transform ourselves, bodily and psychologically? How will we feed an ever-growing population?
While no one can precisely predict the shape of things to come, the works in the exhibition are firmly fixed on the future, providing design solutions for a number of speculative scenarios. In some instances, these proposals are borne of a sense of anxiety, and in others of a sense of excitement over the possibilities that can be created through the use of innovative materials, new technologies, and, most importantly, fresh ideas.
Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, stated: “We often think of art museums as places that foster a dialogue between the past and the present, but they also can and should be places that inspire us to think about the future and to ask how artists and designers can help us think creatively about it. We are delighted to be able to collaborate with the Walker Art Center and the Art Institute of Chicago on this engaging project, which will offer our visitors an opportunity to understand not only how designers are imagining—and responding to—different visions of the future, but also to understand just how profoundly forward-looking design contributes in our own time to shaping the world that we occupy and will bequeath as a legacy to future generations.”
Thinking about the future has always been part of the human condition. It has also been a perennial field of inquiry for designers and architects whose speculations on this subject—ranging from the concrete to the whimsical—can profoundly affect how we imagine what is to come. Among the many forward-looking projects on view, visitors to Designs for Different Futures will encounter lab-grown food, robotic companions, family leave policy proposals, and textiles made of seaweed.
“Some of these possibilities will come to fruition, while others will remain dreams or even threats,” said Kathryn Hiesinger, The J. Mahlon Buck, Jr. Family Senior Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700, who coordinated the exhibition in Philadelphia with former assistant curator Michelle Millar Fisher. “We’d like visitors to join us as we present designs that consider the possible, debate the inevitable, and weigh the alternatives. This exhibition explores how design—understood expansively—can help us all grapple with what might be on the horizon and allows our imaginations to take flight.”
The exhibition is divided into 11 thematic sections. In Resources, visitors will encounter an inflatable pod measuring 15 feet in diameter, part of the work Another Generosity first created in 2018 by Finnish architect Eero Lundén and designed in this incarnation in collaboration with Ron Aasholm and Carmen Lee. The pod slowly expands and contracts in the space, responding to changing levels of carbon dioxide as visitors exhale around it, and provoking questions about the ongoing effect of the human footprint on the environment. The section titled Generations will explore ways in which the choices we make today may contribute to the well-being or suffering of those who come after us. Here, visitors will find a model of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a repository that stores the world’s largest collection of crop seeds. Located within a mountain on a remote island near the Arctic Circle, the facility is designed to withstand natural or human-made disasters. The Earths section of the exhibition speculates on the challenges of extra-terrestrial communication in Lisa Moura’s Alien Nations installation and showcases typeface from the 2016 science-fiction film Arrival.
In Bodies, designers grapple with choices about how our physical and psychological selves might look, feel, and function in different future scenarios. Featured here is one of the world’s lightest and most advanced exoskeletons, designed to help people with mobility challenges remain upright and active. Also notable is the CRISPR Kit, an affordable and accessible gene-editing toolbox, which has the potential to revolutionize biomedical research and open opportunities for gene therapy and genetic engineering.
Intimacies is a section that explores how technologies and online interfaces may affect love, family, and community. Here, urban experiences of sex and love are the focus of Andrés Jaque’s Intimate Strangers, an audio-visual installation focusing on the gay dating app. Through internet-enabled devices, designers explore the possibility of digitally mediated love and sex, suggesting what advanced digital networks hold for human sexuality.
Foods contains projects that explore the future of the human diet. Among them is a modular edible-insect farm, Cricket Shelter, by Terreform ONE, which offers a ready source of protein for impending food crises. A kitchen installation suggests how technology and design may contribute to new modes of food production, including an Ouroboros Steak made from human cells.
Additional sections of the exhibition will focus on the future of Jobs and how Cities will function and look 100 years from now—with robotic baby feeders, driverless cars, and other developments—affording a glimpse at how we might navigate living beyond this planet. Shoes grown from sweat are among the innovations visitors will find in a section devoted to Materials, while Power willlook at how design may affect our citizenship and help us retain agency over such essentials as our DNA, our voices, and our electronic communications in a future where the lines between record-keeping, communication, and surveillance blur. Data acknowledges and questions the different ways that information might be collected and used, with all its inherent biases and asymmetries, to shape different futures.
Futures Therapy Lab
As part of the exhibition, visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art galleries will also encounter a space for community meetups, public programs, school visits, and self-directed activities. The Futures Therapy Lab will weave personal connections between visitors and the exhibition as part of a collaboration between the museum’s Education Department and the curatorial team. Weekly programs, many of which will occur on Pay-What-You-Wish Wednesday Nights, will connect visitors with designers, artists, and locally based creatives. The Futures Therapy Lab will contain a crowdsourced Futures Library that includes everything from science-fiction books to the exhibition catalogue. “Thinking about possible futures is both exhilarating and anxiety-provoking,” said Emily Schreiner, the Zoë and Dean Pappas Curator of Education, Public Programs. “The Futures Therapy Lab is a place for conversation, critique, and creativity in which visitors can imagine their own hopes, fears and solutions for the future through reflection, discussion, and art making.”
Designs for Different Futures is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
In Philadelphia, this exhibition is generously supported by the Annenberg Foundation Fund for Major Exhibitions, the Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions, the Kathleen C. and John J. F. Sherrerd Fund for Exhibitions, Lisa Roberts and David Seltzer in honor of Collab’s 50th Anniversary, the Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Laura and William C. Buck Endowment for Exhibitions, the Harriet and Ronald Lassin Fund for Special Exhibitions, the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund, and an anonymous donor.
Centered on the innovative contemporary design objects, projects, and speculations of the exhibition’s checklist, the accompanying volume proposes design as a means through which to understand, question, and negotiate individual and collective futures, giving provocative voice to the most urgent issues of today. It asks readers to contemplate the design context within broader historical, social, political, and aesthetic spectrums. Designs for Different Futures addresses futures near and far, exploring such issues as human-digital interaction, climate change, political and social inequality, resource scarcity, transportation, and infrastructure.
The primary authors are Kathryn B. Hiesinger, Michelle Millar Fisher, Emmet Byrne, Maite Borjabad López-Pastor, and Zoë Ryan, with Andrew Blauvelt, Colin Fanning, Orkan Telhan, Juliana Rowen Barton, and Maude de Schauensee. Additional contributions include texts by V. Michael Bove Jr. and Nora Jackson, Christina Cogdell, Marina Gorbis, Srećko Horvat, Bruno Latour, Marisol LeBrón, Ezio Manzini, Chris Rapley, Danielle Wood, LinYee Yuan, and Emma Yann Zhang; and interviews with Gabriella Coleman, Formafantasma (Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin), Aimi Hamraie and Jillian Mercado, Francis Kéré, David Kirby, Helen Kirkum, Alexandra Midal, Neri Oxman, and Eyal Weizman.
Designs for Different Futures will be distributed by Yale University Press. The book was overseen by Philadelphia Museum of Art publishing director Katie Reilly and editors Katie Brennan and Kathleen Krattenmaker. It is designed by Ryan Gerald Nelson, Senior Graphic Designer at the Walker Art Center, under the direction of Walker design director Emmet Byrne.
The curatorial team is comprised of: at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Kathryn B. Hiesinger, The J. Mahlon Buck, Jr. Family Senior Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700, and Michelle Millar Fisher, formerly The Louis C. Madeira IV Assistant Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700; at the Walker Art Center, Emmet Byrne, Design Director and Associate Curator of Design; and at the Art Institute of Chicago, Maite Borjabad López-Pastor, Neville Bryan Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design, and Zoë Ryan, the John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design. Consulting curators are Andrew Blauvelt, Director, Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and Curator-at-Large, Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Colin Fanning, Independent Scholar, Bard Graduate Center, New York; and Orkan Telhan, Associate Professor of Fine Arts (Emerging Design Practices), University of Pennsylvania School of Design, Philadelphia.
Kathryn B. Hiesinger is The J. Mahlon Buck, Jr. Family Senior Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her work focuses on decorative arts and design from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and includes the exhibitions and publications Zaha Hadid: Form inMotion (2011), Out of the Ordinary: The Architecture and Design of Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates (2001), Japanese Design: A Survey since 1950 (1994) and Design since 1945 (1983).
Michelle Millar Fisher is the Ronald C. and Anita L Wornick Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She is a graduate of the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and is currently completing her doctorate in architectural history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is the co-author, with Paola Antonelli, of Items: Is Fashion Modern? (2017).
Emmet Byrne is the Design Director and Associate Curator of Design at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. He provides creative leadership and strategic direction for the Walker in all areas of visual communication, branding, publishing, while overseeing the award-winning in-house design studio. He was one of the founders of the Task Newsletter in 2009 and is the creator of the Walker’s Intangibles platform.
Maite Borjabad López-Pastor is the Neville Bryan Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago. She is an architect and curator educated at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Columbia University, New York. She is the author and curator of Scenographies of Power: From the State of Exception to the Spaces of Exception (2017). Her work revolves around diverse forms of critical spatial practices, operating across architecture, art, and performance.
Zoë Ryan is the John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the editor of As Seen: Exhibitions That Made Architecture and Design History (2017) and curator of In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury (2019) and the 2014 Istanbul Design Biennial, The Future is Not What it Used to Be. Her projects explore the impact of architecture and design on society.
We are Philadelphia’s art museum. A world-renowned collection. A landmark building. A place that welcomes everyone. We bring the arts to life, inspiring visitors—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone. We connect people with the arts in rich and varied ways, making the experience of the Museum surprising, lively, and always memorable. We are committed to inviting visitors to see the world—and themselves—anew through the beauty and expressive power of the arts.
Thank you to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the content of this post.