Iconic jazz saxophonist Odean Pope and the socially aware poet Ursula Rucker are among this year’s recipients of grants totaling more than $8.7 million from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, to support 45 artists and cultural organizations.
“The ambitious and imaginative work of Philadelphia artists and institutions will offer audiences outstanding experiences in the year ahead,” said Paula Marincola, the center’s executive director. “We are gratified to continue to support the region’s vibrant cultural community through our annual grantmaking.”
Pew Fellowships provide awards of $75,000 to individual artists from all disciplines. This year’s Fellows include artists working in music, visual arts, film, poetry, dance and theater.
A native of Ninety Six, S.C., who grew up in Philadelphia, Pope, an artist and educator, is among an elite group of extraordinary musicians who were members of the Sam Reed Orchestra, which served as the “house band” during the magical heyday of the historic Uptown Theater — which spanned from 1958 to 1972. He is the recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts for Music Composition (1992) and founder of the respected Odean Pope Saxophone Choir.
According to the Pew Center, Pope says for his new composition, he intends to “weave a web of remembrance” for the place-driven energy and collective innovation he experienced during this period (between the late-1940s and early-1970s) when an “inspired circle” of colleagues and mentors practiced in each other’s homes, shared schools and teachers, and honed their skills in the neighborhood’s music venues — an environment he says that “motivated me and my generation to embrace experimental music and improvisation as a life-time endeavor.”
Well-known to the Philadelphia arts community and beyond, poet Ursula Rucker, a favorite collaborator of the Grammy-winning hip-hop group The Roots, is a performer and recording artist whose work “reflects on her personal history, family, and the city in which she lives.”
About her work, Rucker says, “I stand for poetry as a source of profound truth. That truth, for me, is connected to the idea that cities are places that redeem our strivings and leave us longing; the ways family life shapes and shakes us, and brings us back, and the thought that artists safeguard stories and struggles.”