University of the Arts
Advancing Human Creativity
University of the Arts’ mission is simple: to advance human creativity. UArts believes creativity is the most essential skill for success in today’s society and has educated generations of groundbreaking artists, performers, designers and creative leaders for more than 145 years.
After being granted university status in 1987, University of the Arts became the largest institution of its kind in the nation, offering programs in design, fine arts, media arts, crafts, music, dance, theater and writing. It now features 23 undergraduate arts majors, 15 graduate programs and the nation’s first PhD program in Creativity.
From Friday, Jan. 13 to Friday, March 10, Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery at University of the Arts will present Alex Da Corte’s The Street.
This complex installation comprises a suite of Da Corte’s recent large-scale reverse-glass paintings, shown for the first time, hung against a background mural of his own design in an environment including masonry columns, neon and placards. An opening reception will be held at the gallery Friday, Jan. 13 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
The Street references Venturi, Scott Brown’s Main Street and the Information Highway, Philadelphia, the vernacular vocabulary of popular culture culled from the internet, animation cels, Pop Art in general and the American artist Marjorie Strider in particular, the paintings of Andrew Gbur BFA ’07 (Painting), book cover and record design, Disney’s Snow White, James Rosenquist’s "F-111," Sesame Street, avant-garde swimwear designer Rudi Gernreich, Marilyn Monroe, Sister Corita Kent, the Mexican version of Ernie Bushmiller’s comic-strip scamp Nancy known as Periquita, Ed Ruscha, R. L. Stine’s Fear Street series of YA horror novels, an obscure wall-mural advertisement in south Jersey, Langston Hughes and Donald Barthelme, Milton Glaser, manuals for making windows, and an early work by UArts professor Edna Andrade.
In total, the project deals with the appropriation and mirroring of popular culture, anamorphic distortion, cultural memory and personal reflection. On the street, disorder is an order we cannot see. On the street, everyone is a voyeur.
All Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery exhibitions are free and open to the public.
About the Artist
Born in 1980 in Camden, New Jersey, Da Corte is well known to the University of the Arts and Philadelphia communities. A 2004 UArts alum, Da Corte received his MFA from Yale University in 2010. He was last seen at UArts on March 5, 2020, when he re-envisioned Allan Kaprow’s Chicken in Gershman Hall.
UArts Film program graduate Xenia Matthews BFA ’21 (Film) was selected for the 2023 edition of Sundance Film Festival. Her 2022 film OURIKA! originally debuted at the Philadelphia-based BlackStar Film Festival.
Matthews’ glossy, psychedelic short film is headed to Park City, Utah, in the mountains east of Salt Lake City, in January. OURIKA! will screen at the celebrated film festival after it saw its world premiere in Philadelphia last summer. The work has been lauded from the jump, earning Matthews a feature in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film roundup.
OURIKA! came together with the support of the BlackStar Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab, which gives voice to younger artists through its film production lab which helps fund the production cycles of upcoming filmmakers.
OURIKA! originally debuted alongside three other short films funded through the inaugural run of the BlackStar Filmmaker Lab at the festival in early August 2022. The film—a surreal, 18-minute glamorous sci-fi deconstruction of the tale of a Senegalese girl named Ourika who was enslaved by a French aristocrat—was warmly received and went on to be featured in the Indie Memphis Film Festival in October. In Matthews’ film, Ourika has been dead for over 200 years, her soul wandering through a dark, endless void where she encounters ghosts from her previous life. As Ourika journeys, two sister scientists, Velinda and Ronnell, work tirelessly for decades in hopes that they can bring her back to life.
“OURIKA! began when she came to me in an art history class” said Matthews of the inspiration. “We looked at artworks tied to the French and Haitian Revolutions. There were so many beautifully crafted depictions of Black people but the one that stuck with me was a painting of a young Senegalese girl named Ourika. The more I read about her, the more I found her story so strange...but so familiar … I have felt the feeling too many times - that my body is everyone’s but my own - to look at, to consume, to deplete, to project upon, to see it as an excuse to ignore the person inside.”
“Discovering her story was part of discovering myself” Matthews continued in her director’s statement. “I often feel alone in time because history, especially Black history, is dominated by very tough figures. ... But Ourika … was depicted so softly, her story was so tragic, … she was enslaved but … she was a pet, a plaything, an accessory for a French woman … she lived as a commodity and she died as a commodity [at 16 years of age]. A fiction novel written about her death and life sparked … plays, poems, costumes, and paintings of a dead black girl [that] were bought and sold and celebrated. An image without a soul, consumed - it felt familiar. But I didn’t want to make a slave movie. I didn’t want to retell or re-enact. I wanted there to be more for her. If she could escape the purgatory of being a thing, how would she do it? Then my mind went wandering. This was going to be a reanimation story.”
OURIKA! is a novel departure from Matthew’s previous work, resulting from new approaches and methods in the creative process. It was Matthews’ first production after graduating from UArts and, notably, is her first experience with a fully funded production cycle and extended production team, thanks to the funding from BlackStar Filmmaker Lab.
But the film is also significant as more exploratory, rooted less in Matthews’ own experience and more in a venture into an existing narrative. While much of Matthews’ work focuses on experiences of Black womanhood—in her words, “the joys, the struggles, the misunderstood [...] externalizing what is often only experienced internally”—OURIKA! is based on the eponymous 1823 novel by Claire de Duras. Matthews’ previous work was often emphatically biographical, refracting deeply personal experiences through experimental, glittering films.
Indeed, OURIKA! rides the momentum Matthews started building with her acclaimed semi-autobiographical 2021 short film A Few Things I'm Beginning to Understand, originally her thesis work for the UArts Film program. From its debut at the 2021 UArts Film Thesis Showcase, the film has made the rounds, appearing at the Denton Black Film Festival (January 2022) Houston Cinema Arts Festival (November 2021) Indie Memphis Film Festival (October 2021) Topaz Film Festival (October 2021) Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival (September 2021), National Film Festival for Talented Youth (April 2022), culminating at the Slamdance Film Festival (January 2022) this year.
In her own description of the film, Matthews invites the viewer to “surf the glittering channels of Xenia’s mind in this highly saturated, musical spectacular where she and an old friend start making sense of the issues between Xenia and her boyfriend, Keke.”
Matthews says that A Few Things … came from a sense of an internal attitude shift, stemming from many profound, intense developments - personal, social, global. Many of the motivations for A Few Things sprang from the joint pressure-cookers of the coronavirus pandemic and the massive social upheaval of the 2020 protests for racial justice.
Matthews had at that point been regularly attending Black Lives Matter actions since 2014, motivated in no small part by living through the killing of Trayvon Martin just one county over from her hometown in Florida. Seeing the uprisings and energy of the protests in the summer of 2020 after many years of being “used to having to yell and scream and fight for people to listen” was a perspective shift, she said. Framed by the sense of isolation during the pandemic, Matthews turned inward and “wanted to explore a softer side of these issues and how it was affecting me and my boyfriend personally.”
A key contextual experience for Matthew’s delving occurred in 2019 when her boyfriend, who is Black, was arrested on bogus pretenses in the Rittenhouse neighborhood of Philadelphia while Matthews was at work. The experience was chaotic and harrowing, including an overnight scramble to track down what precinct at which he was booked. After being held overnight, he was charged with eight counts, including two felonies, which were ultimately dropped when the coronavirus lockdowns closed courts and continually delayed prosecutorial action.
It wasn’t his first time being arrested, so this distressing, painful experience prompted much sharing and connection between him and Matthews. This painful context made Matthews see the 2020 summer uprisings in a very specific and personal light.
“I felt so much rage and I felt so powerless—it inspired me to see other people fighting for the cause. It made me want to look inward instead of outward. Maybe it’s not all on me to necessarily change things. I think I do need to take a serious look how our whole lives have been affecting me and him.”
In this context, Matthews began working on A Few Things. Intimate test shots of Keke dancing in the park, Matthews placing his head on a table and icing him like a cake. Ultimately, Xenia wrote a song about the whole experience – a sincere expression of love, as well as the sense of heartbreak over not being able to love him to the fullest because of “all of the shit going on, all of the anti-Blackness ingrained in every fiber of how we’ve been raised … [it’s a] song of frustration about being unable to love all the way.”
Matthew’s process was highly exploratory and more like collaging than a proper production period, bouncing from a scattered inception to a procedural cycle of shooting, editing, reviewing, and then shooting and editing again. She was continuing this cycle right up until the deadline before the thesis showcase in May 2021, a continually deepening and expanding process that lent itself to her delving, experiential biographical style.
“It's about flow, rather than structure. It comes together a bit more naturally,” Matthews said.
Matthews credits much of the success of her works to the open-minded approach and explicit institutional support she had at UArts. The encouragement she received for her personal and unique production process allowed Matthews to flourish as more than just a filmmaker; rather, as a comprehensive, holistic artist.
Fully being allowed to be herself was essential to her creative success, says Matthews. She initially came to the Film program from UArts’ Illustration program, and as such identifies as an inherently visual person. For Matthews, the conceptual and visual elements are tied together and the narrative and conceptual often only come afterward, while working and producing. Her professors Mike Attie and Chris Johnson understood this and how it factored into the documentary nature of her work, and encouraged her intuitive approach of piecing together the narrative based on the process, rather than pressing her about rigid production schedules and similar organizational details. They would readily workshop with her based on what she was able to go out and shoot and edit together, and encouraged playful experimentation.
“Everyone coming into film school has an idea of what it’s going to be like … other schools have a very industrial model – like, a very producer-oriented track or an editor track, where everyone stays in their lane and collaborates on projects but everyone stays in their specific role,” she explained. “At UArts, it was encouraged for you to dip your toe into every aspect of filmmaking and rather than focusing on the super technical elements of filmmaking , of which there are many, we were encouraged to find our voices as artists.”
“If I had gotten hung up on screenplays and planning I wouldn’t have made anything as good as I did. It’s definitely something I learned at UArts,” Matthews said. “I’m super-thankful I went to an art school instead of a film school. I see film as my artistic practice, and it’s not something I want to do for anybody else, I don’t want to go to Hollywood or be a director as my job. This is very much about how I make my art.”
But beyond the freedom to really explore a personal workflow, the collaborative environment of UArts and the broader creative community it nurtures is also an integral part of what made OURIKA! shine. Matthews worked with many UArts students and graduates on the project, including Evesha Harry ’23 (Acting), David Dunnington BFA ’20 (Film), Hanna Hamilton BFA ’14 (Film), Kimberly Redman BFA ’18 (Acting) and Jesse Derocco BFA ’21 (Film). Having such a spread of years and specializations between current students and graduates speaks to how UArts acts as a creative incubator, says Matthews.
With Sundance catapulting Matthews to a new level, it’s natural to ask what comes next. In conversation before her latest big break, she alluded to daydreams of developing a gallery or theater space for film. Matthews sees all of her film works as inherently installable and envisions a highly decorated space where film pieces, artwork and performances can cohabitate and be experienced in a communal screening space or museum. This desire for a museum-like space is also the inspiration for Matthew’s website name, Muxeeum.
But all in due time. With the breakout success of OURIKA!, and with many more opportunities likely to bubble up after appearing at Sundance, there are plenty more twists and turns to anticipate.
Sheryl Oring, a renowned artist, educator, activist and advocate for the arts, has been named dean of University of the Arts’ School of Art. Oring joins UArts from Detroit’s Wayne State University, where since 2019 she has served as professor and chair of the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History. She will assume her new role at UArts on January 30.
Through her inclusive and collaborative brand of leadership, Oring will advance the university’s mission while strengthening its international profile as a leading visual and performing arts school and creating new opportunities for UArts’ students and faculty. Additionally, Oring is deeply committed to elevating the profile of the university’s many BIPOC artists and reinforcing a supportive and cross-disciplinary environment that fosters innovative art-making and creative thinking.
“UArts has an extraordinary creative legacy and an ambitious mission, so I could not be more thrilled to join this university community,” Oring said. “As a leader in visual arts education, I draw inspiration from amplifying others’ work and vision, something I am eager to continue at UArts and throughout Philadelphia. I look forward to engaging and collaborating with the many students, faculty and staff who make the university such a diverse hub of creativity and innovation.”
Oring holds an MFA in Visual Art from University of California, San Diego, and a BS in Journalism from University of Colorado, Boulder. At Wayne State, Oring was instrumental in transforming its art instruction by weaving it into the university and the surrounding community’s cultural fabric. Among her many projects, she oversaw the formation of an art and medicine working group that gathered community members, doctors and artists in pursuit of a common goal. What emerged was a mural that celebrates African American contributions to the field of medicine in Detroit. The mural, which was unveiled this fall, was supported by Michigan Humanities.
As an artist, Oring investigates social issues through projects that blend old and new media as a way to tell stories, explore public opinion and invite an open exchange of ideas. Her work has been shown at Bryant Park in New York City, the Berlin Wall Memorial, the Jewish Museum Berlin, the 01SJ Biennial in San Jose and the San Diego Museum of Art, as well as in major festivals such as Encuentro in São Paulo and the Art Prospect Festival in St. Petersburg. Her artist books are in collections, including the Library of Congress, Tate Modern and the Bibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg. Oring is a Creative Capital grantee and has received support from Franklin Furnace, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, the American Council on Germany and numerous additional organizations.
In 2004, Oring began I Wish to Say, through which she has typed nearly 4,300 postcards at dozens of locations across the country and has sent them to four different United States presidents. Across the project’s more than 100 performances, Oring dons 1960s secretary attire and establishes a makeshift office—complete with a vintage manual typewriter—in a public place. Passersby are invited to dictate postcards to the sitting president. After typing them verbatim, Oring sends the original postcards to the White House and keeps a copy for her project archive, hosted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Library. Oring maintained a virtual iteration of the project during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in 2016, she was joined by 60 of her students to present a large-scale version in New York’s Bryant Park.
I Wish to Say and Oring’s other work, which is intrinsically connected to writing and the ideals of democracy, will be particularly resonant in Philadelphia, a historic city with a lengthy and impressive artistic legacy. In Philadelphia, Oring will leverage her uncanny ability to uplift unheralded voices through the transformative power of art to forge potent new relationships and ensure student success.
Pictured above, "I Wish to Say" by Sheryl Oring. Portrait of Oring by Dhanraj Emanuel.
News & Events
On Sat., Oct. 15, UArts welcomed Oscar-nominated director Sam Green for a screening of his 2022 Sundance Film Festival hit documentary, 32 Sounds. The film, which asks audiences to reconsider their relationship to sound, was presented as a “live cinema” event at Lightbox Film Center, and Green provided live narration.
Green designed 32 Sounds to be a participatory documentary that can be experienced in several different ways, though his ultimate intention is an intimate live show. Each audience member is provided with a pair of noise-canceling headphones that help shape the direction of the film’s sound and eliminate rustling, whispering and other typical movie theater distractions. The film also includes an original score by artist and composer JD Sampson, best known for her work with the electronic bands Le Tigre and MEN.
Throughout the film, Green explores 32 discrete sound explorations to, as Green ponders, “understand time and time passing and loss and the ephemeral beauty of the present moment,” consistent themes that appear in his work. In one segment, Green speaks with the curator of natural sounds at the British Library Sound Archive and asks which of the more than 7 million sounds in the collection is her favorite. The audience joins the curator in listening to a heartbreaking recording of the mating call of the last remaining Moho braccatus, a Hawaiian bird species that went extinct in 1987 because of human development.
Later, Green accompanies composer Annea Lockwood, who has recorded the sound of rivers with a submersible microphone for more than 50 years. Her recordings offer a glimpse into the rich sounds of underwater environments, where currents, insects and fish intersect to create what the artist calls “delicious, beautiful sounds” that deepen our connections with the environment.
Lockwood emerges as the film’s central figure, and Green returns to her as she examines her grief at the loss of her longtime partner and fellow composer, Ruth Anderson, through recordings they made of their laughter and the sounds of nature that surround their Hudson Valley home.
As a whole, the segments come together to form a meditative tapestry on the power of sound to cross borders and reshape the perception of the world around us. When it debuted at Sundance this year, 32 Sounds was heralded as a “relentlessly curious documentary” with “lingering gravitas” by The New York Times. Green’s past work includes 2004’s The Weather Underground, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and 2012’s The Love Song of Buckminster Fuller, which features music by indie rock band Yo La Tengo.
In advance of the screening, Green spent much of Friday, Oct. 14, with students in UArts’ School of Film. He visited a sound design class for a conversation moderated by Program Director Mike Attie and shared insights on his process and career. Green also had lunch with a small group of students and hosted one-on-one meetings with him.
“I’ve personally been a fan of Sam Green since the release of The Weather Underground, a film with a unique creative approach that made the past both present and personal,” Attie said. “Green is a relentlessly curious and innovative artist whose work defies categorization, much like the very best of what we do at UArts.”
On Aug. 26, University of the Arts will welcome the inaugural cohort of Inspiration Lab (iLAB) artists in residence. This new program, which will occupy the renovated third floor of Anderson Hall on South Broad Street, gathers emerging and midcareer interdisciplinary artists and provides the critical support needed to accelerate their contributions to contemporary art. The residencies range from three months to one year, with additional artists set to join the university in January.
In addition to dedicated studio and communal spaces, the cohort has the potential to access the university’s advanced workshops and labs, including fabrication studios, the cutting-edge Albert M. Greenfield Makerspace and Laurie Wagman Recording Studios, and the Center for Immersive Media, which houses one of the largest motion-capture stages on the East Coast. Additionally, as a means to elevate and sustain relationships with the UArts and the greater Philadelphia community, all artists in residence will explore connections with ongoing UArts courses and provide public presentations of their work.
This program has been supported by UArts donors and an active committee that helped UArts envision and shape the concept of these residencies while supporting the artists’ selection. The committee members for this first cycle of residencies are Nicole Pollard, curator of lived culture at Philadelphia Contemporary; Phong Bui, artist, writer, curator, and publisher and artistic director of Brooklyn Rail; and Jenn Joy, scholar, performance artist and author of The Choreographic.
About the artists:
Raven Chacon is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Diné artist known for his chamber music compositions and noise music performances. Chacon’s residency is supported by a partnership with the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.
In residency through July 31
Cultural organizer and music director Sweet Corey-Bey is recognized for creating works that shift cultural narratives through immersive storytelling and uplift identity formation.
In residency through Dec. 2
Philadelphia-based artist Lucia Garzón works in a range of media including, but not limited to, wood, textiles, print and video. The main themes in Garzón’s work focus on the intersection between the immigrant values and histories passed on through her family.
In residency through Dec. 2
Naomieh Jovin is a Philadelphia-based artist. Her work utilizes appropriated photos from old family albums and incorporates her own photographs to illustrate resistance and intergenerational trauma, and how we carry the experiences of our past and our family’s past in our bodies.
In residency through July 31
Mia Kang is an art historian, poet, performance artist and interim director of the Museo del Westside, a new community participatory museum focused on the history and culture of San Antonio’s Westside barrio. Her dissertation, Art, Race, Representation: The Rise of Multiculturalism in the Visual Arts, examines the contested rise of U.S. multiculturalism and its unresolved legacies.
In residency through July 31
UArts alum Breyanna Maples BFA ’18 (Dance) is a Philadelphia-based artist who recently collaborated with Tommie-Waheed Evans on softly, as I leave you. In addition, Maples has worked with Solange, Okwui Okpokwasili, Peter Born, Gerard and Kelly, and numerous other interdisciplinary artists.
In residency through July 31
The work of Philadelphia-based artist Ana Mosquera revolves around digital data collection and creating methods of analysis that interrogate our daily use of technology. A combination of multidisciplinary processes allows her to organize and make sense of digital experiences, while exploring the relationship between physical and digital places.
In residency through Dec. 2
Through means of mimesis, Philadelphia-based artist Jonathan Santoro utilizes fractured narratives borrowed from mass culture, existential theater and pop psychology to create paradoxical images, where nothing is what it initially appears to be.
In residency through July 31
Orlando Thompson is a St. Louis-based artist and movie maker. Regarding his work, Thompson says, “I am black… I am American. This is how America defines me. What I make explores being black, American and the space in-between.”
In residency through Dec. 2
Based in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, Wilmer Wilson IV investigates the marginalization and care of Black bodies in contemporary life through his work. Wilson is concerned with “the way that blackness is shaped in and by city space” and interested in “producing possibilities for representation that exist apart from global advertising strategies.”
In residency through May 31
Supported by $5 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grants from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, University of the Arts’ new Student Center is expected to open in February 2023. The new center is the university’s first-ever centralized hub for student activity, occupying the first floor of historic Gershman Hall at the intersection of Pine and Broad streets in Philadelphia. Its realization delivers much-needed gathering and learning spaces on the university’s Center City campus.
More than 65 percent of UArts’ student body already accesses Gershman Hall’s classrooms and services every week, and film lovers regularly gather there for screenings presented by Lightbox Film Center at University of the Arts. Not only will this new space serve as the heart of student activity, but it will also bolster the university’s mission, to advance human creativity, in Philadelphia and beyond.
“At UArts, we believe creativity is a fundamental and profound catalyst for social and economic change,” said UArts President and CEO David Yager. “That ideal is embedded into all of our educational programs, allowing us to equip tomorrow's artists with one of the most essential skills needed for success in today’s global, technology-driven society. We remain deeply appreciative of the support that allows us to construct this forward-looking center and eagerly anticipate an innovative new sector of our campus that better supports our students.”
The project was also supported by a lead gift from Harriet and Larry Weiss to establish Harriet’s Place: a gift from Larry. Also located on the first floor of Gershman Hall, Harriet’s Place will include a collaboration hub, a cafe, a school store and other compelling features. Both Harriet and Larry Weiss have been longtime supporters of UArts and patrons of the arts in Philadelphia. Additionally, Harriet Weiss currently serves on UArts’ board of trustees.
“Our wish is for our students to have a great college experience, a place to meet, enjoy each other’s company, form new friendships, and share dreams and creative ideas,” said Harriet and Larry Weiss. Harriet and Larry noted that they wish they could sing, dance and draw like UArts’ students.
These new creative spaces will also allow the university to attract new and exciting talent from around the world and enrich the student experience for future generations. The forthcoming phases of the Student Center project will also include a state-of-the-art screening room, an expanded and modernized dining hall, and an improved accessible building entrance.
In addition, the patrons who visit the university to explore exhibitions and productions will boost Philadelphia’s entertainment and restaurant industries. Throughout construction, this project has created dozens of new jobs in Center City and has given Philadelphia’s hard-hit restaurant and entertainment industry a significant boost. UArts has also ensured that at least 25 percent of workers are from minority populations and at least 40 percent are based in Pennsylvania.
Rendering courtesy of JacobsWyper Architects
UArts President’s Scholarship
University of the Arts has established the President’s Scholarship, the university’s most distinguished scholarship, which is awarded to accepted students who demonstrate exemplary artistic talent and academic promise.
Laurie Wagman Recording Studios
These state-of-the-art facilities are dedicated to exploring all facets of music production including composition, sound design, digital and analog recording, mixing and mastering.
UArts is reimagining the arts university experience. In addition to the distinct opportunity to study outside your major and in Philadelphia’s vibrant cultural center, we’re breaking new ground for creative exploration, expression and learning, year after year.
#UArtist is a celebration of the boundless creativity of the UArts community. Students, faculty, staff and alumni are welcome to share their work with us via Instagram by including #uartist.
Equal Opportunities and Nondiscrimination at UArts
In order to create the conditions necessary for human creativity to flourish, University of the Arts is committed to fostering individual and artistic integrity and inclusion by promoting and respecting self-expression, a wide range of ideas, and diversity in all of its forms. UArts does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, gender identity, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status, and family medical or genetic information, in any of its programs, activities or employment and admission practices.
Questions and complaints pertaining to UArts’ commitment to its nondiscrimination policies and its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility initiatives can be directed to the director for Title IX, equity and compliance at 215-717-6362 or firstname.lastname@example.org.