Lightbox Film Center Awarded 2023 Project Grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage

September 14, 2023

Lightbox Film Center at University of the Arts, Philadelphia’s premier exhibitor for repertory, nonfiction, experimental and international cinema, has been awarded a 2023 Project Grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage for a sweeping survey of the art of Susan Kleckner, a pioneering and under-recognized photographer and filmmaker of the late 20th century. 

The exhibition, Raw Material: The Art and Life of Susan Kleckner, will be the first survey of Susan Kleckner’s work, featuring approximately 100 artworks, films, videos and additional ephemera accompanied by a film and video screening series and a scholarly monograph. Raw Material will be curated by art historian William Kaizen, PhD, who conceptualized the exhibition in collaboration with Lightbox Film Center Director and Curator Jesse Pires. For his book Against Immediacy, Kaizen met and interviewed Kleckner shortly before she died.

“Not only will this project underscore Kleckner’s ample contributions to our cultural dialogue, it will also amplify her powerful voice as an advocate for women and the LGBTQIA+ community,” Pires said. “As an artist, Kleckner stood at the vanguard of intersectional practice, a model that reflects UArts’ educational mission. I’m deeply grateful for this opportunity to present Kleckner’s remarkable body of work to our university community, the Philadelphia region and all those moved by her work.”   

Best known as a photographer and filmmaker, Kleckner was a pioneering feminist artist who participated in Women Artists in Revolution—an organization that aimed to topple the race and gender exclusivity of New York’s art scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s—and founded the Women’s Interart Center, a multidisciplinary arts space for women’s art and education that was active at the same time. 

With feminist writer and activist Kate Millett, she co-directed Three Lives, the first feature-length movie production made solely by women. Kleckner also co-directed Another Look (At the Miami Convention), an intersectional examination of Shirley Chisholm’s landmark 1972 U.S. presidential campaign. During the 1980s, Kleckner produced work related to her participation in the Women’s Peace Camps at Greenham Common, U.K., including the year-long performance Window Peace, in which a series of women lived and made art in a SoHo, New York, shop window without leaving, each for a week at a time. And before she died of cancer in 2010, Kleckner created a moving—and heretofore unexhibited—body of work while she was undergoing psychoanalysis, in which she grappled with childhood trauma and her sudden illness.

The exhibition will run from September 2025 through November 2025 and feature three screenings with three to five short films and videos at each screening. One hundred works of art—mostly photographs, as well as computer prints, gallery-based video work and sculptures, accompanied by a selection of documents from Kleckner’s archives at University of Massachusetts, Amherst—will be on display. Additionally, a younger/emerging artist will respond to and re-interpret one of Kleckner’s performance-based pieces.

“Lightbox has long stood as a beacon for cinema in the heart of Philadelphia, cultivating a profound appreciation for film and the artists who work in the medium through its programming,” UArts President Kerry Walk said. “We’re extremely fortunate to have such a vibrant resource and cultural contributor on our campus. This exhibition marks a pivotal moment for Lightbox, expanding its already exceptional ability to fuel creativity and kindle inspiration in our students and its patrons.”

Thanks to Lightbox’s place within UArts, Raw Materials: The Art and Life of Susan Kleckner will provide a rich opportunity to initiate critical discourse on an overlooked figure of 20th century art and activism in a public forum, while engaging both Philadelphia’s cultural community and young artists at an important juncture of their education. 

Partnerships & Expertise

A diverse team will help Lightbox honor Kleckner’s work and life, which touched on issues related to feminism, BIPOC and queer power, and the rights of other marginalized people. Lightbox has already partnered with UMass Amherst’s Special Collections department, where the bulk of Kleckner’s work and her estate are housed. Artists Susan Jahoda and Linda Cummings, who both knew Kleckner personally and are on her estate’s board, will help reconstruct Kleckner’s life history. Other collaborators include Siona Wilson, an expert on feminist performance in the U.S. and U.K., and Smith College’s Charlotte Feng Ford ’83 Curator of Contemporary Art, Emma Chubb. Further, Pires and Kaizen will work with UArts faculty, staff and students, along with other collaborators, to shape the exhibition. 

About Lightbox Film Center at UArts

Lightbox Film Center is Philadelphia’s main resource for a wide range of moving image art. Part of its mission is to foreground underrepresented and unexpected modes and makers. By excavating lesser-known cinema histories, Lightbox provides a framework for accessing archival material through a contemporary lens. The Pew grant will give Lightbox the opportunity to holistically celebrate and initiate critical discourse on an overlooked figure of 20th century art and activism.

About the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is a multidisciplinary grantmaker and hub for knowledge-sharing, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, dedicated to fostering a vibrant cultural community in greater Philadelphia. The center invests in ambitious, imaginative and catalytic work that showcases the region’s cultural vitality and enhances public life, and engages in an exchange of ideas concerning artistic and interpretive practice with a broad network of cultural practitioners and leaders.

Image: Susan Kleckner, Untitled (not dated), color photograph