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The University of Pennsylvania Kislak Center

Whitman at 200


This is a huge event. How can we get the community involved?

Walt Whitman, America’s “Poet of Democracy,” was turning 200 years old, and the University of Pennsylvania Kislak Center received a Pew Grant to celebrate his legacy and contributions.  To celebrate this longtime resident of Camden, NJ and cultural-connoisseur of Philadelphia, the Whitman at 200 event would be big! This 3 month-long celebration would bring artists together to examine themes within Whitman’s work and life. Philadelphia-based artists, Carolyn Healy and John Phillips, would collaborate on a multimedia installation that would be viewed aboard a 110-foot-long industrial barge at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River. The Bearded Ladies Cabaret would create an outdoor performance at Independence Seaport Museum. Homer Jackson, director of Philadelphia Jazz Project, would organize four walks in diverse neighborhoods, which would draw on civil rights protests and freedom songs, and feature Whitman poems set to music in new compositions by Guthrie Ramsey and Waverly Alston. New York-based artist Spencer Finch would create a participatory work for the RiverLink Ferry, which traces the same route Whitman traveled between Camden and Philadelphia. Even Patti Smith would perform Whitman poems at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a personal tribute!  In addition, a multitude of exhibitions and programs would be presented at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as by partner organizations such as the Free Library of Philadelphia, Academy of Vocal Arts, City of Philadelphia, and William Way LGBT Community Center. Whitman at 200 needed strategy, design and implementation that would make what’s old new again, with excitement and connectivity, across three different cities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. With many locations and many partners, this event had a large reach and many moving parts — and we were determined to bring it the awareness it deserved.

Read more about this project in our case study:

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