PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 15, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Whether your first thought is of the bridge or his most famous collection Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman -- the bridge, the poet and the man -- will be center stage this year, as Whitman at 200: Art and Democracy, a region-wide initiative organized by the Penn Libraries with major support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, begins a year of activities this week celebrating the poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist's 200th birthday.
With a focus on the two-weeks between May 24 and June 9, 2019 around Whitman's actual birthday on May 31, the celebration opens with the launch of www.whitmanat200.org and social media channels (@whitat200), and the introduction of an online petition to the Delaware River Port Authority to paint the Walt Whitman Bridge the colors of the Philadelphia Rainbow flag, in recognition of Whitman's openness to all people
Known as America's "poet of democracy," Whitman lived in Camden, NJ during the last two decades of his life, regularly crossing the Delaware by ferry to visit Philadelphia. In recognition of his bicentennial, regional organizations are partnering to create an exciting series of events to explore his importance to American culture. A free spirit, who generated controversy around his poetics and his sexuality, was regarded as an icon by others – notably Thomas Eakins and Oscar Wilde.
Stated Whitman at 200 Artistic Director Judith Tannenbaum, "People recognize the name and know about the bridge, but many people are not aware that Whitman spent the last 20 years of his life in Camden and was an active part of the cultural community there and in Philadelphia."
Participating organizations range from the arts -- poetry, visual art, design, music and more -- to the LGBTQ community, the environment, and issues about democracy, including the Walt Whitman House (Camden), Philadelphia's Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, Free Library, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, William Way Center, Rutgers University-Camden, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Wharton Esherick Museum, University of Delaware Library and Lyric Fest.
Said Project Director Lynne Farrington, "This celebration of Whitman's bicentennial is an exciting opportunity for the Penn Libraries to engage with institutions and organizations throughout the region and with communities that would not otherwise access the library and its resources. It pushes us to help create the egalitarian society Whitman promoted."
Upcoming events include a video installation of "Whitman, Alabama" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; a printing workshop at Penn; and an artist book exhibition at Arcadia University, and a Birthday Cake
Bake-Off with the winning cake unveiled for Whitman's birthday, around which most events, including four newly-commissioned art projects, are scheduled.
- New York artist Spencer Finch will install interactive color wheels on the RiverLink Ferry which travels between Camden and Philadelphia for the summer season, allowing passengers to observe and match the color of the sky and the river to those on the wheels.
- Homer Jackson will create a series of walks, New Songs of the Open Road, to be held in the Germantown, Parkway, South Philadelphia, and Strawberry Mansion neighborhoods.
- On May 30, Patti Smith and her daughter Jesse Paris Smith will explore Whitman's legacy through word and song at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
- On May 31, Whitman's birthday begins at 11 am with Mayor Jim Kenney and others reading and singing Whitman's words in City Hall Courtyard and the cutting of the official birthday cake.
- The Penn Libraries exhibition Whitman Vignettes: Camden and Philadelphia explores Whitman's connection to the region through his friendships, writings, influence, collectors, legacy, and the naming of his bridge.
- Performances June 4 and 5 of Whitman's "Song of the Open Road," featuring video, sculpture, lighting, and sound, installed on a barge in the Delaware River by Philadelphia artists Carolyn Healy and John Phillips.
The full schedule of Whitman at 200 events can be found on the website: www.whitmanat200.org.
For information about the initiative and the Penn Libraries collection, please visit www.whitmanat200.org.
SOURCE Penn Libraries