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The Barnes Foundation and the Curtis Institute of Music Present John Dowell: A Public Intimate Space

One-night-only immersive performance piece blending photography, music, and dance

Thursday, December 8, 7 pm

Philadelphia, PA, November 22, 2022—The Barnes Foundation and the Curtis Institute of Music present John Dowell: A Public Intimate Space, an immersive performance piece created by artist John E. Dowell, Jr., blending photography, movement, and sound to explore the sacred nature of the public square—in this case Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. A Public Intimate Space will take place at the Barnes on Thursday, December 8, 7–8:30 pm.

A Public Intimate Space will transform the Barnes’s Walter and Leonore Annenberg Court with Dowell’s haunting photographs of Rittenhouse Square, presented on ten-foot-tall suspended screens and animated by a newly composed work by Maya Miro Johnson, an emerging artist from the Curtis Institute of Music. Johnson’s composition, which was recorded by musicians also from the Curtis Institute of Music, draws inspiration from Gregorian chants, the history of Rittenhouse Square, and Dowell’s reimagining of urban environments and the architecture of the Barnes’s building and campus. Further animating the space will be a trio of dancers—Arabia Richardson, Xavier Santafield, and Caylah Teter—led by renowned Philadelphia choreographer Zane Booker. “This immersive piece,” says Dowell, “intends to reveal past and present souls while invoking and visualizing the power of memory within the public square.”

“This performance is a true celebration of Philadelphia and the many creatives, like John Dowell, who call it home,” says James Claiborne, Curator of Public Programs at the Barnes. “We are thrilled to be collaborating with the Curtis Institute of Music again to bring this work to life. Joining the innovative work of both established and emerging artists working across disciplines, this performance promises an immersive experience of visual and sonic beauty.”

“It’s an honor for Curtis to collaborate with our friends at the Barnes, and tremendously exciting that we have this chance to help bring music to John’s vision,” said Nick DiBerardino, chair of composition studies at the Curtis Institute of Music. “John’s art and Zane’s choreography are captivating, and with Maya’s score and in this spectacular venue, this event is sure to be memorable and moving for everyone.”

Tickets to John Dowell: A Public Intimate Space ($20; students and Barnes members $10) include access to the Barnes collection and Modigliani Up Close exhibition. Refreshments will be available for purchase.


John E. Dowell, Jr., is a photographer, painter, and printmaker whose work captures the pulse of cities and agricultural landscapes of America. Most recently, he has been working on a large body of photographs illuminating histories of the Black American experience. Over four decades, he has had more than 50 solo exhibitions, and his work is represented in 70 museum and public collections worldwide, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. A Philadelphia native, he is professor emeritus of printmaking at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art.

Maya Miro Johnson is a composer, conductor, musician, and interdisciplinary artist. She has created several compositions, among them a score for Toby Thatcher’s Zeitgeist project, which won both the Schuman and the Surinach Prizes in the 2020 BMI Student Composer Awards. Currently in her fourth year of undergraduate studies at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she holds the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellowship, she also serves as a cover conductor for the Minnesota Orchestra.

Zane Booker began his dance training with the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts at age seven and went on to become one of the company’s principal artists. He joined Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in 1996 and later appeared as a guest artist with major companies around the world, including the New National Theatre Ballet, Tokyo; the Philadelphia Dance Company; and Complexions Contemporary Ballet, New York. In 2006, he founded the Smoke, Lilies and Jade Arts Initiative, a multimedia dance theater company that promotes HIV/AIDS awareness. Booker served as a master lecturer at the University of the Arts and Howard University and is currently the assistant rehearsal director at Philadanco.

The Barnes Foundation is a nonprofit cultural and educational institution that shares its unparalleled art collection with the public, organizes special exhibitions, and presents programming that fosters new ways of thinking about human creativity. The Barnes collection is displayed in ensembles that integrate art and objects from across cultures and time periods, overturning traditional hierarchies and revealing universal elements of human expression. Home to one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern paintings—including the largest groups of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne in existence—the Barnes brings together renowned canvases by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Vincent van Gogh, alongside African, Asian, ancient, medieval, and Native American art as well as metalwork, furniture, and decorative art.

The Barnes Foundation was established by Dr. Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” A visionary collector and pioneering educator, Dr. Barnes was also a fierce advocate for the civil rights of African Americans, women, and the economically marginalized. Committed to racial equality and social justice, he established a scholarship program to support young Black artists, writers, and musicians who wanted to further their education. Dr. Barnes was deeply interested in African American culture and became actively involved in the Harlem Renaissance, during which he collaborated with philosopher Alain Locke and Charles S. Johnson, the scholar and activist, to promote awareness of the artistic value of African art.

Since moving to Philadelphia in 2012, the Barnes Foundation has expanded its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and social justice, teaching visual literacy in groundbreaking ways; investing in original scholarship relating to its collection; and enhancing accessibility throughout every facet of its programs.

The Barnes Foundation is situated in Lenapehoking, the ancestral homeland of the Lenape people. Read our Land Acknowledgment.

Hours and ticket prices are listed on our website.

The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry. For nearly a century Curtis has provided each member of its small student body with an unparalleled education alongside musical peers, distinguished by a “learn by doing” philosophy and personalized attention from a faculty that includes a high proportion of actively performing musicians.

With admissions based solely on artistic promise, no student is turned away due to financial need. Curtis makes an investment in the artistic potential of its students, providing them with full-tuition scholarships and need-based grants for living expenses to ensure that each student can enter the profession without educational debt.

In a typical year, Curtis students hone their craft through more than 200 orchestra, opera, and solo and chamber music offerings and programs that bring arts access and education to the community. This real-world training allows these extraordinary young musicians to join the front rank of performers, composers, conductors, and musical leaders, making a profound impact on music onstage and in their communities. To learn more, visit


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