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50 years of women's art in Philadelphia

Plus, mullets galore at Pa.'s Farm Show.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

January 12, 2024
Inside this edition: Chasing rivers, peak Pennsylvania, Farm Show mullets, Philly awards, moon mission, and 50 years of FOCUS.

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A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

Pennsylvania is home to the only triple continental divide east of the Mississippi River, where rainfall travels in three separate directions to the sea. Do you know what county it's located in?

Hint: This county is the birthplace of the Allegheny River.

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)

Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One feat worth cheering: Harrisburg's Julie McKelvey is now one of fewer than 100 women who have climbed the highest peak of every continent and completed the Seven Summits challenge. 

» One story worth reading: This Philadelphia star softball player took the sports world by storm with her dominance, and now she’s vouching for professional women’s sports teams to come to her hometown

» One contest worth seeing: It was business in the front and a party in the back at the Pennsylvania Farm Show this week. The show held its first-ever mullet contest, and the styles did not disappoint.  

» One winner worth knowing: Following Da’Vine Joy Randolph's big Golden Globe win for The Holdovers last week, Philly will again be well-represented at the rescheduled Emmy Awards.

» One mission worth following: The Pittsburgh company behind this week's ill-fated attempt at the first U.S. lunar landing since 1972 says it plans to launch another lunar lander later this year.

🤔 PA NEWS QUIZ: Think you know what's happening in Pennsylvania? Prove it with the latest Great PA News Quiz: William Penn removal, Shapiro's futuristic tech alliance, and moon mission marred.
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A FOCUS 1974 planning meeting. Judy Brodsky and Diane Burko are seen in profile at right (front row) and second from right, respectively. (Photo courtesy of (re)FOCUS 2024)

Diane Burko remembers her art-world awakening. 

She was attending her first art association event in Washington, D.C. The year was 1972 and the art historians on hand pointed out a notable lack of female representation at a recent Corcoran Biennial — one of the longest-running showcases of American art. 

“As a result of that meeting, my awareness of feminism was piqued,” she said.

Burko, a prominent artist in Philadelphia, wanted to address that problem in her hometown. In 1974, Burko, alongside fellow co-director Judy Brodsky, collaborated with Moore College of Art & Design to create FOCUS, a citywide festival highlighting underrepresented women-identified artists and artists of color. The festival featured panels, lectures, poetry readings, and more.

The event was on Burko’s mind decades later as she thought about its impact. Around 2020, she started floating around the idea of commemorating its 50th anniversary.

“I was thinking it is 50 years now. That is a very long time. Fifty years have passed. Maybe we should be celebrating,” Burko said.

This past spring, organizers jumped into action to plan the big anniversary show — (re)FOCUS: Then and Now. The celebration will feature a reprisal of the 1974 show in addition to newer elements showcasing the evolution of women-identified artists and artists of color around issues like social justice, race, and gender identities.

Burko said many artists from the original 1974 show will participate in this year’s event.

“I am very encouraged and gratified that we are not the only ones who think it is important to bring these issues up again,” she added.

This year’s event will feature over 300 artists total at venues citywide.

“The fight for a feminist future continues in 2024 and (re)FOCUS provides that platform to awaken the interests of women, especially, and all who fight for equality to have their voices heard,” said Marsha Moss, a professional public art curator and one of the co-directors for (re)FOCUS.

Julie Linowes, a multimedia artist with decades of experience, will showcase her exhibit, Leave Your Tie at the Door, which explores issues like the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Her art heavily focused on her personal experiences up until 2015 when she started leaning more into politics in her art. 

“I felt so preoccupied with what was going on in this country and what was going on in the world that I felt like I wanted to be a part of this convo. That is what motivated me to start thinking about our political reality and incorporating my feelings into my work,” she added.

Her exhibit will have suspended artworks and different videos showing women marching in protest across several decades.

“I feel privileged to be asked. This event is not only for feminism but … a lot of communities that are outliers,” Linowes said. “I feel incredibly privileged to be amongst this group of people and honored. I feel excited about the whole event. I think this is an incredible event for Philadelphia.”

(re)FOCUS: Then and Now is on view from Jan. 27 through May 31 at the Moore College of Art & Design and various other venues. More information can be found at refocus2024.org.

Tanisha Thomas, newsletter writer / reporter

Our favorite reader-submitted photo of the week.
An eastern bluebird in Linglestown, via Mary B. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
a bird sits on top of a branch in the snow
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

Potter County is home to the only triple continental divide east of the Mississippi River as the source of three major sea-destined waterways: The Allegheny River, Genesee River, and Pine Creek (a Susquehanna tributary). 

Via PennsylvaniaWilds.comAt the end of a gravel road, in a pasture atop the mountain, raindrops falling in the same area, a mere few inches apart, will merge into one of three springs. All within less than a thousand yards of one another, the descent of these springs becomes the starting point for three major rivers and primary watershed divides, one north, one west, one east. 

Thanks for reading. We'll see you back here next week.

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