V-JAM Philly Session Leader: Ars Nova Workshop

The Ars Nova Workshop (ANW) team has been busy during COVID-19 isolation. “We’re still dreaming up ways to support our heroes, including some virtual concerts, some commissioning, and we continue to work on our annual festival, our podcast, our upcoming LP releases, our exhibition (and connected catalog),” says executive and artistic director Mark Christman. “We’re also looking on how to partner with a record label to get recordings from our 20-year archive out commercially, getting much-needed funds into the hands of artists.”

With over 18 years of ambitious jazz and contemporary music activities behind them, the workshop’s archive of past events is extensive. ANW is also participating in virtual events and is putting together an impressive line-up for this Sunday as part of the Quarantine Concerts, a live-stream series hosted by Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio. “It includes amazing artists from Chicago, New York City, Saturn, but it’s all Philly,” Christman says. 

On their continuing response to COVID-19, Christman expounds: “We’re part of the burgeoning Jazz Coalition, a collective of industry professionals, musicians, fans, and supporters who are working together to identify global needs affecting the jazz and improvised music community, and strategizing solutions and opportunities towards action.”

Participating in national coalitions and events like these is an important part of ANW’s mission to elevate the profile and expand the boundaries of jazz and contemporary music in Philadelphia. ANW presents 40+ concerts per year featuring the biggest names in jazz and contemporary music. The workshop operates through partnerships with venues, non-profits, makers, visionaries, and creatives to present in spaces throughout Philadelphia. The workshop runs the “New Paths” festival, and in 2017, inaugurated The October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music (or OctRev), named in homage to a groundbreaking festival put together in 1964 by Bill Dixon. 

Christman says he is excited to continue planning future exhibitions. “We’re working on a major exhibition around the free jazz pioneer and polymath Milford Graves. It will open in late September at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Whether we’re all wearing masks or not, we’re looking forward this project many years in the making!”

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