Press Release

PAFA’s Youth Council Presents "Multitudes: Walt Whitman at 200"

PHILADELPHIA (April 15, 2019) -- The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is pleased to present Multitudes: Walt Whitman at 200, an exhibition exploring the great American poet Whitman’s complex and often paradoxical connection to personal identity, utilizing the Museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition is part of the city-wide initiative to mark the bicentennial of Whitman’s birth.

The exhibition, on view May 3–September 1, 2019, in the Historic Landmark Building, is curated by PAFA’s Youth Council, a free after-school program that offers interested teens a chance to create a prominent place for young audiences in the daily life of the museum. An opening reception for the public will be held on Friday, May 3, from 4–6 PM at PAFA, and is hosted by the Youth Council and Brooke Davis Anderson, Edna S. Tuttleman, Director of the Museum at PAFA.

In celebrating Whitman’s 200-year legacy, this exhibition will juxtapose figurative works of Whitman with a medley of historic, modern, and contemporary works from PAFA’s permanent collection. The Youth Council seeks to showcase a range of nuanced artistic interpretations of identity while calling into question Whitman’s and our connections to race, sexuality, and nationalism.

Walt Whitman seemed well aware of his contradictory nature, and in his seminal poetry collection Leaves of Grass, wrote, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then… I contradict myself; I am large… I contain multitudes.” In the spirit of the author, PAFA’s Youth Council invites viewers to ponder the questions: How do we express or conceal our own identities? What contradictions do we cling to? How do we connect with Whitman’s legacy while also acknowledging his opinions on race, gender, and class?

Works by canonical American artists Thomas Eakins and Andrew Wyeth alongside fresh, topical artworks by Christina Ramberg, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, and Mark Stockton celebrate Whitman’s legacy while also challenging his value system. Visitors are summoned to meditate on their own lived experiences as well as our shared identities.

Now in its fifth year the Youth Council, overseen by Kristina Murray, PAFA’s Teen Programs Coordinator, organizes events for teens and curates an annual exhibition each year with mentoring from the Museum staff.

Abby King, PAFA’s Manager of Public Programs, said the Youth Council was created to draw more teens to the museum. Rather than adults and museum professionals planning the programming for teenagers, the Youth Council plans events they know will appeal to their peers.

“This exhibition creates a unique opportunity for teenagers to engage in curatorial work while at the same time learn about an iconic American poet,” Murray said. “PAFA provides the unparalleled experience of allowing teenagers who are passionate about the arts to organize an exhibition for a major museum.”

Last Updated
June 7, 2019 - 10:29 AM

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.