New Grass at The Woodlands
a collaboration with The Woodlands in West Philadelphia
summer 2021
  • Series

The Woodlands
4000 Woodland Avenue
Philadelphia, PA
Get Directions

  • The Woodlands, Philadelphia

Program Info

Admission fees vary by program.
Other (alternate text)

Sponsored by

Lead support for New Grass is provided by the William Penn Foundation.

Ars Nova Workshop has formed a partnership with The Woodlands—a historic cemetery and the largest green space in West Philadelphia—on a program called New Grass. We’ve borrowed the name from the title of an album by jazz genius Albert Ayler, and it describes why we love the idea of situating music, art, and community in a cemetery: New Grass is meant to explore all of the cycles of our lives, from the daily rising and setting of the sun to the march of the seasons to the big cycles of life and death. We find this particularly meaningful at this time, when thoughts of living and dying, and who lives and who dies, have been at the forefront of our country’s thoughts and experiences.

We want to create spaces where the creativity, thoughtfulness, and joy of everyday life in West Philadelphia can be shared, and where we can all come to speak, to teach, to learn, to read and write, and to make art — spaces where we can all be present with one another.

History is an important part of this, too. We intend to embrace history in the most local way as well as striving to understand it in the context of larger histories: of music, of cultural encounters and appropriations, and of this nation’s culture, economics, and politics. We know this sounds like a very tall order, and it is; but the bottom line is this: we all live in history and we all live in our own lived experience, and sometimes the two don’t sit very well with each other. We strive to create spaces that can accommodate and reconcile those experiences, making way for the present through sharing art and conversation.

While many activities have been shut down due to the pandemic, we have been forming partnerships and working with artists and others to develop some great programs at The Woodlands, with scheduled programs beginning June 2021.

Upcoming Programs


Scheduled Programs

  • Performances and Discussions
    Scheduled programs with Odean Pope, Immanuel Wilkins, William Parker, Chad Taylor, and more.
  • Karen Smith’s Spiritual Atmospheric Cleansing
    A bi-monthly drum circle and story-sharing event.
  • Healing, Mindfulness, and Black Love
    Regular outdoor activities including yoga classes celebrating Black Liberation Music, presented in partnership with Spirits Up!
  • Matana Roberts’ “we got time.”
    Composer-saxophonist Matana Roberts new work dedicated to Breonna Taylor, presented in partnership with The Crossing and The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
  • The 2nd Annual John Coltrane Symposium
    In partnership with Community College of Philadelphia’s Anya Love and Chef Omar Tate.
  • “Rise & Reconcile”
    A new community dance piece inspired by Congo Square and presented in collaboration with Spiral Q.
  • And much more!

Cover: Aerial view of The Woodlands historic cemetery in West Philadelphia. Photo by Chris Richman, UCD.