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  • Series

New Grass

summer 2021

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

  • 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.
summer 2021

Program Info

Admission fees vary by program.

Check individual programs for entry requirements.

Health & Safety

Ars Nova Workshop cares about the health and safety of our artists, audience, and staff. Please consult our health and safety protocols before attending this program.


The Woodlands, 4000 Woodland Avenue
Philadelphia, PA

  • The Woodlands, Philadelphia

Sponsored by

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

  • William Penn Foundation

The Woodlands

The Woodlands’ 54-acre undulating landscape is at once an 18th-century English pleasure garden, an active 19th-century rural cemetery, and a modern-day green oasis for the communities of West Philadelphia. Please note before planning your visit:

  • Guests can arrive by foot, bike, or public transit.
  • Limited on-site parking is available for some events.
  • Please bring your own lawn chair or blanket for outdoor seating.
  • The front entrance of The Woodlands is located approximately 1/4 mile from the performance areas, with a slight incline along the way. Please wear comfortable shoes when visiting.


Should you require accessible entry or seating for this program, please contact Ars Nova Workshop at or 215-805-3376 for more information.


Special COVID-19 admission guidelines are being followed to ensure a safe environment for all guests at The Woodlands.

  • Masks are required for all indoor spaces.
  • Please wear a mask and maintain social distancing while in line for the Stable Restroom.
  • Please respect other visitors and the Site Rules found on The Woodlands website.