Prophetic Hearing: The Voice and our voices

[This essay by Rabbi Waskow is the introduction to a handbook The Shalom Center published in connection with honoring a number of Prophetic Voices in the Arts on April 25, 2010. Below the introductory essay you will find a listing of venues in Philadelphia where the arts include a "prophetic" dimension of addressing deep social truths and needs. We encourage other cities to pursue this model by creating handbooks of their own, similar to this one.]

What does it mean to be a "prophetic voice"?

In the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC there is a remarkable statue named "The Prophet." It is shaped of metal openwork, so that one can see into and through every figure.

From one angle, it is clear that the Prophet is intently listening to a Voice dancing on the edge of awareness.

From another angle, it is equally clear that the Prophet is speaking. Giving voice to the Voice that has been dancing on its way into truth.

When many of us think of "prophecy," we think of pages in a book called The Bible.

But originally, these voice spoke aloud, shrieking or chanting, whispering or wailing.

And despite the efforts of all establishments to say those voices have been stilled, the truth keeps spilling over the edges of the boxes we have fastened tight.

And now it may come in the theater. Or film. Or dance. Or songs. Or public murals. Or drumming.

Through this guide, we at The Shalom Center want to celebrate the Prophetic Voices that use what we call "the arts" as media, rather than print upon a page.

We honor not only Ilana Trachtman, Lynne Iser, and Rabbi Mordechai Liebling for their work together to shape the documentary film Praying With Lior, about a young boy who has drunk the milk of Paradise.

We honor not only Cantor Jack Kessler, who has turned the very tradition of chanting from the Torah into a startling, awakening medium for challenge, and who has broken the taboos and barriers that kept Arabs and Jews from making music together -- itself a prophetic act of peace.

We honor not only Tony Kushner, who in the play Angels in America reawakened us to the sacred we had scorned, to the transgressive whose sharp edges we had blunted; who in the film Munich forced us to face the question of whether a State can in fact be Jewish in its values beyond its proclamations. And who like many of the Prophets long ago and in our own day, has been slandered and threatened.

Not only in them, but in the many nooks and crannies of our communities and cultures, in theaters and dance groups and musical garages and murals and in the very visions of our children, there are alive the flinty and the flowing that bring prophetic Vision to the Arts.

That is what this little booklet beckons. We invite you into the people and the places that renew Prophetic Vision in the Philadelphia of our own day.

Find them, risk your self by diving into them. All you can lose is your comfort; you have many truths to gain.

The Shalom Center's 2010 Guide to the Prophetic Arts in Philadelphia

What is this guide? Who is in it? And how did it get assembled?

This guide is by no means complete. We have simply compiled a list of organizations and artists we know of and whose work we are inspired by and believe to be "prophetic." We then contacted those artists and asked for their representation of what makes them "prophetic" and these are the answers we received. We apologize for any artists and organizations who might have been left off this list. If you or our organization would like to be included in future guides please email

We owe special thanks to Robert Brand and Liz Werthan, who made this guidebook possible; to Mark Stern, who assembled an initial list of prophetic venues; to Nora Sidoti, who created it; and to Tamara Cohen, the Barbara Bick Memorial Fellow of The Shalom Center, who oversaw the process.

Recommended Artists and Arts Organizations:

Abington Art Center
515 Meetinghouse Road
Jenkintown, PA 19046
Located on 27 acres in suburban Philadelphia, Abington Art Center hosts a sculpture park and gallery exhibitions of today's artists, holds workshops and classes for students of all ages, and presents public programming and events.

Anna Crusis Women's Choir
The Anna Crusis Women's Choir, founded in 1975, is the country's oldest feminist choir and has been honored for its community service in the Philadelphia area.

Asian Arts Initiative
We are grounded in the belief that the arts can provide an important political and cultural voice for the Asian American community in Philadelphia.

Brujo de la Mancha - Visual Artist
My mission as an artist is to awaken the spirituality in the human mind through an approach utilizing the arts that emphasize a connection between nature and today's modern society.

The Center for Emerging Visual Artists
The Center dedicates itself to making art careers viable for those who choose them, helping emerging artists reach their audiences, and promoting interest and understanding of emerging visual art among citizens of the community.

Community Education Center (CEC)
3500 Lancaster Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 387-1911
"The artists' center" CEC, Celebrating Everyone's Creativity

Rita DeAngelo - Visual Artist
Time anticipated, meet time extant. Stop counting and start breathing.

Design for Social Impact
Design for Social Impact is a creative organization that combines artistry & activism to call attention to important social issues.

First Person Arts
1 S. Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(267) 402-2055
First Person Arts transforms the drama of real life into memoir and documentary art to foster appreciation for our unique and shared experience.

Fleisher Art Memorial
719 Catharine St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 922-3456
Offering free and low-cost art classes for children, teens, and adults.

InterAct Theatre Company
2030 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 568-8079
InterAct is a theatre whose plays examine today's most important social and political issues.

Leah Stein Dance Company
130 E. Cliveden St
Philadelphia, PA 19119
(215) 438-2623
Leah Stein Dance Company creates site-specific dance works that highlight the interaction between people, their culture, and the physical environment.

The Leeway Foundation
The Leeway Foundation is committed to art-making as an integral part of social change, to movement building, and anti-oppression work where Leeway is accountable, accessible, part of, and governed by the communities Leeway's programs support.

Mural Arts Program
The City of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program unities artists and communities through a collaborative process, rooted in the traditions of mural-making, to create art that transforms public spaces and individual lives.

Painted Bride Arts Center
Through performances and exhibitions, education and outreach, the Painted Bride creates a forum for engagement centered on contemporary social issues.

The Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus
The Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus is a community united around the performance of creative and challenging music that entertains, inspires, and affirms with a spirit of friendship and hope.

Philadelphia Folklore Project
735 S. 50th St
Philadelphia, PA 19143
(215) 726-1106
Here at the Philadelphia Folklore Project, we are committed to paying attention to the experiences and traditions of "ordinary" people. We have worked for over 23 years to build critical folk culture knowledge, sustain vital and diverse living cultural heritage communities in our region, and create equitable processes and practices for nurturing local, grassroots arts and humanities. Visit for information about public programs, services and publications -- and more.

Philadelphia Young Playwrights
1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 665-9226
Tapping the potential of youth and inspiring learning through playwriting.

The PSALM Salon
5841 Overbrook Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19131
(215) 477-7578
The PSALM Salon at the Philadelphia Society for Art, Literature & Music is Philadelphia's coolest, intimate venue for great music!

Quince Productions
Philadelphia's most progressive young theatre company!

Ramshackle Enterprises - Beth Nixon
Puppets, pageants, pinatas, parades, papermâché spectaculah! Workshops for all ages.

Raíces Culturales
Raíces showcases artists representing many regions of Latin America, along with Spanish and African regions that have been influential in Latin American cultures.

Scribe Video Center
4212 Chestnut St, 3rd Floor
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 222-4201
Scribe Video Center seeks to explore, develop and advance the use of electronic media as artistic media and as tools for progressive social change. Scribe offers low-cost professional quality workshops on video, radio, web, and new media production for people of all ages and skill levels.

Spiral Q Puppet Theater
3114 Spring Garden St
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 222-6979
An arts and social-justics organization promoting free speech, creativity, collaboration, and resourcefulness.

Taller Puertorriqueno
Committed to a mission of preserving, developing and promoting Puerto Rican artistic and cultural traditions.

The Village of Arts & Humanities
The Village of Arts & Humanities' mission is to build community through innovative arts, educational, social, construction, and economic and youth development programs.

The Wilma Theater
265 S. Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 546-7824
The Wilma Theater exists to present theater as an art form, engaging artists and audiences in an adventure of aesthetic philosophical reflection of the complexities of contemporary life.

Extended Listings

Founded in 1986, Art-Reach enriches lives by connecting underserved audiences with cultural experiences so that they may enjoy and benefit from the transformative powers of the arts. Art-Reach is the only organization in the Philadelphia region solely devoted to increasing cultural participation among all traditionally underserved audiences. We are a recognized leader in the field of cultural accessibility, serving over 17,000 people a year. We serve as an anchor institution in the Philadelphia community that is commonly regarded as the go-to resource for improving the accessibility of the of the cultural community and for connecting the cultural and human-service communities.

JJ Tiziou Photography
JJ Tiziou, recipient of Spiral Q's 2010 Artist Activist award, is a photographer who uses his work to celebrate and empower people working for positive change in the world. He specializes in portraiture and movement documentation. With the city's Mural Arts Program, he is creating a 50,000 square foot mural celebrating Philadelphians dancing on the parking structures at the airport.

Samples of JJ's work can be found at; he is working on creating a new model for community-based photography
and he's got a special message for you at -- pass it on!