Kea Tawana: I Traveled into the Future in a Dream
John Michael Kohler Arts Center
May. 13, 2023 - Oct. 8, 2023
Kea Tawana (c. 1935–2016) is known for creating the Ark, an 86-foot-long, three-story ship she built in Newark, New Jersey, starting in 1982, with the intention of making it her home.
For decades prior, she had collected salvaged wood, glass shards, and other materials from abandoned buildings in the city’s Central Ward. Incorporating those materials, she built the Ark on an empty lot; it was still unfinished when the city condemned it in 1987. Unable to find a new location, Tawana dismantled her ship in 1988. She spent the decades after the Ark’s destruction traveling, eventually settling and dying in Port Jervis, New York.
The Arts Center recently acquired the contents from her small apartment there, which included about thirty handmade boxes containing collaged and tied “encyclopedic files” and personal effects; Tawana’s blueprints for utopic, unrealized building projects; handmade stained-glass windows; and hundreds of sketches and manuscripts.
Kea Tawana: I Traveled into the Future in a Dream represents the first museum show of Tawana’s work, and the first exhibition outside of the northeastern United States. Many of the objects are on view for the first time. It recontextualizes her work and life in several ways, including her long-running and largely unknown roles as architect, community activist, historian, educator, and craftsperson.