Photo courtesy of Joshua Campbell
#CultureWorking with Josh Campbell
By Rashanda Freeman


Josh Campbell is a playwright and teaching artist based in Philadelphia. He has premiered work at The Painted Bride Art Center, University of the Arts, and Juniper Productions

How did you get involved in the Cultural sector?

Arts and culture has always been a part of my life. My parents made sure I was in music, theatre, and sports. One of my earliest memories was seeing the Nutcracker and being in awe of the dancers and costumes. Somewhere between elementary and high school, kicking soccer balls got tiresome and writing became a necessary requirement for my survival as a person. My involvement with the Philly cultural sector began through my connection to Philadelphia Young Playwrights and their intergenerational project “TIME MACHINE: THE LOST HOUR”, commissioned for the 2013 PIFA festival.

What’s the future of arts & culture in Philadelphia?

I feel we are living in a time when artists and policy makers can affect change and uncover the policies that are creating disparities in education, housing, policing, immigration, and our criminal justice system. The result of the last election and protests against the current White House administration has proven that the Philly community wants to exercise their right to protest and engage in political discourse. 

It is my belief that we—as a community and country—are learning that voting and protesting aren’t enough; we have to engage with one another across different societal lines (race, sexuality, gender, religion, ethnicity, politics, class, etc.). Philadelphia, being the city of brotherly love has a unique opportunity, through its arts and culture sector, to create platforms for intersectionality and discourse. 

Folks in neighborhoods across Philadelphia are yearning for opportunities to congregate and commune. We, as people, are looking for spaces that allow us to celebrate our identities and embrace others outside of our experiences. We are looking to hold people responsible and seek answers from those we feel may best be able to give it to us. I’m not just talking about politicians and artists. I’m talking about the everyday man.

In my view, artists reflect the world as they see it, holding those in power responsible for what is happening in the world. I believe the future of arts & culture in Philadelphia rests on community projects that travel beyond the traditional art gallery, concert hall, and out of the theater. It goes into the neighborhoods, confronts the elite, and touches the hearts of those daily affected by political and social issues.

Michelle  Angela Ortiz’s “We are Human Beings” (which provides a face to the process of immigration and deportation), the work the Painted Bride will be doing with the Bride Next program (commissioning band Ill Doots and dancer Belle Alvarez to examine social justice and education reform respectively) and Power Street Theatre Company plays and performances in Las Parcelas, will become increasingly important as people seek sanctuaries to gather, celebrate their experiences, connect with those outside of their neighborhoods and engage in  healthy political discourse in Philadelphia.

When exploring the arts in Philly, what’s one must-see?

I have recently fallen in love with graffiti and murals. I would tell everyone to first go on the Love Letters tour. It’s a great way to explore parts of the city experience the beauty of and one person’s love for another.

How do you practice self-care and find sanctuary in the current political climate?

Interesting question…I think I have a very simple and practical approach to self-care and building sanctuary.

#1:  Find the joy. Find the joy in the everyday and practice gratitude (I totally stole that from Oprah and Super Soul Sunday, which I highly recommend!). I host black joy parties in which friends come over to eat, play games, dance, and laugh. I also have gotten to the place of understanding that not everything on Facebook needs a response.

#2: Plan solo adventures.  Go to the movies or a play or even the orchestra by yourself. Just sit there and be present. Document the adventures. Journal and reflect on it later. Use to create if you want.

#3: Give yourself time each week to just breathe. If your schedule is tight, give yourself an hour a week to work on that book or that poem or learn that song. Build it in. Learn that discipline.

#4: Logout of Facebook and shut everything down. We are so overwhelmed by the constant stream of media stories and our ability to respond in real time and share it out to everyone. If the media can control their narrative, so can we by protecting our space and, as Maxine Waters has said, “reclaiming our time.”  Reclaim that time by shutting it down when you are having a day. You don’t have to re-share that video that night; you have the rest of the week. Protect your energy and space.