Spoken Hand was commissioned by the Painted Bride Art Center in 1996 to create new work and be an educational resource. Since then, the Painted Bride has been our core supporter for the advancement of the ensemble. The ensemble was created out of a desire to redefine drumming traditions in a contemporary society resulting in an innovative percussion orchestra that creates new work transcending the cultural differences. In 1998, Spoken Hand burst into the national arena with their Rockefeller Foundation’s Multi-Arts Production Fund Grant and with a sold-out concert at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta. Spoken Hand was awarded its second Rockefeller MAP Fund grant for 2000. In 2002 the orchestra received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, 5 County Arts Fund, Meet the Composer: Commissioning Music/USA, and the Jerome Cooper Foundation. Spoken Hand is also supported by Samuel S. Fels Fund, and is on the PennPAT Artist Roster. Inclusion in the PennPAT roster entitles presenters throughout the entire Mid Atlantic region to apply for substantial fee subsidies.
Residencies at Swarthmore College, Haverford College, University of Delaware and the Painted Bride marked the 1999 season, as well as a collaboration with the Pennsylvania Ballet, and long-term mentoring projects with the Meredith School Choir and the Vineland, NJ school system.
Engagements in 2000 included residencies at the Virgina Museum of Fine Arts (Fast Forward Series), the Amerimasala Festival (Erie, PA), Kutztown University for the Percussive Arts Society (PA chapter) 2000 Conference , four sold-out collaborative concerts with Rennie Harris’ spin-off group, Shaftway, at the Painted Bride Art Center (a National Performance Network residency) and the Annenberg Center for the Pennsylvania Presenters Conference in Philadelphia.
In addition the ensemble performed at the Western Arts Alliance in California and at the PA Convention Center for a memorial honoring the legacy of Arthur Hall, Philadelphia's master teacher of African dance and drumming.
In 2001 we began developing a method for recording our unique project and initiated production on our forthcoming CD. We took creative time to develop new work and performed our home season at the Painted Bride.
In 2002, Spoken Hand co-produced and spearheaded "Flammable Contents", a three- way collaboration with Zakir Hussain and Rennie Harris Puremovement culminating in five sold out concerts and five workshops at Swarthmore College and the Painted Bride Art Center. Additionally, Spoken Hand was engaged in residencies by the Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts, New Castle, PA, the Lynchburg, VA Community Concert Association, the Amerimasala Festival, Erie, PA, and Folk/Life Center at International House, Philadelphia, PA. We also received our second consecutive Philadelphia City Paper's "Best World Music Ensemble" award, and completed recording and mixing of our CD. We expect to finish mastering before year end.