Beth Uzwiak is a visual anthropologist, artist and cultural activist.
Trained as a trauma counselor, her work is grounded in a deep commitment to community engagement with the goal of opening participatory spaces through action and arts-based research methods. She has previously worked as a human rights researcher and as an advocate with women and families surviving violence and is currently an Adjunct Fellow at the Center for Public Health Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.
Beth maintains a studio practice in Philadelphia and a blog about art, activism and anthropology with her long-term collaborator Laurian Bowles. Recently, they were awarded a Leeway Art and Change grant in support of their ongoing public archive work in Philadelphia. She is a painter, printer and book-maker and has exhibited art in numerous places including Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts, Abecedarian Gallery, Fox Gallery, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and Woman Made Gallery.
In recent years, her art practice has taken the form of collaboration with socially engaged public art projects such Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge—a multi-year initiative of Cohabitation Strategies and the Mural Arts Project—and a residency at Philadelphia’s Hatfield House with Amber Art and Design and the Fairmount Park Conservancy. Through ethnography, she collects oral histories and community perspectives to inform policy and program development and to ensure that urban reinvestment initiatives consider local perspectives. She collaborates with other artists and cultural workers to curate exhibits, festivals, installations, workshops and other public events.
A former Woodrow Wilson fellow, Beth earned a PhD in cultural anthropology from Temple University with a dissertation that examined the relationship between Indigenous human rights movements and gender violence within the context of neoliberal development. Other past projects include researching ways that women survivors of violence negotiate social welfare systems, and the gendered impact of health reform in Belize, Central America. Beth has held full-time faculty appointments at American University and Bryn Mawr College.