detail of work by artist Bethany Collins. Zoomed in to reveal erasure of text and remaining text "“but he continued to grieve for his native land, dragging his steps up and down along the shore of the sounding sea in great distress.”

Bethany Collins: Tempest

March 17 - May 28, 2023
1912 Gallery, Canaday Library

Mon - Fri, 10am - 4pm and by appointment

Artist Bethany Collins (American, b. 1984) exhibits new and recent work, debuting a purchase made for the College’s collections, The Odyssey: 1990/1851/1980/2002/2000 (2022), and the third volume in her Hymnal series, The Battle Hymn of the Republic (2023).

Bethany Collins (1984) is a multidisciplinary artist whose conceptually driven work is fueled by a critical exploration of how race and language interact. Language is both her subject and primary material—from dictionaries and encyclopedias to literary journals and newspaper archives. Language is also a prism through which she explores American history and the nuance of racial and national identities.

Collins received her BA in Studio Art and Photojournalism from the University of Alabama in 2007, and her MFA from Georgia State University in 2012. She was the 2013-2014 Artist-in-Residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and 2019 Public Humanities Practitioner-in-Residence at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. Collins was awarded the Joan Mitchell Fellowship in 2022, the Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship in 2018, and the Hudgens Prize in 2015. Recent solo museum exhibitions include presentations at the Frist Museum, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, CAM St. Louis, The University of Kentucky Art Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Artist's Residency, March 16 - 20
While in residence, Collins produced a series of performances of The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Hymnal (2023), a work included in the exhibition at the College. These performances aimed to bring together community participants and audiences in sung versions of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Written by the abolitionist Julia Ward Howe in 1861, The Battle Hymn of the Republic is perhaps the most familiar early American contrafacta, a musical term referring to a song in which the melody remains constant while the lyrics are rewritten over time. Each re-writing in support of a passionately held cause—from revolution, suffrage, temperance and Indigenous sovereignty, to the Confederacy and abolition—articulates an often contradictory version of what it means to be American.

Performances of Bethany Collins' The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Hymnal 

  • Duet of suffrage and confederate versions
    arranged in collaboration with Philadelphia-based composer Peter Christian
    Friday, March 17, 5:30pm
    1912 Gallery, Canaday Library
  • Choral concert of Mark Twain's anti-imperialist versions
    performed by The Unsung, a New York-based music collective
    Saturday, March 18, 6:00pm
    Bethel AME Church, 50 S. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr 
    attendance is limited
  • Endurance singing of all 100 versions
    performed by five Bryn Mawr College students
    Monday, March 20, 5:00-8:30pm
    Music Room, Goodhart

This artist residency represents a collaboration between Special Collections, Center for Visual Culture, Museum Studies, and the Dance Program. It is funded by the Friends of the Bryn Mawr College Libraries.


Artist Bethany Collins seeks 7 individual singers to perform approximately 12 versions of The Battle Hymn of the Republic as part of a performance series on campus. Trained and untrained voices are welcome. Each singer performs for a half hour. Compensation for students is available. 

Singers and audience are welcome to stay for the entire performance or to come and go throughout the evening.

Rehearsal will take place on Sunday, March 19 between 2-4pm.

Monday, March 20, 5-8pm
Goodhart Music Room

On March 20, 2023, all 100 versions of The Battle Hymn of the Republic will be sung by individuals throughout the evening, presenting a chronological retelling of American history, politics and culture through one song.

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