Tag Archives: Swimming Lessons and the Red Scare

Documentation of Swimming Lessons and the Red Scare in Philadelphia and New York

Coral Street Arts House, Philadelphia, PA

Boggsville Boatel and Boat-In Theater, Far Rockaway, Queens, NY

Vox Populi Gallery, Philadelphia, PA


The Red Scare and Adrienne Skye Roberts on the Art Blog

Here is a review of the performative lecture of “Swimming Lessons and the Red Scare” at Coral Street Arts House written by Libby Rosof of The Art Blog. Thank you, Libby!

Swimming Lessons and the Red Scare at Vox Populi Gallery

One more Philadelphia talk scheduled! See below:

Moles Not Molar Reading & Performance Series presents
Friday, September 23 @ 8pm
Vox Populi Gallery, 319 North 11th Street, 3rd Floor

SUE LANDERS (Brooklyn)

Sue Landers is the author of 248 mgs, a panic picnic and Covers, both from O Books. Her new chapbook, “15: A Poetic Engagement with the Chicago Manual of Style” is forthcoming from Propolis Press. She grew up in Germantown and now lives in Brooklyn.


Maureen Thorson  is a poet, publisher, and book designer living in Washington, D.C. She is the author of the chapbooks Twenty Questions for the Drunken Sailor, Mayport, and Novelty Act.  Maureen is the publisher and editor of Big Game Books, a small press dedicated to emerging poets. She is also the co-curator of the In Your Ear reading series at the DC Arts Center and the founder of NaPoWriMo, an annual project in which poets attempt to write a poem a day for the month of April.


Adrienne Skye Roberts is a writer, curator and educator committed to engaging queer, anti-racist politics through the arts. Her work focuses broadly on issues of identity and place; specifically this includes the role of the artist in shifting urban landscapes, the relationship between public art and urban politics, the visuality of race, mobility and the myth of the American frontier.  Her writing is published on SF MOMA’s Open Space, Art Practical, Plastic Antinomy: Visual Arts in San Francisco and Oakland and Make/Shift: Feminisms in Motion. She teaches in the sculpture department at UC Santa Cruz and organizes with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.

Swimming Lessons and the Red Scare

Swimming Lessons and Red Scare, press imageSwimming Lessons and the Red Scare is an ongoing research project exploring my political inheritance and family history that began in 2011 during an artist residency at Philadelphia Art Hotel.  In 1953, at the height of the McCarthy Era, my grandfather, Joseph Roberts, was arrested along with 8 other leaders of the American Communist Party in Philadelphia in violation of the Smith Act. They were tried and briefly incarcerated for conspiracy to overthrow the United States government by force or violence.

This project traces my lineage to Philadelphia and to this legacy of dissent and radicalism. Through archival research, interviews, letter-writing and visits to locations that were significant to my grandfather’s story, I construct an incomplete narrative of a political and familial history that remains largely unseen. In addition to presenting a history of socialism in Philadelphia, Swimming Lessons and the Red Scare raises questions about family inheritance; what is passed down through generations and migrations and what is not and place; how we are taught in which spaces we belong.

Swimming Lessons and the Red Scare takes the form of a performative lecture and accompanying publication based on The Daily Worker, the former Communist Party newspaper for which my grandfather worked.

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The Daily Worker, Special Edition, No. 1: Swimming Lessons and the Red Scare

Below is a small, color digital version of The Daily Worker, Special Edition, No. 1 featuring archival photographs, research documents, a letter to my grandfather and stories and musing about Communism, inheritance and learning how to swim. To receive a black and white hard-copy in the mail, contact me at adrienneskye at gmail.com. Design by Kris Holbrook.