First Year Curriculum

PAFA’s first-year curriculum introduces students to key skills, concepts, and studio art disciplines that are critical to their growth as artists. Our teaching philosophy develops strong traditional fine art making skills, in combination with contemporary practices, to prepare students for innovation, experimentation, and finding their own personal voice. The first-year experience at PAFA provides students with an unparalleled foundation on which to build and explore.

Team-taught courses give students a solid grounding in drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, illustration and digital media. Direct observation and working from the figure play vital roles, and students learn anatomy and work from PAFA’s historic cast collection. The first-year program helps students achieve a high level of competency with materials and processes as they work in the sculpture and printmaking shops, and gain new media skills in the digital labs. The curriculum introduces students to the primary areas of study at PAFA and prepares them to focus in the direction of their choosing.

Studio work is complemented by rigorous liberal arts studies that help students understand key concepts and clearly articulate their ideas. In the first year, students take courses in art history and writing, as well as learn about museum studies and art historical methodologies. PAFA’s museum offers an extraordinary resource as students learn from the permanent collection and special exhibitions. Talks by visiting artists, curators and scholars help students gain a greater awareness of important historical and contemporary artists and ideas.


Required Coursework

Fall

Structure and Form I

This course focuses on the structure of images. It defines structure as a spatial relationship between all of the elements of an image and sees the structure as that which determines the implications and effect of an image. Structure and Form I combines drawing and still life painting. Students learn to manipulate space and create structure by observing and arranging value, color, and shape, as well as by mastering the skills of linear perspective.

The Figure I

The Figure I explores the structure and dynamics of the figure through drawing and sculpture. Working primarily from observation, students learn concepts of proportion, anatomy, gesture, mass, line, tone and spatial arrangement. Using a range of techniques & media, instruction includes traditional, contemporary and imaginative approaches to the human form. Studio work is complemented by presentations, lectures, demonstrations, and group discussions.

Print and Communication I

In Print and Communication I, students master conceptual frameworks, learn to interface between analog and digital work, and incorporate tactical skills in the realms of digital media and printmaking. Students select their own image content and explore subject matter and aesthetic approaches of their choosing. The mission of the course is to help students create the most visually arresting version of what they want to achieve.

Foundations Experience

Foundations Experience helps students connect the skills and concepts they are learning in their first-year courses with a broader context of art and ideas. Utilizing PAFA’s collections and numerous resources, students consider all aspects of their artistic practice and education. Working with faculty and museum and school staff, students learn a wide range of skills, from how to make the most of their PAFA experience and to develop a sustainable, creative life in the arts. The course includes visits to PAFA’s archives and collections, trips to nearby galleries and museums, visiting artist lectures, and in-depth discussions about the how, what, and why of art. As part of the course, students are required to attend Wednesday lunchtime lectures.

Art History I

This course will trace several thematic narratives concerning the roles of art in society from prehistory to the first millennium. In the process, students will encounter the works of a variety of cultures, situating these works within historical and art historical contexts. That is to say, we will trace out how these works both relate to the larger cultural climate within which they appeared, as well as see how they relate to the traditions from which they emerge. In doing this, we will pay particular attention to elements of style, content, production, and function. In particular, we will examine the role of religious, economic, and political power in the development of art, while also understanding the artist’s function as a member of a larger community, seeking to endure and transform the society within which they exist.

Writing Composition I

This course focuses on writing, helping students develop the skills they need to write coherent essays at the collegiate level. A strong emphasis is placed on the importance of syntax and grammar, while at the same time encouraging students to develop their own individual voices. In particular, attention is paid to different forms of writing related to the arts. Through writing assignments, students not only develop their skills as a writer further but also learn how to craft a public voice as a writer. This involves a negotiation between their individuality and the expectations of audiences interested in the visual arts.


Spring

Structure and Form II

Providing a continued exploration of structure and form, this course emphasizes three-dimensional relationships through the study of drawing and sculpture. Students learn to manipulate form and create structure by working in a variety of sculptural processes including modeling, construction, and carving as well as further mastering the skills of linear perspective.

The Figure II

Like Figure I, this course centers on the observational study of the human form. Focusing on painting and drawing, students build on concepts learned in Figure I. Studio work is supported by lectures and demonstrations on painting materials, color mixing, and strategies for developing form and structure. Understanding historical perspectives, as well as contemporary and imaginative approaches to the figure, are emphasized.

Print and Communication II

In this course, students continue to develop conceptual frameworks, build narratives, and learn to communicate via their work. Print and Communication II emphasizes visual communication through the study of relief printmaking and core illustration concepts. As in Print and Communication I, students explore subjects and aesthetic approaches of their choosing.

Foundations Experience

Foundations Experience helps students connect the skills and concepts they are learning in their first-year courses with a broader context of art and ideas. Utilizing PAFA’s collections and numerous resources, students consider all aspects of their artistic practice and education. Working with faculty and museum and school staff, students learn a wide range of skills, from how to make the most of their PAFA experience, to develop a sustainable, creative life in the arts. The course includes visits to PAFA’s archives and collections, trips to nearby galleries and museums, visiting artist lectures, and in-depth discussions about the how, what and why of art. As part of the course, students are required to attend Wednesday lunchtime lectures.

Art History II

This course will examine the development of art from the end of the first millennium to the end of the second millennium, placing a particular focus on the role of artists, the function of art, and the larger social contexts within which art develops. In addition, students will learn how to identify images visually in relation to styles, techniques, and media, while developing their knowledge of key influential works. Also, students will have the opportunity to explore the role of patrons, religious institutions, and political authority in the transformation of art, while also situating the development of Western art within the context of larger global forces.

Writing Composition II

In Composition II, students continue to be introduced to the skills expected of students writing at the college level. In this semester students gain the skills needed to write a research paper. This involves learning how to contour their informational skills to a particular subject, utilizing both traditional and contemporary research tools. Students learn how to read, organize, and cite research material. Particular attention is placed on the importance of authorship, how to properly footnote material being used in a research paper, and plagiarism. Students also learn how to outline and compose a research paper focusing on a subject of their choosing.