Memorial Award Helps Graduates as They Begin Their Professional Careers

Although the PAFA community lost Anne Bryan in 2013, her memory lives on by helping students at PAFA for years to come.

Bryan died in the Salvation Army Thrift Store building fire and collapse on June 5, 2013 at 22nd and Market Streets in Center City. Five others died and 14 people were injured in the collapse.

In 2015 her mother, Nancy Winkler, established the Anne Bryan Memorial Award to support PAFA students on their artistic journey. Recently Bryan’s parents, Nancy Winkler and Jay Bryan gave a $1 million gift to PAFA to name the Anne Bryan Gallery, a new facility currently under construction in the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building.

Four students have received the Anne Bryan Memorial Award so far. The $5,000 award is given to a select student each year to develop business plans, travel, research, create a web and social media presence, rent space for a working studio or pop-up gallery, initiate an artist co-op or join a cooperative gallery, purchase material or equipment needed to create work, and produce objects for sale.

Fang Fang Ren (BFA ’17), the 2017 recipient of the Anne Bryan Memorial Award used the fund to travel to Berlin to work with refugees from the Syrian crisis and to create work based on her interactions with refugee families.

“I chose Berlin in Germany because of their immigration policy at the time compared to America was quite different,” she said. “They opened up their borders to people who need help.”

Ren, an immigrant from China, said America was the only place that felt like home to her.

After the 2016 election, Ren said America didn’t feel like a welcome home anymore.

“It was the first time in my entire life that I really felt like my life was in danger and it totally destroyed my identity,” she said. “The government now was telling me that I was not welcome because of my gender, my race, everything about me so I didn't feel like this was my home anymore.”

She had been researching volunteer and art opportunities in Germany when she learned about the Anne Bryan Memorial Award. She was hoping to travel abroad to learn more about herself, her family, and make art.

“I wanted to build up a stronger connection with refugees,” Ren said. “I chose to travel to Germany and see those people in person and understand their stories in order to better understand my dad’s story in the past.”

While Ren used the Anne Bryan Memorial Award to learn about herself and deepen her art practice the 2018 recipient, Aubrey Brown (Cert. '18), used the fund to jumpstart his art business.

As a freelance artist who focuses on fantasy illustration, Brown sells his works at outdoor art fair and conventions. Through the memorial fund, Brown was able to buy a tent for art fairs and a computer.

“I used some of the other money for printing because at a lot of the kind of conventions I exhibit at, people don't want to spend a lot of money on original works,” he said. “Having affordable reproductions is a good way to get your work out to people without them having to make a big investment in it.”

Through his exhibition experience this past summer; Brown has learned what sells best at different venues and how to be a better advocate for his work.

“I’ve always tended to be shy, I’m much less shy than I used to be but when it comes to marketing my work I’m still shy because I don’t want to seem as if I’m bragging about my work,” he said. “It’s a learning experience of how to put my work out there and get over my inhibitions of that.”

Since graduating Brown has been able to make a living through commissions and selling work, and the Anne Bryan Memorial fund has allowed him to cover business expenses for exhibiting and selling his work at various events in Philadelphia and other cities.

“The more places you can show your work, the more chances you have that someone will see it and maybe buy it then or commission something later.”