From Puerto Rico to Philadelphia

Even though Laura Deliz (BFA ’21) attended an arts-focused high school, she always felt a little different than her fellow students.

“Art wasn't really taken seriously by the other students, they wanted to be engineers or nurses,” she said. “And I thought, ‘I don’t see myself doing anything else’.”

While her peers were preparing to attend college, Deliz knew in her senior year that her path would be different. She took a gap year to study at an atelier and shore up her fine art skills.

“I got the opportunity to develop myself even more and understand and be enlightened and learn more about everything. In high school, I didn’t even know how to mix colors properly and other skills like that,” she said.

Deliz knew spending a year studying at an atelier was right for her art career but she was still nervous stepping off the traditional path many of her friends were following.

“I was really nervous about taking a leap year, I thought I would stay behind and everyone else will go to college and I will be here,” said the second-year painting student. “But what I wasn’t seeing is that I was doing what I wanted to do, it was just different.”

She faced her nerves again when deciding to leave Puerto Rico for college. She heard about PAFA from a teacher at her atelier and felt the traditions and focus on technique were perfect for her.

Still, Philadelphia was miles away from home.

“I always said I wanted to study outside of Puerto Rico but I never really thought it would happen,” Deliz said. “Then it was time to make a decision to actually move from my little island to this city with a different culture.”

  • Painting student Laura Deliz '21.
    Painting student Laura Deliz '21.
  • Artwork by Laura Deliz '21.
    Artwork by Laura Deliz '21.

Before coming to PAFA, Deliz mainly painted and drew, but PAFA’s Foundation Year opened her eyes to new mediums.

The first-year foundation experience exposes students to both traditional and contemporary forms of art making, along with the introduction to a thorough conceptual liberal arts base focusing on art history and English composition. The Foundation Year program is crucial to gain technical skills and provides students the opportunity to take beginner level courses in all of our five majors.

“There are so many things I never thought I’d do that I tried, that was pretty impactful in my first year,” she said. “I really liked sculpture and I really liked the experience with welding, that was really fun. I never thought in my whole life, that I’d be doing that and wearing the mask and feeling so badass.”

Deliz incorporated her foundation year experiences—such as donning a welding mask or sculpting a bust—into her paintings.

“All of the mediums have something in common, with sculpture you’re building form slowly, you need to attach things to it,” she said “With painting it's the same thing. You start with a basic structure and then you start adding and molding to make the form so I feel like they have impacted my work a lot.”

Her artwork often features herself and describes her paintings as atmospheric and serene. They’re way ahead of the “Pinterest-inspired” paintings of her high school years.

“I’d go on Pinterest and look for a cool picture to paint, which is so horrible to say but that's what my work was then,” Deliz said. “I didn’t really know about how to develop a concept or anything like that.”

She’s come miles from those early paintings and her home island. Deliz said she’s in a place she always wanted to be but wasn’t sure she was good enough for.

“You come to an art school and see so much talent. It's a competitive environment so you’re prone to underestimate yourself,” she said. “It’s not aggressively competitive but you see everybody around you and they’re amazing and then sometimes you think you’re not that great. But then I remember, ‘Hey, I got here too’.”