A Student’s Rebellion Leads Straight Back to Art

What’s the best way to rebel when your parents are successful, professional photographers and your sibling is studying at Kansas City Art Institute?

“I was going to be the rebel and do science instead,” said Natalie Klett (Post-Bacc ’19).

After high school Klett decided to go in the opposite direction of her family and study geology at the University of the Redlands in California.

“I was really interested in the environment so I studied geography,” she said. “It was a mix of anthropology, environmental science, spatial planning, political science—everything basically.”

But the idea of a job that tied her to a computer and climate change’s ominous impact gave Klett pause.

“School was really enlightening but also really depressing because every teacher would say, ‘The science says we're screwed’.”

So she looked to the art she had always been making, oil painting in high school and what she calls doodling during her undergraduate days. The idea of a MFA had always interested Klett but she wasn’t sure if she had a body of work strong enough for a portfolio.

“My sister then suggested a [post-baccalaureate program] and I had never heard of it before,” she said. “She told me about some schools having a program that allows you to build up your portfolio.”

  • Natalie Klett (Post-Bacc '19).
    Natalie Klett (Post-Bacc '19).
  • In Natalie Klett's studio.
    In Natalie Klett's studio.
  • In Natalie Klett's studio.
    In Natalie Klett's studio.

PAFA’s Post-Baccalaureate Certificate program (Post-Bacc) is a one-year, studio-based curriculum of graduate-level study in studio art. Students create a strong and individualized body of work in a rigorous, supportive environment while gaining the confidence for continued work and study.

It is ideal for artists working independently who wish to experiment and bring new focus to their work, as well as for artists seeking further development before pursuing an MFA.

After applying to several Post-Bacc programs across the country, Klett chose PAFA because of the scholarship opportunities and the chance to live on the East Coast.

“I had never thought to live in Philly but it’s so much cheaper than New York or other places. And I didn’t know about everything that was here.”

Now she splits her time between working in a café and working in her private studio at PAFA. She and her fellow Post-Baccs study alongside PAFA’s MFA students. Klett said coming to Philly has forced her to open up to new experiences and opinions.

“I’ve been pushing myself to go to all of the Visiting Artist lectures because I feel like I used to not want to look at things I didn’t like and I’ve realized how judgmental and idiotic that is,” she said. “Now I’m pushing myself to see everything. And while I like what I’m doing right now it’s not polished at all so I question myself a lot about why I paint.”

She’s not the only one asking: Why paint? She may be studying art but she’s still a rebel to her parents.

“They don't really like painting in general so I feel like I almost went into painting because they’re photographers,” Klett said. “I like photography but I don’t show that side all the time.”

Her paintings blend her artistic talents with the knowledge she gained during her undergraduate years.

“I’m thinking about emotional geography, places that are layered and space and time,” she said. “I have all of these climate change articles and things I studied in undergrad. I’m trying to do something visual with it, somehow combine the geography and artist worlds in a way.”

Coming to PAFA has not only given Klett a way to combine her interests and build a portfolio for MFA applications but it’s also given her the confidence she’d been looking for.

“It’s really opened my eyes, I can definitely tell myself I’m more of an artist. At first, I would say, ‘Oh, I’m not an artist, I do art on the side.’ I felt ashamed of saying ‘I’m an artist’,” she said. “Now I feel the Post-Bacc program has helped me say, ‘Yes, I am a painter’.”