Child's Play Leads to Inspiration for MFA Student

Sam Dominik (MFA ’19) is making art from art.

Like many artists, she’s using the drawings of another artist to spark her creativity and create something new.

But unlike a student who’s making a copy of a masterpiece or taking inspiration from art they’ve seen in an exhibition, Dominik is pulling from her 6-year old nephew’s scribbles.

“I work a lot with home and family and loss, a lot of my recent work has to do with my nephew and I’ve been making sculptures from his crayon drawings,” said the second-year MFA student.

Her studio at PAFA is filled with cardboard houses and other designs ripped from the pages of her nephew’s work. Even though Dominik is creating in Philadelphia and her nephew is drawing on Long Island, she says the endeavor has brought the two of them together.

“He’s gone through a lot in the last little while. He and his sisters live with my parents and now I think art is helping him cope during a rough time, and it's helping me cope with everything,” she said. “It’s helping him heal a lot.”

Not that he’s very impressed with his aunt who’s getting a Master’s at America’s oldest art academy.

“He’s more impressed with himself and his drawings. I told him all of my teachers think he’s a future artist so he was excited about that.”

Dominik is paving the way in her family for any future artists.


  • Sam Dominik's (MFA '19) studio.
    Sam Dominik's (MFA '19) studio.
  • MFA student Sam Dominik '19 at work.
    MFA student Sam Dominik '19 at work.

She came to PAFA for her MFA after graduating from Adelphi University on Long Island. She initially expected to take a year off from school before going for her Master’s but said meeting PAFA MFA Chair Didier William set her on a different path.

“I met Didier at National Portfolio Day in New York and after my interview with him I cried, and decided I needed to go to PAFA,” she said. “He just got it. He understood everything I was saying, he understood the work I was making and how to push it to the next step, and push it beyond what it was.”

While at Adelphi, Dominik did a lot of work with chairs, anthropomorphizing the object, but she found the conversations she wanted to have around the chair weren’t always getting her point across.

With William’s encouragement she moved towards working with more domestic objects and installations.

“When I got here and worked with him, everything changed so fast but in the best way possible,” she said. “We have the space here so I was able to make huge crazy installations that I wasn't able to make before so that was exciting.”

Her time at PAFA hasn’t been all installations and crayon drawings, Dominik has also shored up a career path for herself. She hopes to go into teaching after graduation and has been assisting several undergraduate and post-baccalaureate classes.

“I was a graduate assistant for an undergraduate figure drawing class which is very different from the things that I do in my practice,” she said “But I feel like I learned and I also learned how to teach things I wouldn’t have necessarily known how to teach before.”

Before her teaching career can begin, Dominik first has to make it through the Annual Student Exhibition.

The Annual Student Exhibition (ASE) is an academic capstone and the longest-standing exhibition of its kind. The ASE offers PAFA's emerging artists the opportunity to curate, install, and sell their own work in a professional setting. While graduating student art exhibitions are not uncommon, PAFA's show takes place in a major museum and is one of the most celebrated student group shows in the country.

“It's a big show and you’re showing with all of these people you've been working with for two years,” Dominik said. “I think it's important to make a show that looks good and not just a show that someone wants to put above their couch.”

She plans to finish her time at PAFA in the same way she began.

“The ASE is definitely in the back of my mind. I think I want to make an installation because that's what I came in doing and I want to end doing that too.”