Passersby outside the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building are seeing PAFA in a whole new way: through the windows of the new Broad Street Studio, a permanent space dedicated to demonstrating the creative process that happens every day in studios and classrooms.
A rotating schedule of faculty and students covers all areas of the school. Among the early Broad Street Studio occupants were Steven Nocella, who did a mask making project with sculpture students; Peter van Dyck, who conducted a perspective class with painting students; and Stuart Shils, who oversaw a collaborative project with undergraduate students including Justine Ditto and Erik Fuller.
Shils says the Broad Street Studio is a rewarding and useful way for students to take a more experimental and playful approach to their work, outside the unavoidable pressures that are part-and-parcel with the classroom experience.
“I see the function of the room … as a kind of kite-flying field, on which they can let out a variety of kites that they build, in ways unrelated to pressure/performance/achievement and there they don’t have to do it as someone else wants them to be thinking, something they very much need within their lives as students.”
Working with a few students in the space this fall, Shils said he saw their ideas and practice evolve as they had a different physical space, and therefore emotional space, in which to literally and figuratively expand their artistic practice.
“Overall there is a very strong response from everyone and I know there are numerous students who will want to reserve the space in the future as we move into the New Year. I see this room as offering many very positive and generative opportunities for which I know they are very grateful.”
The space also offers opportunities for artists to cross-pollinate. Shils’ students, for example, capped their time in the Broad Street Studio with an evening musical and visual event that included PAFA alumna Ashley Wick, whose work is in a current group show at Fleisher Ollman, doing video projection of her animations along with the music of her husband Yona’s ensemble Irisfreeheart.
“This was a bit out of the ordinary for our school,” Shils said, “but it is the kind of event that, to my mind, should be happening at art schools all the time.”