Annie Thompson (MFA '24) Works in Collection Archives and High School After School Program

It’s one thing to see Andy Warhol’s work in a museum but Annie Thompson (MFA ‘24) says it’s an entirely different experience to hold the icon’s work in your hands. 

“It kind of blinded me a little bit. It was kind of wild to see some of his pieces in person and understand how strong the pigments were.” 

Thompson had the opportunity to handle Warhol’s Flash - November 22, 1963 print as part of her work study in PAFA’s archives. PAFA participates in both the Federal Work Study program and PHEAA State Work-Study program. Working alongside Hoang Tran, PAFA’s Director of Archives and Collections, Thompson has spent months supporting the museum’s efforts to inventory and digitize the entire collection and rehouse prints. 

Going deep into the permanent collection brought her into contact with artists she was familiar with, like Warhol, but also introduced new names and works into Thompson’s art practice. 

“I was going with Hoang into specific vaults and logging everything in the database they’re building. 

It was interesting for me to work one on one with pieces in person. I learned about new artists I hadn't heard and had time to research a few artists as well.” 

Exposure to new artists goes beyond Thompson’s work study experience. She’s keeping busy and learning from PAFA undergraduate students through her assistantship to painting professor Al Gury. In the portrait painting class, Thompson supports students as they develop their techniques and refine their skills. 

The connection to the undergraduate experience allows her to brush up on the more technical skills that aren’t a focus of her MFA program and see other artists grow. 

“Being in a grad program, our focus isn't on techniques in the studio. We're more about content and developing our personal practice,” she said. “So it's been interesting for me, circulating throughout the class and picking up on what it is they're trying to get out of a painting. We’re talking about what artists they're looking to, what kind of styles they're interested in and how I can best offer help.” 

Helping and teaching undergraduate students is an experience Thompson would like to carry on after graduation. Part of the reason she chose to pursue an MFA is wanting to teach at the collegiate level. 

In her own undergraduate experience, she was able to see what life look could look like as an artist from her professors. She wants to be that model for students coming up and to be in community with other art-minded colleagues. 

“When I was looking at my college professors specifically in my figure painting and figure drawing classes, I was enamored. I think it would be a very fulfilling space to be in, to be able to geek out with students in the classroom who are really serious about being there. Ideally that would be the most fulfilling role for me.” 

As if she doesn’t have enough on her plate as a first year MFA student, Thompson is getting even more teaching experience through PAFA’s After School Studio Arts Program for high school students. Since 1994, the program has provided thousands of high school students in the Philadelphia area with free fine arts education and hands-on studio experience. 

Even with all of the teaching Thompson is doing, she is making the most of these 2 years in the MFA program. 

She came to PAFA because of the focus on the figure and wanting to study under Scott Noel and Peter Van Dyck. So she’s spent much of her first year in Philadelphia exploring the city and making as much work as she can. 

“I've been able to find a really rich community here, both in the art world and outside of that, too. So I think it's definitely informed my work. We're so close to New York and Boston and DC. I feel like I'm in a really good spot and then I enjoy my daily life. I love being an art student, 

...I think of this experience as having two years to fully dive in.”

About PAFA Graduate Programs

A low student-to-faculty ratio and individualized mentorship are the PAFA trademark. Graduate programs at PAFA are not bound by the conventions and traditions of academic and technical systems but informed by them, engaging in a critical framework that strives for authenticity and open discourse. All PAFA college programs are rolling admissions. Learn more about the Masters of Fine Art, Low-Residency MFA, and Post-Baccalaureate Certificate. 

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.