Currents: An Opportunity for Artists to Learn From Other Artists

Coming up on her senior year at Pratt Institute, artist Thalia Hernandez knew she needed a change.

“I felt like I was getting stuck being at Pratt and being around the same, the same, the same,” she said.

So she traded Brooklyn for Broad Street and spent the summer at PAFA as part of the Currents program.

The summer studio residency, hosted by the graduate program at PAFA, provides an intensive summer studio residency for rising undergraduate seniors. The six-week summer residency provides undergraduate students with a rigorous art-making experience that includes individual studio space and student housing, lectures and critiques, museum and gallery visits.

Hernandez said instead of decamping to a forest and spending her summer making work in a remote cabin, she said the standard location for most residency programs, she was looking to be in an urban area.

She needed the fast pace of a city and to feel pavement under her feet.

“I am super interested in concrete so I need to be in that environment, feeling the ground, to be able to really create something.”

It took coming to PAFA for Hernandez to realize how important the idea of being grounded is to her work.

“I was talking to Didier (PAFA’s MFA Chair, Didier William) and he mentioned how ground was represented in my work and I was like, ‘Woah!’ It just hit me,” she said. “Before that, I didn’t always see my love of concrete and being grounded in the work.

As a break from the traditional school year and regular classes, Currents emphasizes experimenting and working with others over portfolio-building and traditional grading. Hernandez is one of 19 students from around the country, experimenting and getting to know other artists.

“The students are from everywhere, that’s the thing that makes programs like this really unique,” said Currents Program Director and artist Colleen Asper. “You have students who are coming from all across the country and not just that geographic mix, you also have students who are coming from major art schools and larger Liberal Arts universities.”

The mix of new people and different viewpoints has allowed Hernandez to grow up. She said she’s now more comfortable with many different people and is able to talk about her work in a different light.

Asper said that’s part of the purpose of Currents. Each student brings their own perspective and approaches their work from many different places.

“Now I’ve seen what’s out there. You can get stuck in the way of thinking that’s prevalent at your school but there are so many other people, there are so many other artists,” Hernandez said. “I’ve learned about appreciating everyone’s art. I may not like it but I appreciate what the story is behind it.”

Thalia Hernandez at PAFA's Summer Open Studio Night.
Thalia Hernandez at PAFA's Summer Open Studio Night.

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.