A Family Connection Draws High School Student to PAFA

Max Brenneman is following in his sister’s footsteps.

The 16-year-old rising junior at the Philadelphia High School for Creative & Performing Arts (CAPA) first started visiting PAFA when his sister, Sophie Brenneman (MFA ’19) was completing her MFA.

“Whenever I would visit Philly I would come here. I wanted to see what she was doing,” he said. “It was fun and everybody was so nice. Coming to PAFA is how I got into art.”

In 2017 after his sister Sophie graduated from the MFA program, Brenneman took a summer media design class through PAFA’s museum education department and followed that up with a drawing class. Then during the school year he came to PAFA for the free after-school studio arts program for high school students.

Students in the after school program can drop in for free, college-level art class and learn a variety of art-making techniques.

The opportunity to work in multiple mediums is what appeals to Brenneman the most about PAFA.

“I work in a lot of different mediums. I took a sewing class last year. I’m really interested in sewing and fibers and dying materials,” he said. “I’d say I’m most familiar with drawing and oil painting.”

After taking a one-week high school intensive class last summer at PAFA, Brenneman is diving further into his artistic practice and spending the summer taking classes through the high school Summer Academy program. Summer Academy participants spend five weeks taking college-level art classes.

The program helps teens develop their portfolio if they do want to eventually go on to art school.

Each week students rotate between classes focusing on drawing, painting, sculpture, and printmaking, and once a week the group visits museums in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and New York City.

“I came to Summer Academy this year because last summer I took a landscape painting intensive and made a really good friend who had done Summer Academy and she encouraged me to do it,” Brenneman said. “It’s such a great opportunity because you can get four college credits and go on all of these field trips and it’s more time to be at PAFA.”

Most of Brenneman’s work is observational but he said he’d like to eventually follow his sister into more conceptual explorations. First, though, Brenneman wants to work on his technique and skills.

When asked whether or not he’ll follow his sister even further and pursue an art degree, Brenneman isn’t sure.

For now, Brenneman said he is happy trying new things at Summer Academy and seeing what the future may hold.

Summer Academy student Max Brenneman works on a sculpture during class.
Summer Academy student Max Brenneman works on a sculpture during class.

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.