Fine Arts Venture Fund Helps Students Flex Entrepreneurial Skills

Studio classes and access to working faculty are only part of the training that shapes and challenges successful artists in the School of Art. Today’s artists must also strive to develop skills in entrepreneurship, self-promotion, and business acumen. Enter the Fine Arts Venture Fund. First awarded in 2014, the fund engages current students in the grant-making process, many for the first time. Participants learn to develop a project proposal, craft a detailed budget, and, for semi-finalists, present a compelling case for support to a panel of business experts that have awarded over $270,000 from the fund.

The 2021 fund recipients represented a range of projects, each of which illustrated the growth mindset of a PAFA education. Whether drawn to new techniques by the availability of physical spaces or inspired by unexpected materials, these artists have transformed during the course of their study, creating their own opportunities as supported by the Find Arts Venture Fund.

Meet the latest class of recipients below, profiled by Greg Martino, Assistant Dean of Student Life and Career Services. Current students can apply for the Fine Arts Venture Fund by Monday, February 14, 2022. Learn more.

Aimee Liriano sits in chair in front of computer screen, looking away
Aimee Liriano
Digital print with red background, displays Italian recipe ingredients as images and words
“Illustrated Recipe of a Pasta Salad,” by Aimee Liriano
Digital Illustration using Adobe Photoshop
5" x 3"

Aimee Liriano (BFA ’22) 

The onset of the pandemic and the shuttering of PAFA’s digital lab made Aimee Liriano realize that she needed to obtain equipment of her own if she wanted to create an independent, fully fledged practice as an illustrator. “I love working big,” she explains, “and at the same time, I pay a lot of attention to detail, so I really became dependent on working in PAFA’s digital lab (pictured above), creating on a big screen and printing things in large formats. When I lost access to these resources, I had to find new ways of working.” These changes also led Aimee to think about what she would need when she graduated to continue her practice as a freelance designer and illustrator.

Aimee is fascinated by place, and some of her illustrations capture a whimsical take on her travel destinations, while others cast a fresh look on familiar territories. “I created a fun map of my hometown, Santiago, in the Dominican Republic, and it became really popular there.  I think a lot of people take this small place for granted, and I wanted to show some of the landmarks I really love there.  Right now I’m working on a Philly map.” Creating these works have been helped by Aimee’s ability to utilize her newly acquired drawing tablet and computer to move seamlessly between her home studio and PAFA’s digital lab.  


Júlia Godoy stands in front of easel in art studio
Júlia Godoy
seated figure painting
“Interlude,” by Júlia Godoy
Cotton Paper
10" x 13"

Júlia Godoy (BFA ’22) 

In the year since she received a Fine Arts Venture Fund Award, Júlia Godoy has transformed her practice. She utilized her grant to extend her exploration of utilizing natural materials, gathering yellow ochre in her neighborhood in South Philly, finding natural red in minerals along the Wissahickon, and grinding seashells into a beautiful white.

“I started with the idea of creating an Anders Zorn palette,” she explains, referring to the great Swedish artist of the last century, “With the Venture Fund, I obtained a professional glass muller and other tools to make paints. However, I quickly found that the paints I made were too precious to utilize for traditional oil painting, and I’ve started working in a more suggestive style, letting go of expectations I carried so long, working in a more purposeful way, glazing many layers over a dry painting. This style is more meditative, and it connects me to the women I grew up with. The women in my family at home in Brazil are all holistic healers and collectors of herbs and plants that they use in their practice.” 

Júlia’s strong connection with her roots was striking in her proposal, and her personal statement is used in student workshops to show prospective applicants how to draw on personal experience to write a compelling Fine Arts Venture Fund grant statement: 

My earliest memories are of smelling white roses in my great grandmother's garden under the hot sun in Goiania, Brazil. The breeze would bring with it a sweet scent of ‘erva cidreira,’ Portuguese for lemongrass, which was planted along the edge of the property line. The strong lineage of women in my family used this to brew tea to serve and sip while discussing life at the patio table. While my grandmothers spoke of generations before them, I sat on my mothers lap while drawing on the white tablecloth with the bright red juices of the acerola cherry gathered from the tall tree in the backyard. The acerola stained my skin, and even after washing the tart scent remained. These were smells and colors I was comfortable with and were reminiscent of my home.


Clarissa Kear stands in large room with glass windows on on side
Clarissa Kear
Pen and ink drawing of human-sardine eating humans out of a sardine tin
“Vampire Sardine,” by Clarissa Kear
Pen and Ink
8" x 10"

Clarissa Kear (BFA ’21, Certificate ’22) 

For Clarissa Kear, the process of applying for the Fine Arts Venture Fund was as important as the actual grant itself. “Presenting ideas for grants and proposals is going to be a big part of my life as an artist, and the Venture Fund experience helped me to figure out clear and concise ways of breaking down my ideas,” she explains, “When I did my presentation to the funders and the juror, it was great to know that they wanted to hear how the grant would extend my professional life.”

Clarissa was recently able to leverage the lessons she learned into applying for and landing a student curator internship with Axalta. This PAFA-created program brings student curators into corporate spaces, and Clarissa will be working at Axalta’s Global Innovation Center at the Navy Yard, developing an art exhibition and fine art programming for Axalta’s employees. “I was ready for the interview,” Clarissa explains, “and after having gone through my Venture Fund presentation, this felt organic and painless.” Clarissa will be mounting a year-long exhibition both at the Navy Yard location and at Axalta’s headquarters in Glen Mills.  

Clarissa’s Venture Fund grant went to acquiring an Ipad, some software, and accessories that are helping her bring ideas to life. She states, “I like to work with a balance between traditional art making methods and digital practices, and I needed to get digital tools that would help me brainstorm in ways that will speed my process and reduce waste.” Clarissa used part of her funds to acquire professional development in new software programs, including Mental Canvas and Procreate. Her goal is to become an expert in emerging software as a way of increasing her visibility as an artist and attracting the attention of companies that share her values. “I think cinematically,” she explains, “and I love how Mental Canvas allows me to create dimensional drawings that can be entered into and even turned into video assets.” Ultimately, she hopes that her adoption of new technologies will give her a competitive edge when she graduates. Says Clarissa, “I’ve already utilized my new tools in creating some commissioned animation and motion design, including a digital holiday card for a corporate client.”

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, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.