"Insider Art" Exhibition Showcases Work of PAFA Staff

PAFA is full of artists. From our accomplished faculty to students who are poised to be the next generation of great American artists, it’s hard to not bump into someone on campus with an art background.

But PAFA’s artist community goes beyond those who teach and learn at the Academy. Many of our staff members, across all departments, are artists in their own right.

Insider Art, on view in the Tuttleman Gallery, showcases the artwork of staff members who work in PAFA's Administration, Museum, School, Security and Operations departments.

Curated by Michael Gallagher’s Thesis Seminar class, the exhibition features sculptures, paintings, and embroidery among other media.

Alex Trosko (Cert. ’19) said the seminar class teaches students how to prepare themselves for life after graduation and establish a studio practice. In the class, Trosko has done studio visits, learned how to work with galleries and helped jury Insider Art.

He said the experience was tougher than he expected.

“We tried to be as diverse and inclusive as possible, that was kind of our goal for the jurying part of it,” Troski said. “We tried to include as much as we could but couldn't include it all. It was great work.”

Included in the exhibition is two works from Sheryl Kessler, Executive Assistant to PAFA’s President David Brigham.

With a background in fashion design, Kessler primarily works in fibers.

“When I began making things I believed that only craft had value so all of my projects were functional," she said. "While working at PAFA, I found that fiber art has a place in my practice as well. At this time, my work is purely decorative as I was trained in design. Maybe in the future I will find a way to incorporate the things that I care about into my work.”

Laura Warnecke works in PAFA’s Finance department and is showing for the first time in PAFA’s staff exhibition.

Before working at PAFA she didn’t think of herself as a creator, but since PAFA employees are available to take free Continuing Education (CE) classes she wanted to try something new. Her work, an embroidery series, came out of the skills she picked up in those CE classes.

“When I started here I didn’t think I was an artist but then I started taking a CE class on improvisational stitching,” she said. “I kind of fell into it in a way.”

Gianna Del Rossi (BFA ’19) helped with gathering works for the exhibition and said the various media made for an interesting intake process.

“A lot of it was learning how to unpackage work very carefully. The scariest part was making sure not to damage any work,” she said. “It was nice getting to talk to the people who came in.”

Giving students an opportunity to meet new people at PAFA is an added bonus to the annual exhibition. Kessler hopes Insider Art shows the strength of PAFA’s artistic community.

“So many of the staff are talented and have their own art practices on the side. I think it’s really great that the public and students realize we get it,” she said. “It’s not just the people at the school who get it because they work with the students, but the whole staff. Even if someone here doesn’t create they probably hang out with somebody who creates.”

Selected artwork from the "Insider Art" exhibition.
Selected artwork from the "Insider Art" exhibition.
Artwork by Sheryl Kessler, as part of the "Insider Art" exhibition.
Artwork by Sheryl Kessler, as part of the "Insider Art" exhibition.
Artwork by Laura Warnecke, as part of the "Insider Art" exhibition.
Artwork by Laura Warnecke, as part of the "Insider Art" exhibition.
A visitor looks at piece by Amanda Bowman in the "Insider Art" exhibition.
A visitor looks at piece by Amanda Bowman in the "Insider Art" exhibition.

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.