Old Buildings Provide New Home for BFA Student Faith Castillo

Faith Castillo’s introduction to PAFA came at a small college fair focused on the arts. The painting major, who is finishing her first year in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, remembers that the admissions representative shared a lot about the school and was encouraging of her portfolio. “I was intrigued immediately by PAFA. I looked it up as soon as I got home. I just loved it,” she said.

Not long after, Faith made a trip to Philadelphia with her parents. They visited PAFA’s campus and museum, and “of course had to get good food,” she remembers. After that initial trip, her mind was made up. “We knew that this would be my art school.” When considering what to do after high school, Faith had also strongly considered architecture, and to this day is especially drawn to the historic buildings on North Broad Street. “PAFA isn’t just the professors and the program, but the building itself. I think it carries a lot of history and a lot of character that you can't really find in many places.”  

Once she enrolled this past fall, Faith took some time to settle into her new routine with new roommates in Stiles Hall. “It was an adjustment getting used to living on your own, more than the academic side of things,” she says, joking that any students who are new to the city should ask for advice on the best grocery options. In fact, the academics came easier to her than they ever had in high school, as she was finally able to concentrate solely on the things that she loved to do. The focus afforded by an art school allowed her to spend her time on creative pursuits, rather than splitting her attention between calculus and biology, as she had in high school. “I have a studio that’s open to me at all times and teachers and professors that will help me. There’s not really much complaint there!”

As she has gotten used to a shared living space, Faith has also found support within the dorm. Residents enjoy social time together, borrow cooking ingredients from neighbors, and help each other remember upcoming assignments in their shared courses. “That really is one of the perks of living in a community. You always have someone to watch out for you,” she says.

Living in the dorms this first year at PAFA has also broadened Faith’s horizons beyond her high school experience. “Both of my roommates are international,” she says. “One of them is from China and one of them is from Vietnam, so they have completely different art styles and concepts and ways that they view art in the world. The level of different talents here just makes you realize that art can be so wild. It varies so much and will always be changing.”

Faith’s view of the art world is colored by what she experienced growing up outside of Austin, Texas. Her parents came from single income families shaped by their Roman Catholic, Hispanic, and Mexican traditions. Of late, she has been brainstorming pieces to further explore her Mexican traditions and Native American heritage, like a recent portrait of her grandmother who is adorned in jewelry passed down through generations. “They always tried to give me the best and always pushed me thoroughly with my artwork,” Faith says of her parents. “They critiqued me when I did not need to be critiqued,” she laughs, “and pushed me until I could do what I’m capable of now.” She feels especially grateful to give something back to her parents by maintaining a full scholarship at PAFA.

Since her very first visit to PAFA, Faith has truly found her place in a close-knit community where she can focus on her art. “Being on your own seems terrifying at first,” she says. “I came here shaking in my boots. I didn't know exactly what I was doing or who I am. But as time goes on, I get closer and closer to what I feel is a type of home for me; a place where I feel safe and comfortable being who I am and who I aim to be.”

Diana Wensley, content writer

Students interested in art school are encouraged to schedule an in-person or virtual Portfolio Review. PAFA also attends various college fairs and National Portfolio Days across the country every year.

BFA student Faith Castillo leans backwards while holding a skeleton model
BFA student Faith Castillo has fun in the studio
Graphite drawing of nude male figure
Graphite hatching by Faith Castillo
Graphite drawing of three male nude figures on easel
Graphite hatching by Faith Castillo

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is the United States’ first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers a world-class collection of American art, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and educational opportunities in the fine arts. The PAFA Museum aims to tell America's diverse story through art, expanding who has been included in the canon of art history through its collections, exhibitions, and public programs, while classes educate artists and appreciators with a deep understanding of traditions and the ability to challenge conventions. 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.