Press Release

PAFA Holds 212th Commencement on May 12

PAFA Holds 212th Commencement on May 12

Joan Semmel to Deliver Commencement Address; Anne Minich to Receive Distinguished Alumni Award

PHILADELPHIA (April 10, 2017) -- The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is holding its 212th Commencement exercises on Friday, May 12, 2017 at 3 p.m. in the Historic Landmark Building, 118 North Broad Street, Philadelphia.

PAFA will recognize 93 graduating students, including 15 Certificate program graduates; 29 Bachelor of Fine Arts graduates; 3 BFA/Certificate graduates; 8 Post-Baccalaureate graduates, and 38 Master of Fine Arts graduates.

Joan Semmel will address the class of 2017 as the Commencement speaker. A feminist painter, professor, and writer, Semmel was born and raised in New York City, where she graduated from Cooper Union and Pratt Institute. She began as an abstract painter but is best known for the large-scale nude self-portraits she has been making since the 1970s. She has long been involved in the feminist movement and feminist art groups devoted to gender equality in the art world. The Women's Caucus for Art honored Semmel in 2013 with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Semmel's works are found in museum collections including the Brooklyn Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington; The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York; among others. She has taught at the Brooklyn Museum and the Maryland Institute College of Art, and is Professor Emeritus of Painting at Rutgers University.

Anne Minich, whose dexterous drawings and meticulously painted constructions investigate the consistency and the truth of human duality, ambiguity, and multiplicity, will receive the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award. Minich, who attended PAFA in 1954 and 1955, is known for her abstract, mixed-media paintings on wood that are often inspired by architectural elements. She refers to them as "painting/constructs" and incorporates intentionally ordinary and mundane found objects into her work.

Minich's work has been on view in many shows and group exhibitions. Her work is collected by museums and private collectors, and she is the recipient of awards including a Pollock–Krasner Award, the Leeway Foundation's Bessie Berman Painting Award, and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship. She lives and works in Philadelphia and had two exhibitions of work earlier this year at PAFA: The Truth of Being Both/And, and Boat Series.

Lorraine Riesenbach, co-founder and director of the Artists’ House Gallery in Philadelphia, will receive the 2017 Alumni Service Award. Riesenbach and her husband Marvin ran the gallery in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood for 22 years before retiring in 2013.

Riesenbach, who received her Certificate from PAFA in 1991, through her work at Artists’ House provided many emerging young artists with their earliest opportunities to exhibit in a gallery and nurtured the careers of untold numbers of emerging artists from PAFA and beyond.

“We are honored to welcome Joan Semmel to PAFA and delighted to welcome Anne Minich and Lorraine Reisenbach back to campus,” says Clint Jukkala, Dean of the School of Fine Arts. “Throughout her long career, Joan Semmel has subverted traditions of representing female bodies, through her honest and direct exploration of sexuality, aging and notions of idealized beauty.  Anne Minich, whose powerful drawings and constructions are currently on view at PAFA, bravely examines themes of human duality, ambiguity, and personal identity. Lorraine Riesenbach has for decades worked as a guiding force in Philadelphia’s artistic community and a mentor to outstanding emerging artists, including many PAFA graduates. These three remarkable artists are inspiring examples for our students of the possibilities their own futures may hold.”

The Commencement ceremony is followed by the opening reception of the 116th Annual Student Exhibition (ASE).

The ASE is one of the most highly anticipated student exhibitions in the country and the longest-running exhibition of its kind. More than 1,000 works of art are on view by PAFA’s talented emerging artists in the Certificate, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Fine Arts, and Post-Baccalaureate programs.


Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the 2005 National Medal of Arts, PAFA is a recognized leader in fine arts education with a world-class permanent collection of American art.


Last Updated
April 12, 2017 - 1:28 PM

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.