Press Release

PAFA Introduces Two New Programs: Fine Arts Illustration Major and Low-Residency MFA

PAFA Introduces Two New Programs:

Fine Arts Illustration Major and Low-Residency MFA


PHILADELPHIA (July 22, 2014) – The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is expanding its curriculum with two new programs developed to serve the needs of burgeoning art students and established creative professionals.

Starting in the summer of 2015, PAFA will begin enrolling students into a Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts program.  The new Low-Residency MFA program takes place over three summers at PAFA and two years off-site, and offers a longer period of studio practice and critical engagement, conducted both in person and using the new possibilities of social media to create an online virtual artist’s community.

The new Low-Residency MFA will provide an alternative for artists whose educational needs do not fit a conventional model. The program offers an alternative way to achieve an outstanding graduate art program for parents, career professionals, developing artists or educators who have family, employment, location or other life situations that prevent them from completing the traditional two year residency MFA program. 

During the three summers at PAFA’s campus, students are provided a private studio in PAFA’s Hamilton Building and have access to the renowned collection of historic and contemporary American art. Students work with faculty mentors and advisors during individual critique sessions and take part in visiting artist lectures and critiques. Studio courses allow for exploration into a range of media and disciplines and explore independent drawing and mixed media projects in a group seminar setting.

Students in the program will be active participants in a virtual online community of working artists. The requirement for an online component for seminars in theory and criticism, art history, professional practices and for studio critiques is new and innovative, but is entirely compatible with the online lifestyles of contemporary artists. The Low-Residency MFA complements the existing MFA program and offers another way to join PAFA’s community of working artists.

During fall and spring semesters off-site, students will share coursework and studio projects online and complete virtual courses in art history, seminar and professional practices. Online feedback from peers and faculty mentors will provide intellectual exploration, inspiration, and creative dialog. Both in residence and off-site, this virtual and actual arts community provides individual and group critiques with a diverse faculty of resident and online critics with visiting artists including Mark Dion, Anoka Faruqee and Titus Kaphar.

Seminar courses in art history, art theory and professional practice foster an intellectual and critical context for art making. This context is further developed during online and actual private and group critiques, online and in residence seminars, a written thesis component, exposure to an outstanding visiting artist program and participation in graduate level studio classes reflecting PAFA’s emphasis on drawing and art-making skills.

According to Program Head Astrid Bowlby, "there are two major differences between this Low-Residency MFA and others. The first is that the student remains both deeply connected to PAFA and to the other participants throughout the onsite and offsite components of the program. This provides meaningful continuity and community for all concerned. The second is that it is expected that the faculty and students will utilize all forms of social media and current methods of online education in order to accomplish this.”

The priority application deadline for the Low-Residency MFA program admission is December 15, 2014.

PAFA is also adding a historically significant program to its Certificate and BFA programs. Beginning in fall 2015, PAFA will introduce a new undergraduate major in Fine Arts Illustration. Recalling PAFA alumni and masters of fine arts illustration such as Maxfield Parrish, the Fine Arts Illustration program is part of PAFA’s skill-based and discipline-based programs in the fine arts.

The program will be co- sponsored by two PAFA faculty with long experience in teaching fine art illustration: the Chair of Painting Al Gury and Chair of Drawing Renee Foulks, complementing the existing programs in Painting, Drawing, Printmaking and Sculpture. The program will include classes in the existing programs as well as coursework with master illustrators and illustration professionals. Courses include the History of Illustration, Visual Narration, Narrative and Sequential Drawing, Illustration Methods, Digital Imaging, Letterpress and Book Arts, Business Practices of Art and courses with master illustrators such as David Wiesner and E.B. Lewis.

With PAFA’s rigorous fine arts training as a foundation, graduates of the program will be equipped with the tools to launch careers in fields including animation, book and magazine illustration, graphic novels, poster and storyboard art, medical illustration, and many other arts-related professions.

PAFA is investing in new classrooms, technology, and faculty for the Fine Arts Illustration major. Dean of the School of Fine Arts Jeffrey Carr says, “Building a new program is a rare opportunity to create the ideal mix of resources to meet the needs of 21st-century illustrators.”

Illustration as a fine art is a part of PAFA’s legacy. During illustration’s “golden age” in America, PAFA-trained artists included Maxfield Parrish, who became one of the era’s most sought-after illustrators, and Violet Oakley, whose illustrations for books, magazines and poems appeared in many popular publications. Wharton Esherick continued PAFA’s illustration traditions by producing beautiful woodblock prints in addition to his furniture designs. 

The tradition continues with a wave of young alumni building successful careers as illustrators. Printmaking alumna Kate Samworth, for example, was encouraged at PAFA by famed illustrator David Wiesner to pursue children’s book illustration. The result was her first book Aviary Wonders Inc., a commercial and critical success. And MFA alumnus Ryan Muldowney has just published his second children’s book, The Approved Inter-Universal, Pan-Dimensional, Omni-Galactic, Alphabetical Guide to the Cosmos for Beginning Space Explorers. Katherine Wirick is achieving her dream of creating evocative and beautiful online graphic novels, such as Nervenkrank.

Early decision application deadlines for Fine Arts Illustration and all other undergraduate programs is December 1, 2014 and regular decision is February 15, 2015.



Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is America’s first School of Fine Arts and Museum. A recipient of the 2005 National Medal of Arts presented by the President of the United States, PAFA is a recognized leader in Fine Arts education. Nearly every major American artist has taught, studied, or exhibited at PAFA. The institution's world-class collection of American art continues to grow and provides what only a few other art institutions in the world offer: the rare combination of an outstanding Museum and an extraordinary faculty known for its commitment to students and for the stature and quality of its artistic work.



Last Updated
December 16, 2014 - 2:39 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, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.