Press Release

PAFA's 117th Annual Student Exhibition Opens May 11

An annual ritual for art collectors and
a PAFA tradition for more than a century


PHILADELPHIA (April 4, 2017) -- The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) presents its 117th Annual Student Exhibition, May 11 - June 3, 2018 at 128 North Broad Street, Philadelphia. The exhibition opens to the public with a reception on May 11 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

An academic capstone and the longest-standing exhibition of its kind, the Annual Student Exhibition (ASE) offers PAFA's emerging artists the opportunity to curate, install, and sell their own work in a professional setting. While graduating student art exhibitions are not uncommon, PAFA's show takes place in a major museum and is one of the most celebrated student group shows in the country.

The exhibition marks the end of a student's time at PAFA but the beginning of their contribution to the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia and beyond. Among the many successful artists who have launched their careers at the Annual Student Exhibition are Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Bo Bartlett, Moe Brooker, Barkley Hendricks, and Sarah McEneaney. Other graduates have gone on to open their own galleries, from Gerry Givnish (The Painted Bride) in 1969 to Katherine Stanek and Deborah Fine (Stanek Gallery) in 2015.

This year's ASE will feature approximately 1,000 works in various media by 32 graduating MFA students, 66 third- and fourth-year Certificate and BFA students, and 7 Post-Baccalaureate students.

One of the most highly anticipated student group shows in the country, the ASE offers a rare chance to view and purchase works by the art world's young talents, including winners of PAFA's prestigious travel awards, museum purchase prizes, and other prizes awarded for various categories of excellence. Thousands of visitors come to see the work: artists, collectors, curators, gallery owners, and the general public.

PAFA's curriculum prepares students for the ASE through studio classes in drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, and illustration; critiques from faculty and visiting artists; student-organized exhibitions throughout the academic year; and ASE workshops on topics ranging from pricing artwork and talking about their work, to planning and installing an exhibition, as well as artwork management practices, and curator discussions.

The Annual Student Exhibition will feature a multitude of experiences for visitors that are unique to this year. Among the MFA students, Brad Davis (MFA '18) will present a series of oil paintings that focus on life in the urban environment, specifically that of Philadelphia. His paintings are done in a traditional style that could be described as "contemporary realism" and typically center around portraiture and cityscapes. Margaret Borah (MFA '18) will be showing sculptures in the Broad Street Studio and on the second floor. In her work, she manipulates everyday domestic objects, such as knives and chairs, in order to see them in a new light. She is heavily influenced by contemporary culture.

The ASE opening reception will take place immediately following the school's 213th Commencement ceremony on May 11 at 3 p.m. at 118 North Broad Street, Philadelphia.  

PAFA will recognize 87 graduating students, including 14 Certificate program graduates; 20 Bachelor of Fine Arts graduates; 4 BFA/Certificate graduates; 10 PAFA/Penn BFA graduates; 7 Post-Baccalaureate graduates, and 32 Master of Fine Arts graduates.

Nick Cave, an American fabric sculptor, dancer and performing artist, will address the class of 2018 as the Commencement speaker. Cave's work is shown nationally and internationally, including at PAFA. Nick Cave: Rescue, currently on view in the Morris Gallery, Historic Landmark Building, through May 13, 2018, places three opulent sculptures by Cave in conversation with each other with selections from PAFA's permanent collection.

Quentin Morris, a Philadelphia native who studied at PAFA from 1963-1967, will receive the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award. As a student at PAFA during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Morris began employing the color black in his work as a means of merging formal elements with conceptual and symbolic ones.  He has continued using black throughout his career, using his monochromatic paintings and works on paper as a means of investigating themes surrounding identity, politics, and spirituality.

John Thornton, who attended PAFA from 1976–1980, will receive the 2018 Alumni Service Award. He has remained an active and engaging member of the PAFA community through producing videos that highlight PAFA alumni and showcase their successes. Thornton and his videos, which he publishes on his YouTube channel for the public to view, have been a crucial way of keeping the PAFA community united and informed.

More information can be found at

Last Updated
May 8, 2018 - 5:17 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.