Pax Formichella '21: Exploring PAFA’s Drawing Legacy

Before coming to PAFA, Pax Formichella (BFA ’21) thought he’d become a curator.

“In high school I didn’t think I was very good at art,” Formichella said. “So I thought I should study art history and become a curator so I could still work around art.”

Instead of attending an arts-focused college, Formichella went on a liberal arts path but soon realized the pull towards art was too great.

“I had always done art and realized I was just as good or better than people who were just taking the art class to fulfill a requirement,” he said. “I was taking it seriously and it just made me happier than art history, so I thought I should give it a shot.”

Formichella is now heading into his second year at PAFA as a drawing major. He’s focusing on foundational skills and has spent a lot of time in Cast Hall working on figure and cast drawing.

Since transferring to PAFA, Formichella has also gotten into printmaking. He hopes to one day make a career out of the print skills he’s learning today.

“I would like to work in a print shop, commercial screen-printing,” Formichella said. “I would like to figure out how to incorporate drawing however I can. Designing my own stuff is the dream one day.”

Even though he’s now making art full-time, Formichella has the opportunity to curate and learn more about the career he once pursued.

Working with Greg Martino, PAFA’s Director of Career Services, and School Exhibitions Coordinator Brian Boutwell, Formichella is co-curating a drawing exhibition in the Anne Bryan Gallery. Students have professional opportunities to curate exhibit and learn all aspects of mounting and promoting exhibitions in the gallery.

A Good Habit Formed, focuses on the history of drawing at PAFA from the school’s founding to today. Featured in the exhibition are old textbooks, sketchbooks from PAFA’s archives and current student work.

In addition to choosing work to feature in the exhibition, Formichella is also getting a lesson is how a show comes together. From building book cradles to display textbooks to selecting which sketchbooks to show, Formichella is working with PAFA’s museum team to ensure the exhibition comes together for its late August opening.

Seeing PAFA’s drawing legacy is influencing Formichella in his own art practice.

“The sketchbooks have been my favorite thing to go through,” he said. “William Glackens has these really amazing sketchbooks from traveling. It’s been really inspiring to go and do my own stuff after seeing these things.”

Pax Formicella (BFA '21).
Pax Formicella (BFA '21).

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.