Sarah McEneaney

Artist and community activist Sarah McEneaney (Cert. ’79) was born in Munich, Germany, and grew up in Larchmont, New York. Influenced by painters Alice Neel, Florine Stettheimer and Frida Kahlo, McEneaney is known for her intimate, imaginative and narrative work.

A focus on painting and studio work brought McEneaney to PAFA in 1975. She counts Martie Zelt, Jimmy Lueders, Elizabeth Osborne and Sidney Goodman as some of the PAFA faculty who had a great impact on her artistic development.

“Since my days at PAFA, my work has been personal and autobiographical. I am telling the story of the life of one person, but these stories are universal. As I became involved in community work, that activism has found its way into the painting as well.”

McEneaney’s community work includes forming the Callowhill Neighborhood Association in Philadelphia with neighbors in 2001, and co-founding the Reading Viaduct Project in 2003. The goal at its founding was to preserve and renovate the Reading Viaduct, a stretch of abandoned railway that carried trains into Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal for almost 100 years, in order to create the neighborhood’s first park. Today, Phase 1 of the Viaduct is open to the public as part of the Fairmount Park Conservancy and hosts multiple events each year. 

Since graduating she has received many awards including a Pew Fellowship in the Arts grants, three Yaddo fellowships, grants from the Joan Mitchell Foundation and Anonymous was a Woman, and an Academy of Arts and Letters Purchase Prize. McEneaney’s work appears in permanent collections throughout the U.S., including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Mills College Art Museum in Oakland, California; the Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, New Hampshire; and PAFA, which has acquired 11 of her pieces. In 2011 McEneaney completed a City of Philadelphia 1% for Art Commission. Three of her works will be added to the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2021. Home and Away, a survey exhibition of McEneaney’s work of the last 20 years will open at Locks Gallery, Philadelphia in September 2021.

McEneaney is represented by Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York and Locks Gallery in Philadelphia.

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.