A Teacher Takes Time Off to Learn

For much of her career, Anne Greenwood has been a teacher. But right now she’s relishing being taught.

“I say 'Thank you' to the faculty and critics for taking the time to talk to me, even if it’s criticism I don’t necessarily I want to hear, thank you for taking the time,” Greenwood (MFA ‘19) said.

The second-year student in PAFA's Low-Residency MFA program is taking a break from her career in teaching for the 26-month program. The core of the "low-res" MFA program is three summer terms completed on the PAFA campus. During the fall and spring terms, students are off-site and supported by a vital online community with virtual studios, critic meetings, and courses in art history, contemporary art, theory, writing, and professional practices.

“I do really value that feedback of all kinds because in your home life, feedback of that kind either challenging or really focused or really attentive feedback is really rare because people have their own lives, this is not their job,” she said. “And even if you do get a good supportive group of people, it’s rare. So this been very, very wonderful.”

After spending more than a dozen years teaching English at local universities in her home state of Arkansas, Greenwood then went on to help build the art program at the Arkansas School for the Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts. She taught English literature, composition, painting, drawing, and art history.

“It was nice to work with students for whom art was not their main focus but they really loved it,” she said. “For some of them, it became their main focus at a school which is known for being a STEM school.”

Her work led the school to hire two full-time art teachers and school leaders are now building a dedicated art center.

Greenwood then took a position at Crystal Bridges, a free American art museum in northwest Arkansas.

As the museum interpreter, she helped write the plaques for the museum. Her words touched the half a million people visiting the museum each year, but Greenwood missed the one-on-one interaction of classroom education and teaching.

The desire for a personal experience is one of the things that drew her to PAFA.

“There is a sense of being present with your faculty and having a designated time for your faculty to be with you,” Greenwood said. “I’ve been faculty and juggling a student in front of you and a student online is very different. That in-person experience was important to me.”

Spending her summers in Philadelphia also allows Greenwood to take a break from her usual art community. She views her eight weeks at PAFA each year as almost a mini-residency.

“One of the nice things about being here is that you get to extract yourself from your homeworld and do different things than you would normally,” she said. “You go and do something in a different environment and place, where you don’t have to think about who you usually show with or where you show and the certain expectations people have, so that’s been nice.”

Even though she’s away from home, Greenwood is thinking of what she can bring back to her local art community when she finishes at PAFA. She’s a member of Emergent Arts, a non-profit dedicated to fostering creativity in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

“It’s nice to see well how things are they done in a big place, in a way that’s collective and nurturing,” she said. “It’s great to be able to take that back with me.”

Anne Greenwood (MFA '19), working in the studio.
Anne Greenwood (MFA '19), working in the studio.

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.