Perspectives: Stories from PAFA

A platform for artists, scholars, and art enthusiasts—explore our rich history and culture of contemporary art making.

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The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (SAMA) is celebrating the work of more than 40 artists in the PAFA community. Scott Dimond, SAMA’s Curator for Visual Arts, said the exhibition brings a contemporary twist on traditional and realist painting.

For PAFA, the summer exhibition "Infinite Spaces: Rediscovering PAFA's Permanent Collection" is the next step in the museum's commitment to highlighting the work of women artists. "Infinite Spaces" showcases objects from PAFA’s historic collection that have rarely been exhibited, as well as newly acquired works.

The Student Docent Program trains high school students from nearly a dozen area high schools and community groups to leading their peers through PAFA's galleries. The program is free to participating students thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

For Stuart Shils (Cert '82), artistry and vision are synonymous. He teaches students to see as a professor in the Painting department and encourages PAFA students to extend the skill of seeing as they develop themselves as young artists.

While finishing up community college in Florida, Ellana Cohen (Cert '18, BFA '19) knew she wanted to leave her hometown of Miami and continue studying art. The breadth of PAFA's work, along with its faculty, brought Cohen to the school as a transfer student.

PAFA's exhibition, “First Academies: Benjamin West and the Founding of the Royal Academy of Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art” looks at the history of the institution, of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century American artists, and the development of monumental history paintings such as Christ Rejected and Death on the Pale Horse, and of a slice of American history.

The communal space in the Sculpture department is more than an area to make work for Natalie Mallinoff (BFA '21). It’s where she carved out her place in the PAFA community. Mallinoff was drawn to the school and decided to pursue sculpture after attending PAFA's Summer Intensive program for high school students.

Luna Garisto (BFA '21) decided to attend the Summer Academy the summer before their senior year of high school to try out PAFA and to build a portfolio that would eventually get them accepted. Summer Academy participants receive the Next Steps Scholarship, which provides financial support to students who enroll in PAFA's BFA program. In addition to the financial support and expanded portfolio, Garisto said the Summer Academy showed her new avenues of creativity. Garisto is now a Printmaking major, with a minor in Drawing, and wants to become a tattoo artist after graduating from PAFA.

In high school, Ivonne Perez (BFA '19) thought she might become a doctor. But after two weeks attending a community college biology program, Perez knew she needed a change and switched to studio art. After receiving her Associate's degree, Perez arrived at PAFA as a transfer student to pursue a degree in Illustration. These days, she balances a full course load of art classes with learning how to make a career as an artist.

Professors and faculty members see their students grow as artists and as people during their time at PAFA. For over 30 years, Tony Rosati has led the Printmaking Department at PAFA, he’s seen students struggle and succeed in their work since the introduction of the program in the early 1980s.

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