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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While visiting her brother at the University of Pennsylvania, first-year MFA student Bhoomi Patel started looking for a graduate program so she could continue her at practice. Hailing from Ahmedabad, India, Patel said PAFA offered a flexibility that she didn’t have while completing her undergraduate degree. Not only that, her coursework at PAFA has encouraged her to work in multiple mediums and across departments to expand her skill set.

Artwork from PAFA’s permanent collection is not only on view at the museum in Philadelphia but in exhibitions across the country and globe. Each year dozens of works are lent to museums that want to highlight American art. This fall, some of PAFA’s most important pieces are traveling to Germany for several shows highlighting the contributions American artists have made to the global art community.

Second-year MFA student Mike Kondel had been helping artists make work as a master printer, but it wasn't until an encounter with MFA chair Didier William that he realized he was ready for a change in his own life. Coming to the MFA program, Kondel made a conscious decision to step away from printmaking and focus on his painting.

Nzinga Simmons and T.K. Smith are recipients of the Tina Dunkley Fellowship in American Art, a 2-year fellowship providing hands-on training in curatorial practice and museum professions for individuals from historically underrepresented groups who have expressed an interest in American Art. Here at PAFA, the two are shadowing museum director Brooke David Anderson and the curatorial team. Rhoden Collection curator Dr. Brittany Webb aims to expose Simmons and Smith to every aspect of running a museum.

At Hahnemann University Hospital, PAFA students draw cadavers that have been donated, giving them an opportunity to learn and practice their skills. PAFA professor Anthony Ciambella said students incorporate the experience into their work in many different ways.

As Roman Catholic High School embarks on a new era of fine arts with the opening of the Howard Center for the Arts, they are reflecting on and celebrating the 25th anniversary of Roman’s partnership with PAFA through the After School Studio Arts Program for high school students.

The spark for Maura Roncace’s projects can come from anywhere. Read how the MFA student uses art to explore difficult themes as a means to process her feelings and experiences.

While working in PAFA’s Broad Street Studio, MFA student Rod Jones II reacts to the people walking by and how they interpret his work. In addition to reaction from people on the street, Jones recently received feedback from artist Doreen Garner. Garner visited PAFA as a part of the Visiting Artist Program and spent the day lecturing and meeting with students in their studios.

"'Alter'ing American Art" (now on view through December 16th), features works from PAFA's Linda Lee Alter Collection of Art by Women, and looks at the shifting definition of what it means to be “American.” The curators of this exhibition are aiming to give voice to artists and people who are often voiceless.

“I came to Philly and toured and I loved it. I loved the city,” said Dara Haskins (BFA '19). “It just felt like a home away from away home, somewhere I could grow. Not just grow as an artist but also grow as a woman in Philly, I love it here.”