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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Less than a week after the opening of Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis last November, Barbara Katus, PAFA’s Manager of Imaging Services, was methodically making her way through the exhibition with the help of her work study student, Gary Pergolini. A Hasselblad H4D digital camera was mounted on a tripod and tethered to a laptop on a rolling cart, enabling Katus to see and edit the images of Lewis’ vibrant works as she captured them on screen. This is the process of installation photography, and although the technology has changed dramatically over the years, this practice dates back to the late 19th century at PAFA.

In November, PAFA’s School and Community Partnership Program received an enormous boost--a $300,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation. The grant will provide the Museum Education Department the opportunity to continue developing what has already become a robust educational program, both at the museum and in Philadelphia communities in need of art education. Moreover, the grant will strengthen bonds that have formed between PAFA and members of these communities, including teachers and administrators, students and their families.

Award-winning sculptor and PAFA alumna Phebe Hemphill has worked since 2006 as a medallic sculptor at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. She is one of seven people at the sprawling facility who create, design and sculpt the reliefs that end up as currency, presidential and congressional medals, and commemorative coins.

PAFA's Giving Tuesday campaign supported its burgeoning School and Community Partnership Program.

PAFA docents recently had a chance to take a tour of Faith and Family. Inspired by the World Meeting of Families 2015 and the historic visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia, Faith and Family is PAFA's first online Collections Focus, yet these works are also on view in the galleries currently. Anna Marley, PAFA's Curator of Historical American Art who co-curated this Faith and Family along with Robert Cozzolino and Jodi Throckmorton, led the tour in the galleries.

PAFA’s community of faculty, students and alumni came together this week to kick off a new school year at an assembly that served up encouragement, ideas, advice – and lunch, of course – to new and returning graduate and undergraduate students. The first assembly of the 2015-2016 academic year was fittingly held in the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building’s Fisher Brooks Gallery, current home of the Traction Company exhibition.

Renowned artist Titus Kaphar visited PAFA several times throughout the spring semester to meet with about a dozen MFA students for a series of studio critiques.

Last Friday, workers from Atelier Art Services and Storage gathered in PAFA’s historic Cast Hall to disassemble, package, and transport Laocoӧn and His Sons, one of the school’s most famous casts. The Laocoӧn, beloved by PAFA students who frequently sketch, draw, and paint the incredible musculature of the full-scale cast’s figures, depicts Laocoon, a priest during the Trojan War, wrestling with an enormous sea serpent that has attacked his family.

If you’ve ever been emotionally moved by a painting, song, or poem, you understand the power of art to inspire and brighten our lives. As certified art therapist Dona Duncan has seen first-hand, art also has the power to help people experiencing a range of symptoms from PTSD and depression to anxiety and dementia. This fall, Duncan is embarking on the second year of the ARTZ in the Studio program. It is one of two classes at PAFA offered in partnership with ARTZ Philadelphia, which provides cultural and creative outlets for people with dementia and their caregivers.

Liza Samuel recently demonstrated her process for making oil-based paint, as a large group of students crowded around to watch. Her formulas have become the go-to paints for many fellow students—and teachers—at PAFA.