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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Second-year student Leslie Pickel stepped outside the studio to work on an archaeological dig site in Tuscany, Italy this summer. Over the course of three weeks, Pickel and her fellow diggers worked at a site on the top of a mountain, eventually discovering an Etruscan wall. Now back home in the States, Pickel is still processing the experience and how it can be incorporated into her art practice.

It’s not enough to make artwork for an exhibition in Stephanie Reyer’s "Digital Print and Web Design" class. For three weeks, students in Reyer's class designed a branding suite and layout for an exhibition that will feature their work and their classmates. Each student presented their design proposal to the class and voted to select a winning proposal.

Bringing together 30 young artists from 13 undergraduate programs across the country for the exhibition Crosscurrents, PAFA leaders hope to foster a sense of community among students. Crosscurrents is not only an opportunity for undergraduates to showcase their work in America’s oldest art museum, but the exhibition also serves as a scholarship competition for PAFA’s MFA program. Four scholarships are awarded, ranging from $2,500 to a full tuition scholarship to the MFA Program at PAFA.

For a traditional fine arts school, third-year Illustration student Kaisha Dukes wasn’t expecting much when it came to digital offerings and classes at PAFA. But she was pleasantly surprised by PAFA's extensive digital offerings, and the way professors provide mentorship and support in acquiring digital skills.

Painting student Kelly Micca likes to capture what she calls the underestimated, ordinary world. Micca’s studio space in the ninth floor gang studio at PAFA is decorated with her landscapes. Working outside with a changing environment presents challenges but it’s an experience Micca loves. She often gets a group of friends together for landscape outings and says the work they produce is a way to capture the memory of a day.

Illustration student Eustace Francis worked as a creative director and designer before realizing he wanted to pursue his fine art interests. He ended up choosing PAFA after seeing the Academy featured on PBS's "Newshour" program and visiting the museum. Now a third-year student at PAFA, Francis is studying across all disciplines.

Visual artist and PAFA alumna Njideka Akunyili Crosby returned to campus on November 9, 2018, as part of the Visiting Artist Program organized by students of the School of Fine Arts. The Visiting Artists Program is a student-run venture that brings an outstanding roster of local, national and international artists to PAFA each semester. PAFA students not only attend lectures with the visiting artist but are also given the opportunity to have an in-studio critique with various artists throughout the semester.

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.