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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Kathy Putnam’s art was always on the backburner as she focused on raising her family and a career in finance, but she kept returning to PAFA. An interest in painting led her to take PAFA's Continuing Education classes 25 years ago, which lead to participating in the school's Post-Baccalaureate Certificate program, and finally earning a Master's of Fine Arts degree.

Blinded in a car accident at the age of 21, sculptor Kathy Faul hasn’t let the disability slow her down. Faul built up her art skills alongside sighted students through Community Education classes. Her sculptural work focuses on carving animals out of stone.

As he graduates from PAFA, Aubrey Brown (Cert. '18) receives the Anne Bryan Memorial Award, named for the first friend he made at the Academy. Bryan’s young life was tragically cut short when she was killed in the Salvation Army Thrift Store building fire and collapse on June 5, 2013, at 22nd and Market Streets in Center City. Established by Bryan’s mother, the award assists PAFA students to realize their potential as practicing artists.

Sculpture professor Jody Pinto has taught at PAFA since 1978 and for 40 years she has pushed her students to seek out new experiences. The chance to explore is what drew Pinto to PAFA as an art student during the early 1960s. Pinto is now stepping away from teaching to focus on her work.

Tossing aside his prepared remarks, artist Nick Cave spontaneously took questions from PAFA’s newest alumni at this year's Commencement ceremony. He urged students to take charge of their careers, continue making work, listen to their creative instincts regardless, and challenge themselves as they forge their own paths.

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.