Certificate Programs

PAFA offers two immersive Certificate Programs: Fine Arts Foundations and Studio.  Whether students are looking to develop their artistic voice, build experience in the studio or prepare for future art careers, these programs will elevate their creative and technical artistic skills.

Studio Certificate

The Studio Certificate provides an immersive art-making experience for advanced-level students. The program offers a similar experience to the 4th year of PAFA’s historic BFA program and focuses on the development of students’ independent artistic practice. Students in the program have an individual studio space and meet regularly with faculty critics who help guide them through the process of developing their own artistic voice.  Students also take studio and seminar courses to support their work.  As a culmination of the program, students exhibit their work in the Annual Student Exhibition.

The Studio Certificate is a full-time, two-semester program and is intended for PAFA students who want an additional year of study focused on independent studio practice, and for students coming from outside of PAFA who have significant art-making experience but do not necessarily have an undergraduate degree in art

Fine Art Foundations Certificate

This Foundation Certificate provides students with an immersive foundational experience in studio art.  Students take PAFA’s intensive first-year foundation courses, where they learn strong art-making fundamentals, through working from direct observation, studying the human figure, and developing a high degree of craftsmanship. Students take courses in the school’s primary areas of drawing, painting sculpture, printmaking, and illustration, as well as digital media and art history. This exceptional foundation experience gives students the grounding to further develop their work and individual voice.

The Fine Art Foundations Certificate is a full-time, two-semester program intended for students that have substantial art-making experience at the high school level or beyond, and are ready for a rigorous college-level experience. Students receive 30 credits and can transfer into PAFA's BFA program.

Fall Semester

Structure and Form I

This course focuses on the structure of images. It defines structure as a spatial relationship between all of the elements of an image and sees the structure as that which determines the implications and effect of an image. Structure and Form I combines drawing and still life painting. Students learn to manipulate space and create structure by observing and arranging value, color, and shape, as well as by mastering the skills of linear perspective.

The Figure I

The Figure I explores the structure and dynamics of the figure through drawing and sculpture. Working primarily from observation, students learn concepts of proportion, anatomy, gesture, mass, line, tone and spatial arrangement. Using a range of techniques & media, instruction includes traditional, contemporary and imaginative approaches to the human form. Studio work is complemented by presentations, lectures, demonstrations, and group discussions.

Print and Communication I

In Print and Communication I, students master conceptual frameworks, learn to interface between analog and digital work, and incorporate tactical skills in the realms of digital media and printmaking. Students select their own image content and explore subject matter and aesthetic approaches of their choosing. The mission of the course is to help students create the most visually arresting version of what they want to achieve.

Foundations Experience

Foundations Experience helps students connect the skills and concepts they are learning in their first-year courses with a broader context of art and ideas. Utilizing PAFA’s collections and numerous resources, students consider all aspects of their artistic practice and education. Working with faculty and museum and school staff, students learn a wide range of skills, from how to make the most of their PAFA experience and to develop a sustainable, creative life in the arts. The course includes visits to PAFA’s archives and collections, trips to nearby galleries and museums, visiting artist lectures, and in-depth discussions about the how, what, and why of art. As part of the course, students are required to attend Wednesday lunchtime lectures.

Art History: Visual Culture

This course will introduce students to visual culture: an interdisciplinary field of study that focuses on aspects of culture that are manifested in visual form. Combining aspects of art and media history, critical theory, philosophy, and anthropology, visual culture is concerned with the ways in which we negotiate and understand our world through visual images. This course will look at paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, film, television, advertisements, news and science images, and more, in order to understand how the world itself is shaped by visual communication. Students in this course will cultivate skills in visual analysis and description, identify how ways of looking are socially constructed, critique the role of images in shaping political discourse, and assess ethical dilemmas posed by images. These skills will provide the basis for literary skills necessary in both the liberal arts and studio art curriculum.

Writing Composition I

This course focuses on writing, helping students develop the skills they need to write coherent essays at the collegiate level. A strong emphasis is placed on the importance of syntax and grammar, while at the same time encouraging students to develop their own individual voices. In particular, attention is paid to different forms of writing related to the arts. Through writing assignments, students not only develop their skills as a writer further but also learn how to craft a public voice as a writer. This involves a negotiation between their individuality and the expectations of audiences interested in the visual arts.


Spring Semester

Structure and Form II

Providing a continued exploration of structure and form, this course emphasizes three-dimensional relationships through the study of drawing and sculpture. Students learn to manipulate form and create structure by working in a variety of sculptural processes including modeling, construction, and carving as well as further mastering the skills of linear perspective.

The Figure II

Like Figure I, this course centers on the observational study of the human form. Focusing on painting and drawing, students build on concepts learned in Figure I. Studio work is supported by lectures and demonstrations on painting materials, color mixing, and strategies for developing form and structure. Understanding historical perspectives, as well as contemporary and imaginative approaches to the figure, are emphasized.

Print and Communication II

In this course, students continue to develop conceptual frameworks, build narratives, and learn to communicate via their work. Print and Communication II emphasizes visual communication through the study of relief printmaking and core illustration concepts. As in Print and Communication I, students explore subjects and aesthetic approaches of their choosing.

Foundations Experience

Foundations Experience helps students connect the skills and concepts they are learning in their first-year courses with a broader context of art and ideas. Utilizing PAFA’s collections and numerous resources, students consider all aspects of their artistic practice and education. Working with faculty and museum and school staff, students learn a wide range of skills, from how to make the most of their PAFA experience, to develop a sustainable, creative life in the arts. The course includes visits to PAFA’s archives and collections, trips to nearby galleries and museums, visiting artist lectures, and in-depth discussions about the how, what and why of art. As part of the course, students are required to attend Wednesday lunchtime lectures.

Art History: Deconstructing American Art

Since its founding in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has been a leading light in the development of an art tradition in the United States. Artists trained at PAFA have created some of the most important works in the American art canon, many of which are now enshrined in PAFA’s collection. But what sorts of stories does the canon of American art tell? What does it include, and what does it leave out? And how do historical portraits, landscapes, genre paintings, monuments and more contribute to our understanding of America as a nation? This course will explore the trajectory of American art in an effort to understand how images contribute to historical understanding, and when they become mythology. In examining where we have been and where we might go, we will consider how to tell a more inclusive story about American art.

Writing Composition II

In Composition II, students continue to be introduced to the skills expected of students writing at the college level. In this semester students gain the skills needed to write a research paper. This involves learning how to contour their informational skills to a particular subject, utilizing both traditional and contemporary research tools. Students learn how to read, organize, and cite research material. Particular attention is placed on the importance of authorship, how to properly footnote material being used in a research paper, and plagiarism. Students also learn how to outline and compose a research paper focusing on a subject of their choosing.

Pursue Your Artistic Vision

At PAFA, we focus our energy on making sure you have the tools and knowledge you need for creating a successful, rewarding, and lifelong career in the arts.