Friday, July 25, 2008

MFA program at PAFA

I have been wanting to get to know some of the artists in Philadelphia and what a better way than interviewing the graduate programs around Philadelphia. Tyler is an established art school with a pretty awesome reputation and this move is going to effect more than just the undergrads. We have almost no involvement with other MFA programs and we will all be existing in a small city together, no longer all alone in Elkins Park. I did some googling and came across the PAFA 2007 MFA Alum myspace group and asked Gretchen Diehl if I could ask them some questions for the Tyler Blog. I also am working on asking UArts, UPenn, Drexel and have started asking CCA and Cranbrook grads some of the same questions to see whats happening regionally. If you have any other schools you want to know info about or friends who can get the info please let me know!

So Gretchen is the only one who responded, it is summer and like Tyler Grads, I am sure PAFA grads are also busy. She gave a really informative and in depth response and I thank her a real lot for all the information. I hope other PAFA grads can add in comments or other posts later on.

MFA Program at PAFA:

What’s the address/website?
118 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA or

the alumni group on MySpace is

What is your program like, how old is it?
The MFA program is very new, and it is expanding quickly. Pafa has been a fine art painting school for years, simply giving out a certificate rather than a degree. Pafa teamed up with UPenn and for the past 70 or so years has been offering a BFA where students take studio classes at Pafa and gen ed's at UPenn. This year, Pafa got accredited and can now offer a BFA without the aid of a sister school, but the option is still available to take the gen eds at UPenn. Pafa also offers a Post-Bacc program for students between their bachelors and masters. The Masters program has only been offered there for the past 10-15 years or so. The program is good and bad, of course. Having been a student there I have my complaints, but I had my fair share of fantastic teachers there as well. One problem/ advantage that the school has is its extreme polarization of faculty as well as students; about half the students and half the faculty are traditionalist, representational oil painters, while the other half are more contemporary and conceptual. The "painters" don’t always know how to talk about the work that the "conceptual" students are working on and vice versa, but you find your cohorts and get what you want out of it.

How many grads do you have?
In the MFA program, there were 32 in my graduating class, which goes up by at least 5 every year.

What are the majors?
The MFA program is not separated into majors necessarily... but the printmakers tend to have studios on the floor where the printmaking lab is and the direct artists have studios on the floor above that. Students tend to segregate themselves in terms of media and practice.

How are the studios set up (centrally located, by major, spread out over campus)?
Centrally located- all of the studios are in one building (they had been in 2 separate buildings, but consolidated to one when the convention center started expanding and knocked down the building on 13th and cherry.

Do you feel like there are trends in your program?
I think that the representational oil painting trend is the most longstanding trend the school has, but it is being given a formidable foe in the more conceptual and experimental artists

Can you tell a Tyler grad from a Pafa grad?
I think so, in my mind, Tyler grads are slicker and more marketable. I feel like there is more emphasis at Tyler on how an artist can be successful in the real world- whereas I think that Pafa might be stuck in some type of weird time warp. The education is invaluable, but I would have liked some preparation for today's art market.

What are some upcoming shows featuring Pafa MFA students, nationally or locally?
Faye Kendall has a solo exhibition at Freeman's Auction house (I consider her the star of our graduating class)

Piety Choi has experienced a boom in interest in her work and has stuff up now at:
Da Vinci Art Alliance: 704 Catharine St. Philadelphia, PA 19147,
Highwire Gallery: 2040 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19125,
Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts: 22 North High Street, Millville, NJ 08332
Art Association of Harrisburg: 21 N. Front Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101

Do you have personal websites? Pictures you would like to share?
Mine is (I will see if I can round up some others)

Image: Ashleigh, by Gretchen Diehl

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