PAFA to name gallery after student killed in ’13 building collapse

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An architect's rendering of the proposed Anne Bryan Gallery at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. (Courtesy of PAFA)

An architect's rendering of the proposed Anne Bryan Gallery at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. (Courtesy of PAFA)

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts will name a new art gallery after a student who died in a downtown building collapse.

Artist Anne Bryan and five others died in the 2013 Salvation Army thrift store collapse on Market Street. Bryan’s parents this year donated $1 million to the art school in her memory.

Right now PAFA is campaigning to raise $25 million toward the construction of a new, underground auditorium and art gallery, to be called the Anne Bryan Gallery, scheduled to open Jan. 24. So far, PAFA has raised just over $22.2 million.

The new gallery will be the first formal exhibition space at PAFA to present exclusively student work, and it will be outfitted with the technology to be able to do that.

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“Our hope is to have a wide range of media,” said academy president and CEO David Brigham. “Not only things that are in our traditional curriculum, but in this expanding curriculum of new media, digital media, audio, video, and installation.”

Anne Bryan, 24, died in the collapse of a Philadelphia building June 5, 2013. (Photo courtesy of PAFA)

Bryan, who was 24 when she died, had just completed her first year at PAFA as a full-time BFA student. Previously, she took continuing education classes for two years as a nonmatriculating student. As a high school student in 2006, she attended PAFA’s summer academy.

“There are students who receive knowledge, and there are students who actively engage in it — that was Anne,” said Brigham. “She was interested in questions of social justice, and she was interested in technical questions. She had a rich and curious mind.”

Last February, a $225 million settlement with the Salvation Army and Richard Basciano, a New York real estate developer, was divided among the 12 people injured and the families of the seven people who died as a result of the collapse.

“Anne loved her time as a student at PAFA where she was supported and encouraged by her wonderful teachers and was inspired by the art-making in the school and the masterpieces in the museum,” said her mother, Nancy Winkler, in a statement. “Most of all, she loved the PAFA community, and so we hope to help in a small way to enhance the student experience in Anne’s memory.”

Winkler is now not just a major donor to PAFA, but has become involved in the governance of the art school by sitting on its advisory committee. Like her daughter, Winkler asks probing questions.

“They were intrigued by the opportunity of a gallery named for Anne,” said Brigham of her parents. “But they also wanted to know how it would be different from other student galleries, and how it would lead to academic and professional outcomes for students.”

To answer those questions, PAFA developed a new course, “Exhibitions and Curatorial Vision,” which will use the Anne Bryan Gallery to teach students museum practices and the more practical aspects of gallery work.

“The students will be engaged in not only making work, but in developing exhibitions,” said Brigham. “How do you come up with a theme? How do you select work? How do you place the work? How do you light the work? How much work is enough, how much is too much?”

PAFA and the family of Anne Bryan has already established a memorial fund.

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