Spencer Sweeney

When Spencer Sweeney (Cert. ’97) decided on a fine arts education and began researching schools, he knew precisely what he wanted. “I was looking for a program focused on classical training in an atmosphere conducive to very deep levels of uninterrupted focus.” In his search for what he needed to flourish as an artist, he found PAFA.

“This is what the Academy has and it was a very valuable part of my training. The faculty and facilities were great. The atmosphere in the Frank Furness building is unbeatable.”

In the years since his completion of the Certificate program at PAFA, Sweeney has shown work in solo and group exhibitions around the world, including the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Sweeney’s current “engagement with visual and conceptual art comes in the forms of curating, painting, and performance based installation.” Putting these many different elements together challenges what he sees to be “traditional norms” in a gallery space. This approach to multi-sensory engagement has made Sweeney’s work prominent, since his emergence in the New York art and music scene in the late 1990s.

Based in New York, the experimental artist still looks to a variety of evolving influences on his work. “Lately I have been finding inspiration in petroglyphs, in Die Brücke, and the COBRA movement. Some painters whose work I find exciting (are) Sidney Nolan, Bob Thompson, Rene Daniels, Sadie Laska.”

Sweeney’s solo exhibitions over the past few years have been shown outside of the United States, including Twig Gallery in Brussels, VeneKlasen Werner in Berlin, and the Monads and Party Paintings exhibition at The Modern Institute in Glasgow. In May 2013, he was featured in the magazine Opening Ceremony. He was part of the Gavin Brown booth at Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) in Paris in October 2014.


Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, 巴克利L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.