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  • Jerry King Musser

Uncommonly Common Talent

Four of our Past Creators share, at least, one thing in common. William Cresson, John Houston Mifflin, Lloyd Mifflin, and Caroline Peart possessed artistic ability great enough to be accepted into the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

Founded in 1805, this museum and private art school was the first (and, thus, oldest) institution of its kind in the United States. Artist/scientist Charles Willson Peale, and sculptor William Rush founded it. The academy opened as a museum in 1807 and held its first exhibition in 1811. The first school classes held in the building were with the Society of Artists in 1810.

In 1876, former academy student and artist Thomas Eakins returned to teach as a volunteer. Later, in 1878, he was appointed a faculty member and was promoted to director four years later. In 1844 the board of directors declared that women 'would have exclusive use of the statue gallery for professional purposes' and study time in the museum (but only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings). By the 1860s. women were becoming integral to the function and output of the school. Catherine Drinker, at the age of 27, became the first woman to teach there in 1878.

Some of the more renowned students and faculty over the years were Cecilia Beaux, Alexander Calder, Al Capp, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Robert Henri, David Lynch, John Marin, Alphonse Mucha, Maxwell Parrish, and the amazing Violet Oakley (who was responsible for many of the murals in Pennsylvania's capital building, Harrisburg).

Imagine the conversations and interactions Columbia's own four creators had with the likes of these people. And, best of all, the school and museum continue today. If walls could talk.

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