The Art Academy Foundation launches courses in the PACA building


Alison Stinely admitted she wasn’t a very patient kid growing up.

Like many children, his interests seemed to change almost daily. One day he was taking dance lessons, the next day he was learning to play the violin, which didn’t interest him for very long. But something that always caught his attention was art.

“My dad is a really great artist, and I grew up looking at all his portfolios of drawings and paintings and watching him work,” said Stinely, 37. “We are all born with gifts and I started making art quite easily.”

Stinely attended Villa Maria Academy, where she was introduced to the basics of the art. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in painting from the University of Edinboro and a master’s degree from Indiana University’s Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts.

As the Erie resident explored more of her drawing and painting skills, she turned her passion for creating art into a career.

After 11 years of teaching art at institutions of higher learning ranging from community colleges and public schools to private institutions, Stinely is launching her own art school, Foundation Art Academy, Monday on the fourth floor of the Performance Artists building. Collective Alliance, 1505 State St. in Erie.

take a chance

Before returning to Erie recently, Stinely taught as an assistant professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia for five years. Her desire to be closer to her family brought her home.

“I was about to get a permanent position, which sounds like the unicorn job everyone wants,” she said. “I never thought about having my own business because I was on my way to permanency, but I had my baby and I wanted to come home.

“There’s this work-life balance issue that we all have to deal with. We want to be at the top of our game in our careers, and some people are okay with sacrificing other things to get there, and I don’t think I’m that person.”

After deciding to return home and leaving behind the possibility of a permanent position, Stinely was hired as an adjunct professor at Mercyhurst University. With her job in the air, she had the idea to start the FAA.

“In December I was like, I don’t know what’s going to happen with my assistant contracts going forward,” she said. “I have a child, I need something stable, so I thought, why not do it myself?”

Her idea for FAA is also in response to the changes she has seen in the arts and humanities classes offered to children.

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“Public schools in particular don’t really have a lot of options,” Stinely said. “When the going gets tough, the arts programs are the first thing that loses budget, so I think there’s just less for kids. It’s all so STEM-focused, which is great, because STEM and art overlap, but kids are so excited about creative production.”

More than an hour of arts and crafts

Highly applauds Erie’s art programs, such as the Dafmark Creative Arts Center and the Erie Center for Arts and Technology, which make up for the art classes that elementary schools lack.

But the FAA will offer something different from all of them, she said.

“It’s not time for arts and crafts, it’s not spending time after school doing art until your parents pick you up,” Stinely said. . “Which isn’t to say these programs aren’t rewarding, because they are. But it’s critique, it’s learning about contemporary art, it’s developing the skills that you allow you to enter university or get the job of graphic designer.

Hope Kinard, a former ODU art student from Stinely, knows the criticism. Of the three courses Kinard took with Stinely, she never received an “A”, but as harsh of a review as Stinely was, she became one of Kinard’s greatest artistic role models.

“Whenever I had a problem, and it was always in different classes, I would go to (Stinely) and ask her opinion because I knew she wasn’t going to water it down,” said Kinard.

Kinard, who is an elementary school art teacher in Isle of Wight County, Va., hopes to one day teach art to high school students with the same mindset as Stinely.

“I already know I’m going to be like her,” she said. “Nobody’s going to get a 100. If they’re really good, they’ll get a 98, because art can always be better and that’s what (Stinely) showed me.”

Build a foundation

The FAA will focus on “scaffolded learning objectives” that Stinely describes as building skills from the bottom up.

“A lot of universities and colleges start their freshmen in art and design talking a lot about concept,” Stinely said. “And you can’t communicate effectively if you don’t know how to do it visually, because visual language is a language, and you have to teach them to speak that language or no one will know what you’re saying.”

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FAA courses will not transfer as college credit, but high school students can use work they create at FAA in AP Art Portfolio applications that are administered by their high schools, said Stinely.

“AP credits are granted by the College Board if students meet the requirements and submit a portfolio of sufficient quality,” she said. “These College Board AP credits can then be applied to college credits.”

Stinely will be the sole instructor for the Spring and Summer classes, which include Figure Study Room, Painted Portraiture, Life Drawing, Color Relativity, Beginners Painting, and 3D Design + Printing 3D, all of which are subjects she is familiar with teaching in the past.

“I’m just delivering what people would get if they went to college, or if they don’t have the chance to go, can learn these basic things to improve their work,” he said. she declared. “When I teach these classes, it also keeps me intelligent. It influences my work because I am constantly reminded of the basics.”

Since the FAA is not a degree-granting or accredited school, Stinely’s program did not need approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

“I am, however, in the process of offering continuing education hour credits to local teachers,” she said. “Teachers are required to complete a certain number of hours of continuing education per year, or every few years. The fact that the FAA is authorized to offer ACT 48 credits for this purpose requires an application and approval process of State.”

Course lengths range from four to 12 weeks and cost between $385 and $1,650. Stinely’s first group class, life drawing, begins Monday.

Although tuition is not cheap, Stinely believes that those who enroll get what they pay for.

“When you divide the number of hours someone is going to be here, not including emails and any contact they want outside of class sessions, I think that’s fair,” he said. she stated. “I think it’s relatively affordable when you compare it to other activities, like someone having their child in a traveling sport.”

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In the future, Stinely hopes to offer scholarships to students interested in art and design who have demonstrated financial need.

“I’m going to have a few students here that I’m just going to bring in tuition-free because I don’t want it to be an elitist thing,” Stinely said.

But FAA isn’t just for kids. The FAA is for students ages 12 and up, and Stinely encourages anyone who wants to learn the basics of the art to enroll.

“There’s not much difference between teaching someone who’s 40 and needs to brush up on their skills and teaching a 13-year-old who’s never taken an art class, so I want everyone here,” she said. “It’s a space for everyone and I think I have the skills and abilities to teach people from all walks of life.”

Ivanete Blanco, associate professor of graphic design at ODU, has taught with Stinely for nearly five years and has seen firsthand what Stinely’s teaching is capable of.

“She’s great with students and knows how to communicate complicated ideas to students in a way that makes them feel like they can master those ideas,” Blanco said. “She’s an excellent researcher and is invested in art as a practice. She knows the skills needed to succeed in a college art program.”

Create your own unicorn work

In just three months, Stinely transformed a 700 square foot space inside the PACA building into his vision for FAA.

“I couldn’t have done it so quickly without the help of so many people,” Stinely said. “People have given me gear for free, others have given me great deals. Erie has been so great in helping me do that and has been so receptive to my idea.”

The layout of the space includes a corner dedicated to design and color theory critique, an area where students will work with 3D printing machines, and a large area reserved for painting and drawing.

While classes are only scheduled in the spring and summer, Stinely hopes to expand workshops and classes year-round. For now, she is focused on spreading the FAA and enrolling as many students as possible.

“I think once the space is up and running and people can see the activity that’s going on, all the equipment and material, hopefully people will take notice and be like, ‘ Hey, I want to be part of it. “

For more information about the Foundation Art Academy, visit

Baylee DeMuth can be reached at 814-450-3425 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @BayleeDeMuth.

Mildred D. Field