Like most organizations today, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has a mission statement:

PAFA promotes the transformative power of art and art making.

It also has a vision statement, because (we must admit) the mission statement is not very specific:

PAFA will inspire the future of American art by creating, challenging, cultivating, and celebrating excellence in the fine arts.

Now here is your challenge: Given the current climate of thought in the art world, try to think of any plan, program, exhibition, or any other activity a museum and art school could engage in that would not satisfy one or both of these statements.

Drunken revelry in the hall of statuary—celebrates excellence in the fine arts and, depending on how drunk people get, may be considerably transformative.

Shooting paintballs at the eighteenth-century collection—challenges excellence in the fine arts and promotes the transformative power of art.

Blowing up three blocks of urban Philadelphia—as transformative as all get out, and there certainly are blocks of Philadelphia that would be rendered more artistically excellent by a giant explosion.

Even hanging old paintings on the wall and letting people look at them could conceivably be justified by both statements, as much as it might be frowned upon by true devotees of Art with a capital R.

No, Dr. Boli cannot think of a single thing the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts could do that could not be justified by its mission statement and vision statement, which he therefore must regard as perfect in their kind. He would be happy, however, if someone else could prove him wrong.


  1. Viewing paintings in absolute darkness challenges excellence in the fine arts but does not promote the transformative power of art (unless one walks about randomly in the darkness and bumps into artworks).

    Jeffery Hodges

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    • Dr. Boli says:

      A few years ago, Dr. Boli was in the Mattress Factory, a museum of installation art, where one of the exhibits apparently made use of low-level phosphorescence. There was a sign with directions to feel one’s way along the wall to a bench, then sit on the bench and stare into the darkness. “Exhibit takes about twenty minutes to become visible,” said the sign (or something like that, at any rate).

      Dr. Boli considered the possibility of following the directions on the sign, but eventually decided that the time and labor involved were too high for the potential reward on offer. So he spent the rest of the afternoon a few blocks away at the National Aviary, where the birds are visible to the naked eye in broad daylight. A Victoria Crowned Pigeon is a very artistic bird.

  2. RepubAnon says:

    Perhaps a more honest mission statement: “The goal of this organization is to continue extracting the maximum amount of donations from our patrons…”

  3. Keep an eye over your shoulder when watching that “very artistic bird” fly overhead – it’s new way to offend Islam, or so says the Islamic State.

    Jeffery Hodges

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