The Student as Artist and Teacher: Farima Fooladi, Visual Arts Alumna, Returns to the Studio

Farima Fooladi, who received her M.F.A. in painting from the School of Visual Arts in 2015, has found herself back in the studio this year as a visiting artist and instructor, guiding students and learning to paint for herself. She is currently teaching Introduction to Digital Photography in the School of Visual Arts.

“It is very different teaching students where I studied and painting for myself instead of for an assignment,” explained Fooladi, who had already been working in Iran as a painter and showing her work nationally and internationally before moving to the U.S. to start her M.F.A. (her second master’s degree) at Penn State. “I do paint more freely on my own. I have experienced this shift a few times. I usually find myself working more freely if I am not being interrupted with critiques constantly, which happens a lot in academia.”

Fooladi spent the summer commuting to New York City and she hosted an open studio event before moving back to her studio in Pennsylvania, finding inspiration throughout the city and reconnecting with her work. She noted that she paints more slowly now and is finding a more authentic voice in the quiet of her practice.

“As much as I try not to be affected by critics, reviews, books, music, or the world around me, there is no way out of it,” she admits, “Still, I try to empty my mind before stepping into my studio to paint.”

Her current works feature towers, and she incorporates drawing with pencil directly onto the canvas. She originally began taking drawing courses as a teenager in Iran. She studied filmmaking and traveled to Brazil and London as a freelance photographer before returning to Iran to study painting. Fooladi’s familiarity with different media and cultures lends itself to her work, which can be interpreted in reference to famous towers spanning from Babel to New York City.

“My goal in my classes is to create an environment where students are able to be comfortable being themselves. If they want to be artists, they have to learn to be themselves all the time. Even if they are not going to be artists, I want them to experience being comfortable out of their comfort zone,” explains Fooladi. “If they find this quality in themselves, they can live like artists, even if they are not choosing to create art. Being an artist is a skill that anyone can benefit from because it’s a joyful way to live.”

Fooladi has proposed teaching a combined studio/lecture course focused on the theme of “Diaspora, Hospitality, and its various components” in the spring. The course will explore art, culture, poetry, literature, and cuisine through readings, class discussions/workshops, guest lectures, student-led presentations, and critique. The assignments will be creative projects geared toward creative thinkers and makers in the classroom. Fooladi hopes to explore the past and present and to “reveal students’ personal identities and histories ‚Äì the roads they have traveled from their place of origin,” including her own successful studio practice career in a foreign, and at times, hostile environment.

“We will also explore how this practice has become a means of resistance and liberation,” she added.

Fooladi, a woman who traveled to the United States with a few select books in her possession (one being The Epic of Gilgamesh of which the underlying theme is guest-host propriety) loves hosting and welcoming new friends to her home to share meals with her family. As a mother raising a young child in the United States, Fooladi understands the value of embracing and sharing differences with those around her.

Fooladi will have an artist talk on Wednesday, October 25 at the Hillier Art Space in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit the Eventbrite link: