On Monday evening, April 19, 1897, approximately five hundred people met in the Pennsylvania Academy lecture room to form an organization of alumni that would come to be known worldwide as the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. They came together at the behest of Edward H. Coates, president of PAFA, and Harrison S. Morris, managing director. The idea had been endorsed by 32 prominent artists. Robert Vonnoh, a former student and later Academy instructor, suggested that a notice be sent to several thousand alumni. As stated in the notice of the meeting, those in attendance at this initial gathering were then, as now, affirming their interest "in the welfare of the Academy and the benefits to be derived from a common purpose and close union." That night the Philadelphia painter, Charles Dana, was elected as president and six vice presidents, including Cecilia Beaux and Charles H. Stevens, were chosen.
Since that time, in honor of its members, the Fellowship has purchased many of their works and donated them to PAFA. Also, in the spirit of artists helping artists, the Fellowship's purchase of artwork has not only been nourishing to struggling artists, but has also been of benefit to the organization's future members. Consider, for example, the Fellowship's sale at auction through Christie's in New York, works by such artists as Walter Baum, Thornton Oakley and Arthur B. Charles. Since the value of such pieces acquired at the beginning of the century has increased many times, this process has generated profits for the Fellowship Trust Fund which in turn allows an increasingly larger group of artists to benefit.
Throughout its history, the Fellowship and individual members have established many awards and prizes to encourage artists and to recognize their accomplishments. Scholarships and prizes endowed by Fellowship members or in their memory include the William Emlen Cresson Memorial Traveling Scholarships; the Mary Townsend Mason Award; the Catherine Grant Memorial Prize; the Benjamin Leonard Memorial Award established by Mrs. Bernice Grodon, a Fellowship member; the Franklin C. Watkins Memorial Grants established by Mrs Watkins; and the Martha Zelt Stanton Prize established by a member of the Academy Faculty, Martha Zelt. When Hobson Pittman died in 1971, he bequeathed funds that were used to create the Hobson Pittman Memorial Prize. Prizes in memory of Mary Audubon Post, Carolyn Gibbons Granger, Bertha Goldberg, Leona Karp Brakeman, Mable Wilson Woodrow, Franklin Drake and Mary Butler are awarded at the Fellowship's Annual Show.
Historic Yellow Springs was the summer school for PAFA from 1912-1952. The Annual Fellowship Show has been held there on numerous occasions and has been attended by Academy alumni that attended the summer school among others. The gardens at Yellow Springs were created by Academy artists and are still painted by Academy students and alumni as well. Since 1913 the Fellowship has presented annual exhibitions. These exhibitions have also been held at the Plastic Club and Sketch Club as well as at the Academy. Other art institutions have supported the Fellowship by inviting exhibitions at the Museum of Philadelphia Civic Center, the Woodmere Museum, the Port of History Museum, the Philadelphia Art Alliance, the Noyes Museum, Rutgers University and the American College.
The Fellowship has in the past also organized several regional shows in the Delaware Valley and traveling exhibitions of member's work have been arranged as a public service throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. The Fellowship's collection of art bought from its members has been loaned to public schools and libraries as well as community and corporate centers. With the help of grants from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, special exhibitions and memorial shows for Fellowship members have been presented in the galleries of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Our Bylaws are worded as follows:
"The name of this association is The Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Its mission is to provide opportunities for creative incentive and sharing in responsibilities for the development of activities in the field of art for its members and to maintain relations with the students of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts."