Art and Sweet Briar with Linda Pharis

Linda Pharis, a Professor of Studio Art here at Sweet briar, currently has art displayed at Rivermont Studio in downtown Lynchburg until October 9th. Pharis has had shows before at the gallery, owned by John Morgan; the gallery currently has around 40 pieces of her work on display. And according to Pharis, “Everything made was meant to fit into the show.”


Organizing an exhibition takes extensive amounts of preparation, and in the time leading up to the show Pharis made a full list of the pieces, kept progress of which were framed, figured out the position of works within the space, and scrap those that did not work. Additionally, shows are expensive. “Framing costs a couple of thousand…even when using recycled frames,” said Pharis. When deciding what pieces to display, Pharis aimed to pick those that were “held together stylistically with a sustained interest among the work.”


Working as Sweet Briar since the 90’s now Pharis said that,  “Working at a college lets you create what you want, and I’m not forced into any concepts…”. She went on to compare the school to a patron of the arts, and discussed how it has allowed her to create what she wants with the financial stability she would not find elsewhere. Additionally, Pharis expressed that she loves her job and loves what she does, which made the potential closing of the school a difficult experience.


The scare of March 3, 2015 not only affected Pharis’s employment, but also interfered with her art. “ I couldn’t draw… something had dried up”. Because was too late in the year for her to apply for jobs, and while Pharis could retire, she had just moved into a loft and wanted to stay. She considered opening up a public printmaking studio, but this plan ultimately fell through, because it was not financially feasible. Eventually, things started to gradually look up as Pharis met Alumni dedicated to saving the school.


“I decided I wanted to fight, it seemed more fun than being sad. It was fascinating to meet others willing to fight” said Pharis.


Eventually, after it started looking like we would win Pharis was able to start making art again in the summer. She believes that the state of the school is more optimistic now, and that saving Sweet Briar was “Good for women, education, students, and faculty.”


Article by Amelia Mendelson

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