Meet Eric Pryor, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 1st Black president & CEO

ByWendy Daughenbaugh WPVI logo
Tuesday, February 15, 2022
Eric Pryor named PAFA's first Black president, CEO
Eric Pryor became the first person of color to lead the 216-year-old Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- When Eric Pryor was named the new president and CEO of PAFA in December, he made history as the first person of color to lead the 216-year-old museum and college.

For the Detroit native, it is a bit of a homecoming. He got his MFA from Temple University's Tyler School of Art & Architecture in 1992 and his wife is actually from Philadelphia.

Pryor's journey to the top of America's first school and museum of fine arts was-as he calls it-a windy one.

He went to college at the University of West Georgia on a basketball scholarship, majoring in business.

But his best friend's father was the artist Al Loving. And after a trip to New York City and a close-up view of the art world, he gave up his scholarship to pursue a career in the arts.

While he counts Loving as a mentor, Pryor says his mother was the biggest art influence in his life. After his father died when he was 12, his mother went back to school, got her degree in interior design and opened a gallery that she ran up until age 93. She's now 94.

Pryor started his career painting and exhibiting abstract works before pivoting to arts administration.

His priorities for PAFA include putting the institution on the cultural radar and making it a must-see destination for residents and visitors to Philadelphia.

He's also passionate about arts education in the schools, and he hopes PAFA can play a role in shaping the narrative of what defines American art.

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