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Sara Rafferty

Associate Professor

School of Art

Sara Greenberger Rafferty (she/her) is a multi-disciplinary visual artist based in Brooklyn since 2000. Before joining Pratt as Associate Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies in Photography, she held teaching positions at Suffolk County Community College, City College, Columbia University, RISD, Parsons, Amherst College, and Hampshire College, where she was Associate Professor of Studio Art.

The artist was included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial and the 2014 Hammer Biennial, as part of Public Fiction’s programming, in addition to group shows at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Oregon; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, California; and The Jewish Museum, New York, among many others. Her work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Yale University Art Museum, among others.


Most of my courses start from a thematic position, rather than being grounded in a particular set of skills, media, or tools. My goal is to model contemporary creative practices, and to make my studios experimental laboratories where the outcomes may not be predictable. Technically and materially I am interested in cross-disciplinary hybrids that are in strong dialogue with the history of art and cultural awareness. My formal training has included Bauhaus-style foundations, photography/video, art history, sculpture, and interdisciplinary “new genres.” I am invested in mediated images and the relationship between photography (whether lens-based or chemical/pigment based) and painting & sculpture. In addition, I incorporate art investigations that may not involve the production of objects at all – such as performance and social practice in my classroom at all levels.

My teaching is an extension of my varied but rigorous artistic practice, which encompasses an interdisciplinary and conceptual approach to artmaking. One of the many functions of art, and of art education, is to introduce and cultivate strategies of problem solving, tools for perception (both optical and intellectual), criticality, and the expression of ideas. My classroom is founded upon a commitment to the critical engagement with methods, materials, and discourse in art and culture. I foster an environment of ambition tempered by pragmatism, and encourage students to engage with each other as a community. Multiple cultural perspectives, active anti-racism, and accounting for lived experience are essential cornerstones of this pedagogy.

I present myself as being in control, thoughtful, and well-researched, without being authoritative or definitive. In this vein, I am encouraging of experimentation and questioning in all aspects of production and reception of artwork. I consider it essential to be site or situation specific. Reading, writing, and critical dialogue are also essential elements in my courses.

I structure curriculum – from courses to studio visits – based on challenging students to challenge themselves. Once basic technical or conceptual information has been conveyed, I always try to meet my students in the space of their work, as opposed to imposing my desires on their artistic production or ideas. For example, I often introduce artists or practices that may be antithetical to or different from mine, if I think the curriculum or the individual student would benefit from the context. I do not think that criticality, content, and technical knowledge are mutually exclusive. Students’ critical and creative thinking should always guide their use of technical knowledge and skills. I create curricula that are based in cumulative learning: each lesson builds upon the previous one by expanding concepts of what is possible, or by throwing rhetorical wrenches into pre-conceived notions.

In my capacity as advisor, I see my role as coach, facilitator, cheerleader, strong advocate, and occasional rabble-rouser. My students find me both approachable and challenging and I take care to cultivate lasting relationships with them.

Finally, I see learning as a collaborative and community activity. My teaching philosophy is to empower students by having their experiences and perspectives shape the direction of the class or course of study. As professors we do not dictate or disseminate “knowledge,” we participate in a shared inquiry. As I wrote with my colleague Billie Mandle in a “manifesto” presented in November 2019 at the “Include Me” conference on pedagogical approaches for AICAD art schools:

We learn with our students.

Question how you learn and what you learn.

We empower students by sharing power.

Teaching is a conversation.

Teachers and students both listen.

How do you learn to listen?

How do we change the expectations of a classroom?

MFA, Columbia University, Sculpture and New Genres
BFA, Rhode Island School of Design, Photography with Art History Concentration