Alumni profile: George Washington Carver Center Graduate Abdi Farah


On Wednesday evenings this summer, millions of viewers will tune in to Bravo TV’s “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist” to see if Abdi Farah, a 2005 graduate of George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, will win a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and a sizeable cash prize.
The new television series challenges 14 contemporary artists to create unique pieces in a variety of mediums such as painting, sculpture, photography, collage, and industrial design. Completed works of art are appraised by a panel of fine arts experts.
Farah learned about the show while living with some friends in York County, Pennsylvania. “We got an e-mail from Joshua Mosley, acting chair of the fine arts department at University of Pennsylvania. He told us about the show and said, ‘I don’t want to see any of you on it.’”

“As soon as I saw the e-mail,” Farah says, “I jumped out of my seat.”

In describing his interest in the show, Farah says, “I just feel like it is so cool. I feel like every artist wants to make their art and to have people see their art and enjoy it with them. What better opportunity for people to see their art than to do it on national television. Just in general, art is a secretive world. This lets people see what artists do and how.”

He continues, “I also saw it as an amazing opportunity to improve as an artist and get feedback from the best of the best. … To have world-class critics judging your work and a national audience watching your every move, I saw it as a great opportunity.”

Farah, whose works have already been exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., was a 2005 Presidential Scholar in the Arts and has won several national student awards in the arts. He has also studied abroad in France and participated in the Yale Norfolk Summer School of Music and Art.

College and beyond


After graduating from Carver, Farah studied in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a religion minor.

According to Abdi, people were surprised that he didn’t choose an art college, but he says he felt it was time for a change after seven years in art magnet programs at both Deer Park Middle Magnet School and Carver. “I wanted to broaden my horizons, and I have always been into academics. Academic classes have me think in different ways, feed my art, and help me grow.”

He says he selected a religion minor because “Religion is so central to who we are. Everyone believes in something. My work is all about people. I find them both visually beautiful and psychologically intriguing. Religion and philosophy are so connected to that.”

In addition he mentions that “so much art has come out of religious history. You don’t have to be Christian to have a visceral reaction to Michelangelo’s David. … It is us.”

Since graduating from college in 2009, Farah has spent the last year in Pennsylvania working for a mural arts program and teaching art to boys on house detention as well as continuing to produce his own art.

Getting on the show

Farah was selected for the Bravo show from among 1,200 artists who showed up at casting calls in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, and New York.

“I went to New York,” Farah explains. “The casting call started at 10:00 a.m., but when I got there at 9:00 a.m., the line was already three blocks long. It was completely disheartening. I stood in line for seven hours.”

“But when I got to the front of the line and showed my portfolio,” he concludes, “they invited me back to the second round. I must have run and skipped for two blocks.”

The show has finished taping now and began airing on June 9, but participants cannot share the final result of the competition.

Deep appreciation for Carver

In terms of participating on the show and living as an artist, Farah says that, “Carver prepared me almost as much as college. It is such an amazing school. The teachers are so passionate about students and art. They open the world up to all of us. They taught us about art, the art world…how this is something important. Maybe you were drawing since you were a kid, but they help you see that it is a gift. They help you use that gift more. Throughout the school…the spirit…there is such respect for life, beauty, and education.”

Farah continues, “I wish Carver could be replicated everywhere, that all high schools could be like that. I was just an average student in middle school. At Carver, things just turned around. I still talk to some of the teachers on the phone. They care so much. They come to school day in and day out like it is the first day. There is such a seriousness and rigor to art training and academic training. We would go through how to talk about your work, assemble your portfolio… Almost like business school for artists, they covered everything – the passion and the logistics. I learned how to present myself as an artist in high school.”

Looking toward the future, Farah has been debating going to graduate school but is not in any rush. He says that he hopes he represented himself well on the show. “I want something amazing to come from this,” he says.

To see Abdi Farah’s art, please visit

Story by Diana L. Spencer, communications officer. Photos courtesy of Bravo TV.
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