Brandywine alumna applies her English degree to a career in the arts

Mary Capaldi

Penn State alumna Mary Capaldi.

Credit: Mary Capaldi

MEDIA, Pa. — Penn State alumna Mary Capaldi was already an avid artist when she began her undergraduate studies at the Brandywine campus. However, at the time, she did not envision making art her full-time career.

“When I entered college, I was hoping for a future in writing,” said Capaldi, who graduated in 2012 with a bachelor of arts degree in English. “I always had stories I wanted to tell and did not feel at the time that my artwork was a real option for telling them.”

However, as a Brandywine student, Capaldi found professors who encouraged her as both a writer and an artist. She ended up combining her love for art and her passion for written communication through a personalized project with Associate Professor of English Kathleen Kennedy.

“Dr. Kennedy encouraged my creativity and understanding of the power of art through an independent study we did on graphic novels,” she said. “My final project for the study was a pitch of my own graphic novel, including art samples. Dr. Kennedy gave me an opportunity not only to understand how others have used their art to tell stories, but to explore how I could do it myself.”

After completing her Penn State degree at the Brandywine campus, Capaldi took a job at a publishing company, but after time spent building up an audience and resources for her artwork, she decided to pursue art full time.

Today, she is an independent freelance artist whose work includes paintings, sculptures, cartoons and scientific illustrations.

“It’s exciting to bring an image or product to life that was once just potential in my imagination,” she said. “Seeing how others connect with and enjoy my work makes it fulfilling and worthwhile. I like traveling to shows and conventions occasionally and meeting people who appreciate what I do.”

Capaldi’s career as an artist has gained continuous momentum over the last few years. This past summer, she worked with Anthrocon, the world’s largest convention for cartoon animal enthusiasts. The conference recently made Capaldi part of its staff as a result.

Although her career has shifted to focus on visual art, Capaldi continues to use the skills she gained as an English major at Brandywine on a daily basis.

“I use the skills I learned from both my degree program and my general college experience for many of the interpersonal and administrative parts of my job, from talking to clients to marketing my work and writing copy for my online store,” she said.

On a more creative note, Capaldi has found plenty of crossover between writing and visual art as modes of storytelling.

“My aim has always been to create something that touches people, makes them think, educates them or just cheers them up,” she said. “Writing and art are both powerful forms of communication that together give me a lot of options for doing that.”

Capaldi’s artwork can be viewed on her website,