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When Peter Pittman was growing up, family vacations included camping trips, getaways where there was little around except nature. 

To Pittman, that was perfect. He was left to his imagination, creating his own fun.

“Making something from nothing was the way it went," he said.

Pittman has turned those family vacations when he made something from nothing into a unique profession. His artistry consists of stickwork, taking twigs, branches, and other pieces of shrub he finds in nature and bending them into impressive designs that include animals, nests, and houses. 

His exhibit, titled Integration 1, is the opening Perrel Art Gallery exhibit for this school year, the Year of Integrity. Students in all three divisions have been exploring the gallery, even getting the chance to hear and learn from Pittman himself. 

On Thursday, September 28, from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m., parents, grandparents, alumni, and the entire Norfolk Academy family is invited to a public viewing of the exhibit. 

“Younger students will likely respond to the medium — sticks and vines held together and engineered with no industrial fasteners or adhesives — as well as to the artist's whimsical interpretations of animals, nests, and houses," said gallery curator Betsy DiJulio. “More mature visitors will likely respond additionally to the deeper symbolism related to traditional culture, modern society, home, respite, and the precarious nature of balance."

While Pittman's love for nature stems from those childhood vacations, he realized his hobby could also be his profession on a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Already an aspiring artist, he took in the many unique works and concluded “I didn't have to do anything conventional."

Pittman is accomplished in more traditional artwork, but he has dedicated himself to stickwork for about the past 20 years. Some of his pieces take 50 or more hours to craft together. 

Where does Pittman get his ideas? In part, he realizes as he's in his yard or a neighborhood park picking up a stick that what he's got in his hand could make for a good design. Other times the inspiration hits him as he's home in his workshop. 

Another interesting aspect of Pittman's work is that it can change over time. Twigs and vines change shape as they dry. As a result, Pittman's works can bend on occasion. 

In addition to being an accomplished artist, Pittman has found success in the food industry. He has owned his own restaurants for parts of three decades and more recently worked as a restaurant consultant. 

But he takes great pride and joy in letting his unique stickwork shine.

“Something I love to do that's fun," he said.  


Artist Peter Pittman teaches Lower School students in the Perrel Art Gallery in September 2023.

Artist Peter Pittman teaches Lower School students in the Perrel Art Gallery in September 2023.

Peter Pittman teaching Upper School students.

Peter Pittman teaching Upper School students. His exhibit will be open for a public viewing from 5:30-7 p.m. on September 28. 

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