DESPITE her successes - she's had two solo shows at Gallery Joe, and her pieces are in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Woodmere Art Museum and Progressive Art Collection, in Cleveland - Mia Rosenthal has been working in less-than-ideal conditions.

"She's been working in a tiny home studio - she uses the expression, 'with wood paneling and a leaky window,' " said Gail Levin, program director of the Leonore Annenberg Scholarship, Fellowship and School Funds. "It's not only hard to work in, but it's also inadequate for visits with curators and collectors."

The Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund for the Performing and Visual Arts will help Rosenthal remedy that with some much-needed basic purchases for her studio - and a move from South Philly to Mount Airy. But the one-year, $50,000 award also will provide for a far more ambitious undertaking.

An artist who specializes in drawings on paper, Rosenthal has a fascination for science that influences her work. She plans to use part of her fellowship to travel to Geneva to visit the Large Hadron Collider, the massive particle accelerator built to solve some of the most difficult questions in modern physics.

"I really consider what I do to be in the tradition of the cave painters," Rosenthal said. "I'm really inspired by the idea of being a person in the world who looks around and makes something based on their observations. Obviously I'm not putting an auroch [cattle depicted in ancient cave drawings] on the wall, because I'm looking at different things, but it's really about just looking around and seeing what engages my interest."

Rosenthal is the first artist nominated for the Fellowship by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

According to Clint Jukkala, chair of PAFA's graduate programs, "There were a number of great candidates, but Mia stood out as a rising star in Philadelphia."

The award, he added, "could really take her career to another level."

- Shaun Brady