Thursday, October 16, 2008

art school

I wish I were running for President, because if I were, part of my economic plan would be to eliminate art schools in favor of the apprenticeship for all of those budding student artists out there. I have many beefs with art school, I'll just put it right out there. One of my beefs is two-fold: art schools generally do not teach anyone how to survive as a working artist. And while you are learning how to make art in your basic art school, you are racking up incredible debt, and saddled with that debt when you get out of your four-year program with a BA in fine art. I have been talking to someone who wants to come work for me, but they are having a hard time figuring out how they can give up their $25 hour nanny job in favor of working for me at half that salary. This person has a master's degree in ceramics, and a $30,000 school loan debt, even with the financial help she received with grants and scholarships. Her monthly payment is so high, even I would have a hard time getting by.

To belabor the point: I have a family friend with a son who is showing some art talent, and he wants to attend a very expensive private art school in California. He's 17, a bit wild, and wants to sign on for financial aid that will give him and his parents over $70,000 in debt. When I heard about this, I blew a gasket. My idea is, if a 17-year old wants to go make art, then go make art! Get a part-time job to cover rent at the nasty squat you'll share with a few friends, sign up for some art classes at a community college, and find an artist who is making stuff you think is cool and offer to help them out. There is not a single working artist out there who does not need some kind of assistance. Help them, develop a relationship, and learn from them. It's called an apprenticeship, and it's a long-standing and time honored tradition that I think has been pushed aside in favor of four-year art school.

I understand that education is an investment. When I was 17, I wanted to go to art school too, because I thought that was the only path available to someone who wanted to be an artist. My thought is that students should not be spending their money on art school, but their time on being an apprentice. That's an investment too. When I finally landed on clay as my medium when I was 23, I got a job with another ceramic artist. From this artist I learned how to survive: how to sell work, how to run a business, how to live as a working artist and not just keep it on the side. I would love to share what she taught me with as many ceramic students as possible, but most of them are locked up in art school or waiting tables!

If I were running for president and putting out this idea, I know my opponent would run attack ads saying that I wanted to shut down art schools, put teachers out of work, and create a class of one-note, one-dimensional artists who had to learn how to sell out to survive. I would challenge my opponent to a debate where I would totally cream them and show them to be the institutional whores they really are. Until that happens, I would love to hear from everyone what their opinions are on this subject, and what advice they would give to that 17-year-old who wants to be an artist.