• Art School
    Peer Review


    Recently, with a dull thud, I graduated from Art School and was left with a few simple questions such as, 'wait… what did I learn over the few years?' and 'how does it prepare an artist?' These questions manifested most pointedly while looking through a box of collected essays, articles, and press releases collected over the past several years. While organizing and considering which texts previously didn't get enough attention (potentially an answer to the above questions?) I found an essay offered before I went to grad school from a teacher in Cincinnati who, in retrospect, was slyly warning me of the combination of positive education and listless aftermath. The essay, Art Schools: A Group Crit, compiled educators, theorists, and deans from across the country that responded to some essential questions about Graduate School, the way it may change, its inherent relationship

  • to the Art Market potentially becoming less inherent, and what knowledge and skills are essential to know before exiting.

    The most curious conversation that developed in the responses is the question of market place to Art School (should prospective galleries, collectors, curators be brought into the studio?) Former dean of the School of Arts at the California Institute of Arts, Thomas Lawson, welcomes this careerist mindset to MFA programs claiming,

    "to pretend otherwise, as many programs have done in the past, is irresponsible. At school and elsewhere there are scores of people, books and pedagogies that underwrite a notion of "success" (in its fiscal sense at least) as a sign of loss of integrity or lack of critical thinking. These attitudes are subtly reaffirmed by some common modes of art-making, especially critical work about consumer culture or work done in the name of the public, for instance."

    In contrasts with Lawson is a response offered by Leslie King-Hammond, Dean of Graduate studies at Maryland Institute College of Art, in Baltimore. King-Hammond hopes for a removal from the marketplace so that artists can be relieved enough to develop independently and reach a new type of alternative practice:

    '"But for the most part art school provides a refuge from that mainstream, a haven for those who seek, however temporarily, an alternative. The chief responsibility of those of us who oversee these precious institutions is to preserve this haven, and to prepare future generations to maintain it. Above all, art school is a place to think about art and how to make it, to learn to form judgments and act on them, to discuss the relevance of. art and its practice. The role of the art school is to prepare young

    artists to live the life, without undue pressure from the conforming ideologies of the market.'"

    With this type of dueling conversation I thought it would be interesting to revisit the prompt questions used in the initial article Art Schools: A Group Crit. But rather then contact established professionals within the educational field, we would contact recent graduates of MFA programs to describe, however loosely, the feeling currently around the exit of arts school. The questions, as they appeared in the article, were as follows:

    1. Are there new or different skills and areas of knowledge that students require now?
    2. Within an academic environment, how does visual-art training relate to other disciplines?
    3. What are your feelings about the relationship of MFA programs to the art market?
    4. Should collectors and dealers be given access to students? Should students be encouraged to make contact with galleries as soon as possible, even before graduation? In general, what role should issues of profession and career play in MFA programs?
    5. What, if any, are the significant differences among schools within the US.? What makes for a successful art school/MFA program? What kinds of things most often stand in the way of a program becoming successful? And what are the criteria of success?

  • Some of the responses (which range in disciplines and programs from across the country) go through each question listed above thoroughly and provide personal experiences in navigating education. Other contributors wrote freeform texts that use the above questions as departure points to consider the scope of how creative education should equip itself going forward. Generally the responses gathered describe a desire to be creatively resilient and speak to the necessity (or non necessity) to be operative outside of established modalities within art world (collectors, galleries, grants, residencies, etc.) Many also speak to the realization of student loans that can encourage a financial and competitive mindset towards being an artist. This mindset, at the very least, deploys artists to continue their creative practices by being engaged with alternative spaces (at least as a start) which increasingly look like they are trying less be alternative and more similar. The faint smell of Frances Stark's essay, No Values, comes to mind with this particular issue,

    "…and I hated the rich, although I hadn't met any yet. In 1991, I was signing loan papers to get into art school where I finally met the rich, and I didn't hate them as much as simply wanted to be more like them."