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Former Penn State haad footbal coach Joe Paterno at a recent press
Prime for Redevelopment: Models for Change
Posted: 11/11/11

Insurmountable deficits, double digit unemployment, increasing gap between socioeconomic classes, political infighting, global conflict, and increasing costs of education are some of the current issues hindering the professional growth of the Millennial Generation. Institutions of Education, much like politicians and corporations, seem willing to participate in a dialogue on the topic of change but are unwilling, for the most part, to implement the necessary modifications to remedy the current situation. It is not my intention to provide another cynical response towards the current system of graduate level art education but rather to point out an interesting alternative to the self-affirming relationship between art, education and history.   

Enter Hennessy Youngman; a character featured in a series of YouTube videos titled “Art Thoughtz”. Created by Jayson Musson “as a response to hating grad school and wanting to make work that addressed cultural institutions by bypassing the cypher of criticism of the grad environment”, Hennessy Youngman quickly gained viral video status as a critic of the world of contemporary art. Musson’s character Hennessy  Youngman can be described as an urban Will Hunting, affiliated with the art world as a guard at the PMA. It wasn’t until the Art in America interview that Jayson Musson was exposed as just another graduate student. By this time though, Hennessy Youngman had already made an impact on the discussion of institutional critique and not only for his video on the topic.

Recently Musson was included in a panel discussion about inclusion of the Millennial Generation at the MCA Chicago alongside Chicago’s Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Michelle T. Boone and the MCA’s newest curator Naomi Beckworth. The dialogue was preceded by the ethnographic research on the Chicago Millennial population provided by the Museums in the Park Marketing Committee. Although I would describe this discussion as more definitive than productive I found it to be a good illustration of the disconnected relationship between the Millennial Generation and the older generations currently of authority. This disconnect has been echoed in the field of Art Education.

Art schools no longer function very well to prepare students for the realities of being an artist in today’s economy. Artist collaborative spaces, rogue video critics, online journals and seminars have begun to make a significant impact that undermines the conventional hierarchy of art education. New Media Artists like Jayson Musson are establishing an aesthetic representative not only of the Millennial Generation’s connection to technology but also an interest in alternatives to the deficient condition of current systems. The work is of a low material economy but effective in promoting a dialogue that subverts the walls of the institution by making their work universally accessible.

The problems regarding Art Education are representative of a generational gap mainly instigated by the rapid advances of and accessibility to technology. For those who may disagree with the need for change please refer to the list of top Graduate Programs for Fine Arts. Of the top ten only one is from New York, a traditional hub of artistic activity. Schools that were former top ten programs that have not adapted to a more multidisciplinary curriculum have dropped in the rankings. Physically, schools that isolate students by discipline have also suffered in the rankings regardless of the quality of their facilities. Logistically, in the age of information, I beg the question what does graduate school offer that you can’t find or engage with on the Internet?

Art schools, like the work of Hennessy Youngman, must evolve to represent the changing aesthetic of the Millennial Generation. As the world continues on a very unstable path the future remains very unclear.  Current circumstances are forcing artists to look immediately inward but most importantly will be their outward artistic response. Creativity has changed in the form of application but there is no shortage of great young minds. Universities and Museums, in an attempt to draw in the Millennial Generation, are going to be forced to adapt. Potential MFA applicants I’d like to leave you with a quote that a colleague posed to me, “What would Theodor Adorno and Max Horkeimer do?”


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