The art collective BFAMFAPhD wants to help you understand an enormous issue in the lives of artists in the United States and, by extension, the art the United States produces as a result.
Above image: Glasgow School of Arts in 1909. From the Mac Photographic Archive.
Approaching it with the question, “What is a work of art in the age of $120,000 art degrees?” the collective struggles with the impact of massive student loan debt faced by creatives seeking to earn a living in a notoriously difficult field. Using 2012 U.S. Census data, the collective illustrates the problem and proposes ideas that may put more artists to work and also correct for the lack of representation among artists of different gender and racial demographics.
The findings may seem like old news to anyone acquainted with the creative fields, (I remember telling a family member that I wanted to be a writer and they said they should take up a collection of clothes and canned goods immediately), but the cold, hard data is truly shocking. For every ten artists who are working, there are 14 with arts-related degrees. Only 10 percent of people who graduate with an arts degree are working artists. Fourteen percent of people with a degree are not in the labor force at all. Since tuition can be beyond the reach of many people who would otherwise seek a degree, the number of African Americans or women who have degrees do not reflect the population of the United States at large.
They propose a number of different ways to address this problem. The report calls for the creation of low-cost art schools or producer cooperatives, barter systems, tool shares, self-organized art spaces and honoring the work of artists who do not have degrees.
We’d like our readers to weigh in on this report. What challenges of this nature have you faced in your careers? What would have helped? Is the high cost of art education worth the skills artists learn or is the field at large better off moving in a more grass-roots, creator-driven direction? Let us know in the comments!
Bill Rodgers is a Contributing Editor at CFile, is gainfully employed and is no longer accepting donations of clothes and canned goods.
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