Monday, October 05, 2009

What It Means to Get Your MFA Now : Open Thread

Jackie Battenfield (whose new book, The Artist's Guide, you have read me rave about) was kind enough to invite me to speak with her Graduate Professional Practices class at Columbia last week. I really enjoyed the questions the students asked and told Jackie I was impressed with how smart, specific, and un-obsequious the questions were.

I had attributed the high quality of the exchange to Jackie's preparations and the particular students in the class, but in talking with one of the students who later stopped into the gallery, I think there's something else that explains it as well.

The student, N. Dash, was one of the people in the class who had asked smart specific questions (and as it turns out, she's also participating in Fritz Haeg'S Dome Colony...part of a performance that's been taking place at the X-Initiative, and, I believe, you have one more Saturday to check out) and it was kind of her to stop in and thank me for the talk. I noted how impressed I was and that I found it pleasantly surprising that the students had asked such good questions without hesitation...that they were bolder than I had recalled grad students being in previous such exchanges.

She suggested that that's because what it means to be in grad school has dramatically changed since the downturn in the art market. No one in her class now expects to have a sold-out solo exhibition (or even a solo exhibition) in a Chelsea gallery any time soon. They're paying buckets of money as part of a life-long intellectual investment, she told me, rather than as any kind of preparation (let alone guarantee) of a profitable career as an artist. As such, a dealer visiting a class is just another professional sharing his/her experience as part of their education, not potentially the key to their dreams of fame and riches.

This is, of course, what a number of people have voiced as what they hoped a downturn would do, with respect to our graduate programs. Let the students focus on their art and not worry so much about whether they're a failure if they haven't secured a slot in a gallery by the time they graduate. The fact that they had so many specific questions suggests there's still interest in knowing how the gallery system works (which in my opinion is something the programs still need to offer students, in case living off their art is part of their future plans), but the relationship between the dealer and the grad student definitely seems to have shifted.

Consider this an open thread on what it means to get your MFA now.

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44 Comments:

Blogger Ethan said...

Perhaps what it means to get an MFA at Columbia has changed, but I don't think MFA students at others schools had a expectation of sold-out Chelsea shows upon graduation.

10/05/2009 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Fair enough, Ethan, but do you feel things have changed at other schools because of the downturn?

10/05/2009 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger Ethan said...

My best guess is probably not. I suspect the majority of graduate students only have the vaguest idea of the art market's rhythm and did not expect anything but to try to slowly scratch out an art career upon graduation anyways. So my guess is that it is business-as-usual for most students.

I think there are only a few special-case schools in which the students have a reasonable expectation of leveraging their school experience immediately into a lively career.

10/05/2009 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Scott Chandler said...

I also laughed when I read the bit about sold out thesis exhibitions. Is that an actually expectation of students? I'm doing my MFA now and I'm glad I'm in school during a recession rather than in the workforce, but it hasn't changed my reasoning for being here. An MFA for me does involve furthering my career as an artist, and hopefully it will also allow me to obtain an arts-related career such as teaching. Intellectual advancement is nice and I'm improving my work, but the economy doesn't factor in much.

10/05/2009 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

There are fewer teaching positions available for graduating MFAs, as universities increasingly follow the corporate model. They are hiring fewer full time professors, tenure is harder to get, and they are using more poorly paid adjuncts in place of full-time professors. In addition, with the market downturn, more established artists are willing to step back into academia for financial stability.

Some universities (I'm obviously not talking about Columbia and the like here) are also looking at their art departments as money sinks, that is, they do not bring in big university grants that support the institutions like the sciences do. Many art departments are downsizing, and are being called upon to be self sufficient, meaning finding wealthy donors for the department, holding art auctions, etc., So if kids are not rich enough to go to an art ivy league school to begin with, they end up spending those precious 2 or 3 years worrying about whether they will have a studio next year, the cut backs on teaching assistantships, or whether they need to raise money for new equipment that the university refuses to fund.

10/05/2009 09:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" No one in her class now expects to have a sold-out solo exhibition (or even a solo exhibition) in a Chelsea gallery any time soon. They're paying buckets of money as part of a life-long intellectual investment, she told me, rather than as any kind of preparation (let alone guarantee) of a profitable career as an artist."

Sounds like she was shmoozing a Chelsea gallery owner in the hopes of a future solo show.

:-)

10/05/2009 09:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sounds like she was shmoozing a Chelsea gallery owner in the hopes of a future solo show."

And she got him to mention her name, with links, in his widely-read blog!

another :-)

anono

10/05/2009 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger markcreegan said...

The economic justification for an MFA has been on shaky ground of a while now (as Kate notes above). I think that MFA programs are needing to thoroughly examine themselves to maintain relevant educational justification. I think alternative programs like BHQFU will become more popular and useful. The paradigm is changing for sure. I believe MFA programs will always have a role and innovation and adaptability is still possible within many of them.

10/05/2009 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Is it me, or is it getting cynical in here? :-p

10/05/2009 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Oh, and for the record, I researched the link to the website on my own as a thanks for her stopping by and saying "thanks" to me.

10/05/2009 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

I think it is easy to get cynical, due to the $100k+ tab that will come due after students pursue any sort of degree. It is turning many institutions vocational training rather than places where people become better people.

Aside form that, I think the MFA offers a artists both time and access to criticism in a safe environment to develop their art (or as my ex used to say "work out the crummy art they may still have lingering inside them" - she was a MFA).

10/05/2009 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

Oh, and given a student these days is facing $100k+ in bills in order to get educated, it is becoming harder and harder to justify anything but the professional vocations - which, unfortunately reduces Universities to vocational training schools for business, science and medicine. This gives short shift to any program that does not give a student the easiest means of discharging this enormous obligation - and realize 99% of "financial aid" these days is in the form of loans.

That's my "cynical" contribution. :)

10/05/2009 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous sharonA said...

It's really hard to not be cynical, Ed! :)

Many people battle with the idea of getting an MFA - I graduated in '06 with my BFA and I'm finding myself hard-pressed to afford the time, of course; but mostly the expense, for grad school. And in Seattle, the only place to get an MFA is UW, and they've drastically cut their programs down to something like two departments. Funding and grant money for students is at an all time minimum, and unfortunately I'm not in a position to travel for school.

Despite all this, I'm fortunate enough to be getting shows, working/collaborating with artists, curating here and there, and thankfully making my work in between.

At this stage, what would be the point of an MFA? All the answers I have are : resume building, further learning (always a plus), and contacts. Certainly not a teaching job, unless I want to leave my art-rich environment and live in a remote location far from here.

It seems when I apply myself and work hard, studio time, further learning, and contacts can be made in a multitude of ways as long as I'm diligent. And I plan on pursuing reputable studio residencies to the best of my ability.

This is my recession/school debt payin' off/ post graduate plan. Why couldn't this work for a resume/emerging artist as well as an MFA?

10/05/2009 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Arcanum-XIII said...

I've just finished my (I suppose ?) equivalent of a MFA, and well, never any of use would have think seriously we would have a show at the end. It seem for most of us impossible to get - but to be honest, most of us don't know how to approach a gallery, what's on the market or not, or whatever, we just know they exist (despite our teacher should I say).

I would have loved to meet a gallery owner and be free to ask him, well, some of the thing you explain here on your blog about what to do, and more specifically how to do it. It's strange that no teacher have ever think about it, and, well, try to discouraged us of trying it altogether.

10/05/2009 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger nathaniel said...

Here come some tangents but I'm just in that kind of mood...

This is the same conversation that came up at last Friday's talks at the ITP 30-year anniversary panel (NYU); and it is something we talk about in my department at UW-Milwaukee all the time. Humanities scholars and academics (whether in the academy or writing on their own) do not expect to get rich quick from their research, and it's only good for the arts that our similar production modes of research should be a lifelong investment in a different kind of scholarship, rather than seen as a potential for huge monetary gain, or fame. While the two are not mutually exclusive, of course, we try to teach our artists/students that gallerists and curators are companions in research, like publishers and editors (only much cooler and with better aesthetics, of course; perhaps more willing to get their hands dirty, too). They are not keyholders.

In terms of post-graduation, I usually ask bluntly, "So what're your plans for making money whilst you are making the world a better place?" As referenced by Kate, above, most say they want to be in the academy. I tell them that as the number of MFAs increase and the jobs decrease, we're going to need to see more and more artists with PhDs. And it makes sense for some, given ongoing and growing parallels between art and research, conceptual and sensual/material exploration. For many, it does not - at least not until PhDs also change. Yes, grad students, and teachers, are changing their tunes to the times. But schools also need to rethink their roles in the broader picture of art and research, and survival.

10/05/2009 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

The Dave Hickey SVA lecture a few weeks back is relevant to this discussion. (James Kalm posted it on YouTube)

There was a great article in the New Art Examiner about a decade ago that I still give to students considering an MFA. The article described universities offering MFAs as a pyramid scheme, but that was only applicable if you were thinking of the degree as a means to the end (teaching).

I used it a time to focus on my work completely, hopefully strengthen it, and be in a community of artists that I still maintain contact with today. I was not disappointed with my investment... but then, my tuition (and subsequent debt) was a fragment of Columbia's.

10/05/2009 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

I’ll make this short. There is no teachable formula for creating profound art. The academy can provide contacts that might help professionally, or instruct one in being a good shop keeper, but it can’t teach you to be an “artist”. Most of the best art in the last three hundred years has been in reaction against academic pedagogies. If you can afford $100k+ for “time and access to criticism in a safe environment to develop their art” that’s great, but don’t expect that to be a key to a career in the New York art scene. I offer my services without charge, but this ain’t a no risk free, academically structured program with safety nets, padded suits and crash helmets. This is the real, dangerous, nitty gritty, down and dirty, do or die shit, and no one makes it out alive.

10/05/2009 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...

It always bothers me when MFA education is conflated with 19th century Academic art. Whatever flaws are systemic to graduate art education are very different than the flaws of the Academy.

Suggesting that the goal of MFA programs is to teach formulas for creating profound art is really setting up a strawman argument.

10/05/2009 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...

It's also worth pointing out that the $100+k tuition cost is an extreme.

As a case-in-point, I paid about $20k for the MFA degree I received in 2005.

That involved one semester out-of-state tuition, one semester in-state tuition, and a year's worth of tuition waiver. Having the second year's tuition waived is not uncommon (though certainly worth asking about before entering a program) via scholarships & being a TA.

For me, spending two years in Portland, Oregon focusing 100% on making my art and regularly receiving feedback, guidance, and conversation was very much worth $20k.

10/05/2009 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with having an MFA, or the learning that comes in the process of obtaining one. But the money spent is obscene.

If you really want to develop as an artist, put your money into a studio in a large city and into travel. Apply for grants and residencies. Network. Form or join some kind of collective--for crits, exhibitions, moral support, whatever. Make art. Participate in open studios. Work a job to support yourself so you don't have to feel pressured to find a gallery this minute, or to sell. Go to openings. Schmooze. Visit galleries. THIS is your education.

This is what I tell my undergrad students. Yet every one of them, when I ask what they're planning next, says they're going to grad school and that they plan to teach. Who is feeding them this stuff? Indeed the head of my department has asked me to tone down my remarks. The institution, by the way, has a growing MFA program. Hmmm.

10/05/2009 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Did everyone see the Times Op Ed on October 3, "Hard Work, No Pay," by an MFA holder named Jennifer Williams? It's worth reading.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/opinion/04williams.html?_r=3&em

10/05/2009 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

Oh point of clarification - the $100k+ cost would be for the BFA and MFA at a reasonably prestigious school. Chances are, an artist would have had to figure out how to pay for both.

And yes, such a sum of money is large, but even if you have no plans on teaching, someone going through may find it a worthy endeavor.

Given most people who go through a BFA or BFA/MFA track won't be teaching or supporting themselves on their art alone, in purely economic terms it may make little sense.

But then again with the same logic (up front cost vs. potential payback), it makes little sense to start a business (since most will fail after a year or two) rather than working for an established one.

Yet people insist upon doing either, and the few that actually succeed drive the economy and the art world respectively. :)

10/05/2009 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

"artists with PhDs" LOL, what an oxymoron!

10/05/2009 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

“Suggesting that the goal of MFA programs is to teach formulas for creating profound art is really setting up a strawman argument.”

Bravo Ethan, I just saved you another $20k.

10/05/2009 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...

James, I don't quite get how you're saving me money, but are you thinking that my statement is damning of MFA programs?

In case my point not well-communicated, I do think that MFA programs have the goal of helping their students create profound art--it's just that there isn't an illusion that there is a formula for being able to create such art.

If anything, I think a lot of the pedagogical effort is to help students steer away from formulas and cliches and to reach into themselves for something more personal and profound.

Again, I'm not suggesting that graduate art education should undergo some serious reexamining... mainly I just disagree with where the problems lay.

10/05/2009 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

What I find really funny is that amongst artists the subject of art education is a little bit controversial.

While the educational track cannot make you an artist, and guarantee success, I think an art school would say it can take an artist and help them become a better artist, faster than they could do in the school of hard knocks. Remains to be seen for each individual and maddeningly hard to measure, but if you look at the artists at the top of their profession, I wonder how many were self taught, and how many went through a program of some kind?

(There is a similar controversy surrounding the MBA. There is little evidence to suggest an MBA makes more or is more successful than non MBA colleagues)

10/05/2009 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Tatiana said...

I too, find it an odd notion that *any* student would think they be eligible/prepared/ready enough, to be offered a show just by obtaining the MFA...I mean, I got my MFI(Interdisciplinary)A in 1996 (? was it?) and not many of us 'expected' to be offered a show -- it really was for the experience and networking and 'opening' of our heads to what's out there/coming...Any good school SHOULD do that and any common-sense student SHOULD understand that. And if a show happens your way -- ICING! The economy/downturn im not sure has a lot to do with it...or it shouldnt.

10/05/2009 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous sharonA said...

MFAs are flat-out too expensive for too many people right now, with little promise of work. If artists want to better themselves through critique and studio practise, why is there so much pressure from the industry to acquire an MFA to do so?

Why not promote residencies and programs (such as Skowhegan, for one) as an alternative to MFAs, along with starting artist/collector/gallery owner-formed studio groups, and best of all, engaging in vigorous independent study and studio practise?

I just resent more and more that MFAs (and what?! PhDs are you kidding me?!) are some kind of pre-destined career path for success. There are *options* that are fulfilling and affordable. Not to mention accessible.

10/05/2009 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Quick thoughts from the other side. (I have a MFA, don't teach, but do something else to fill in the cash gap)

The "offered a show" myth should be considered as limited to the years 2003-2005, we're back to the dog eat dog mode.

No one should finish a MFA without a secondary skill, most obvious would be skill in Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator and one of the web design applications. Other possibilities include the construction trades.

If you want to teach you need a MFA.

10/05/2009 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger nathaniel said...

"'artists with PhDs' LOL, what an oxymoron!"

candice breitz and jane taylor come to mind without too much thought. masses of folks in performance studies and the digital arts. i'm not saying it's for everyone, but if a commitment to practice and research that is not commercially-based is your main point of focus, why not? perhaps it's not MFA that needs redefinition, but "doctor." there are more and more art/practice-based PhD programs every year; there have been phds in creative writing for decades. Of course one doesn't need one or is it even necessarily right for everyone - but why turn away from funded and advanced rigorous research in your field?

10/05/2009 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Art schools use art stars as poster children for advertising/PR and to teach - notoriously art stars are uneven professors. Visiting critics may or may not help you personally. But you may pay them a lot even if they don't have anything to say to you (Believe it - and I'm not saying they should or that you shouldn't).

Offering a Phd in STUDIO ART is borderline criminal*

Other than that, what James Kalm says.

*I would say fucking retarded but that wouldn't be professional.

10/05/2009 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger grovecanada said...

Failure seems to be good for art & artists...It also seems to discourage those who are plodding along for the wrong reasons...I like difficult economic times, because only the very best survive...& that makes the art better...Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I'm not sure I trust those who have sold out shows right out of school- let me hear of some good suffering & paying of dues, that scares away the wannabes & makes us who make it look respectable...Like we really deserve it...Still think that lots of schooling makes good teachers, not artists, but heck I love teachers...Thanks for thinking about it...

10/05/2009 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger nathaniel said...

perhaps you folks don't get that the vast majority of PhDs are fully funded? not sure what all the animosity is about, really.

10/05/2009 08:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I moved to New York from another country two years ago, I just packed my bags and left in the hope of expanding my art practice, and yes, expanding my career. I did not attend graduate school, and I did not attend any residencies (to my dismay). I also had no connections, and frankly, I still do not, I suppose. I did, however, do a lot of research and I made inquiries with a variety of commercially based galleries. I was living off of my savings while I opened my New York studio. After one year, a now defunct (more dismay) Chelsea gallery agreed to exhibit my work in a solo exhibition. The exhibition did not draw much attention, nor did it generate a tremendous amount of income or press. It did, however, get the attention of a very reputable gallery in Europe who decided to represent my work. We now work together as a team to ensure a lasting and productive studio practice so I can continue my investigation in to the diverse (and somewhat ridiculous) history of painting, and attempting to push its boundaries. And yes, the economy is crushing me, and it is crushing the gallery, like so many others, but we continue on, distressed as we may be.

An example of an alternative route through a very specific (and somewhat demonized) system, while avoiding graduate school and the debt one incurs as a result.

10/05/2009 09:19:00 PM  
Anonymous teplin said...

I really don't think it's a big deal that less artists are entering MFA programs/MFA programs are shrinking. They kinda seemed like not too much more than a way for PROFESSional artists to make some extra money (not such a bad thing).

From my experience - most MFA recipients don't continue with art-making 5 years after they get their degree. Those that do go on to pursue a career in art would have done so with or without an MFA. It's the drive they already have within them. The MFA doesn't provide that drive. Sure - a tiny percentage are so influenced and swayed by what they learn or experience in their programs that they go on to more enlightened paths as a result - but I think that's pretty dang rare.

I certainly didn't need my MFA (UW Seattle '98) - it was just a luxury I could afford at the time (very inexpensive + scholarships = tiny amount of debt paid off less than a year after moving back to NYC). And the contacts I made in grad school could have been equal to contacts made just staying here in NYC - pursuing a career with that drive already in me.

10/05/2009 09:55:00 PM  
Anonymous cjagers said...

There are many legitimate criticisms of MFA programs ... however, I wish there was not such a big stigma on people who go on to other creative fields (non-studio art) after graduation.

MANY people go on to contribute to society in creative ways (that also make money). Art school makes these people feel guilty by saying "everyone gives up after a while." Finding a fulfilling creative career is NOT giving up.

Even through I have since gone into technology, I am very happy that I got my MFA (as I'm sure many other people are). Too bad the art-world sees this as a "let down."

10/06/2009 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger RoByn Thompson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/06/2009 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

nathaniel, you can't seriously wax disingenuous as to why some would be repelled by the concept of PhDs in studio art? I find it pretty awful; haven't we already succeeded in making artists and art 'safe for the academy'?

This is one of my bugaboos -- I really think the MFA is enough of a learning experience as well as buffer between the young artist and the big bad world, and that the PhD in studio art demeans its value. I'm not alone. This September, the Stone Summer Theory Institute at the Art Institute of Chicago held a sesson called 'What Do Artists Know'?' with Francis Whitehead and James Elkins. It was a week-long think tank on the possibility of instituting PhDs in studio art here in the US. I hear that after the initial open call for fellowship applications, Elkins received a lot of hate mail.

The PhD in studio art has a long track record outside the US (it's existed since the 1980s in Australia, the UK, ...). But in most places outside the US there are different funding structures in place for higher ed., and there is no history of real, substantial MFA programming. Different histories. Different funding models.

The recent push to bring the PhD in studio art here to the US will meet a lot of resistance. It no doubt will happen eventually, as we in the US are no less obsessed with over-professionalizing everything and churning out little cogs.

I personally think it's a travesty to move artists further and further into academia, and away from what my dad used to refer to as 'wet pants sailing'. It will certainly widen the gulf between artists who engage the market and those who teach. Did I say gulf? How about wedge.

PhDs in any subject have little or no currency or use anywhere except in academia. So if one wants to lead an academic life, fine. But I have always embraced a different ideal about the artist's life, and it doesn't include that particular kind of servitude.

10/06/2009 08:17:00 PM  
Blogger nathaniel said...

Hey Joy:
You make excellent points. I, too, question what widespread PhD programs may do to the MFA, to the academy, to the wedge between it and the commercial world, and agree that the effects could be bad rather than good. I think the few who choose to do it - and I am about to finish mine (although it was a traditional humanities degree about art, rather than a studio degree; and you're right, it was overseas) - need be wary. I thought I chose my language carefully in support of the few who may choose to do this, and if not, I should have. I'm not sure I agree that when MFAs are still currently trying to get into commercial galleries (whether expected or not), whereas a few decades ago it was seen as "selling out," the wedge you talk about is any worse now. I don't think a PhD - or any advanced degree - should be used for currency. It should be pursued for concentrated research, just like any PhD (most of which also have no currency outside of the academy). Granted, the model in academia is that a PhD is necessary to get an academic job, and I see that as the largest problem of the studio/art PhD: in future, it may be required for tenure-track posts in art programs; I hate this, and think it as detrimental to the art world as much as most of the commenters above would.
But the thread above often touched on the costs of advanced degrees, and people's experiences of them - and how to find work / money afterward. My own PhD was concentrated studio and writing time, paid for by someone else, which helped my practice and my understanding of it, and led to a great job - it was a fantastic experience that challenged me like no other. And that does not mean, as some implicitly suggested, that I think I can learn a formula for good art, that I am a a victim of a crime, or that I am a fucking retard. That's the animosity I was referring to (but not responding to), and I don't think it's disingenuous to call people out on it.
Related: I wonder what the initial responses were to the MFA - wasn't it started around the end of WWI?

10/07/2009 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger joy said...

thanks nathaniel, you certainly aren't a fucking retard in my book!

I guess I want to say over and over again that there is a difference between being professional and becoming 'professionalized'. The latter is part of the corporate march away from process and into product management. To become 'professionalized' means you get to the point where everything you do -- every part of your process -- becomes fodder for a credential or credential-based status in the academic or corporate system (the difference between these keeps diminishing). I think I speak for many of us when I say that my MFA was more about process: I was searching, mucking around, hell-bent on tinkering with or without guidance, conversation and the occasional professorially rolled joint. This was possible because I was (rightly) young and green and idealistic at the time of my MFA, and less concerned with 'success' and security and status. Kind of oblivious to these things actually.

Considering how hard it has always been for MFA graduates to find work (academic or otherwise) while simultaneously nurturing their work AND their career, requiring yet another degree to secure teaching positions seems like a bid to further divvy artists up into camps -- one chooses whichever system one thinks one is more likely to succeed in. Again: one starts thinking this way, and there's no going back. Another degree, entailing yet more student loans, and more sucking up... more deferment of 'life'. That a PhD might be required just to be able to compete within the academic system is a rather horrifying thought. (think about it: PhDs specializing in other fields are among the most underpaid, exploited, and underemployed people on earth. How many jobs are available for specialists in early-to-mid Renaissance alternative horticultural practices in the Ile de France, for example?).

Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful clarification nathaniel, my rant was certainly not directed at you, just provoked by your remarks!

10/07/2009 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Ethan said...

I wonder if the possible rise of a studio art PhD has something to do with MFA programs allowing themselves to be diluted. The standard used to be for 3 year MFA programs--now you'd be hard-pressed to find anything but a 2 year program. I'm sure that has a lot to do with supply-and-demand (most people, given the choice, would rather wrap things up quicker).

10/07/2009 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger joy said...

Interesting. I wonder too. That Stone Summer Theory thingy apparently generates a book every year, so maybe it will be worth checking back to see what they came up with... regarding studio PhDs and... 'What Do Artists Know?' (LOL).

10/07/2009 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger nathaniel said...

Joy:

I concur. The problem of camps and exploitation are ones that I need to take on if I'm going to be some kind of advocate for those who want the same experience I was lucky to have. I admittedly didn't mean to become one... Your larger point - that growing PhDs will have adverse consequences to artists and the arts, not to mention academia - is spot on. I'm still struggling with how to approach it - as horrible, as inevitable, as someone who can help make it not be either? I'm hoping, if it comes, it's an alternative to an MFA, for those who combine writing with their making and want to be academic-type artists, rather than something needed in addition to one, or ever assumed to be the "next step." My chosen life of servitude 9 months a year in exchange for family health care (and day care) is, I know, not for many.

Also and tangentially, and I've said this before, but you are totally awesome.

Ethan, hadn't even thought of that, but very possible. To be honest, the PhD has been watered down vastly over the last decade as well (or so my wife tells me).

10/07/2009 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger grovecanada said...

I am a little surprised with all this academia that I am seeing the word retard repeated: developmentally disabled, Down's Syndrome, these are the words that have replaced that insult...Which reminds me that those with too much knowledge often lose soul...Don't make me tell you again children!

10/07/2009 11:07:00 AM  

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