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mfa degrees and the job market

updated sat 4 mar 00


Jane Aebersold on fri 3 mar 00

FYI to those interested in this thread
This summary is from the Chronicle on Higher Ed online--it's pertinent to
some of the discussions both current and past on Clayart.
Regards, Jane


A glance at the February issue of "New Art Examiner:"
"Selling out" as a way to escape the M.F.A. factory

Universities are granting more M.F.A. degrees in studio art than
ever before, but they have fewer and fewer job openings for
which those artists are prepared. Mark Van Proyen, a professor
of art history, painting, and digital media at the San Francisco
Art Institute, offers a sure-to-be controversial remedy to this
"crisis in credibility." He suggests that art educators put
aside antiquated notions about "ethical labor" and instead train
students in the digital skills that will get them well-paid
work. Computer expertise, and the financial stability it can
bring, will add to an artist's repertoire, not cancel out his or
her creativity, the author argues. "Just as the artists of the
late Renaissance were comfortable with making altarpieces as
well as painting soft, marketable porn for the palazzos, so too
would artists in my proposed schema be encouraged to 'go both
ways,'" Mr. Van Proyen writes. Calling for such a "massive
recalibration of educational priorities" won't be popular, he
acknowledges. But he contends that it's time for the art world
to reject the "avant-gardist model" that still holds that
artists must be divorced from commercial culture. And he finds
fault with other proposed solutions to the job crisis. Efforts
to train the "artist as citizen" for work with disadvantaged
communities may be counterproductive. "Such Pollyanna
pseudo-social-work initiatives may only put a patronizing
Band-Aid of symbolic self-empowerment on real (and worsening)
social problems," Mr. Van Proyen writes. His article continues
the magazine's steady interest in art and higher education. Last
year, another writer described the M.F.A. as a "pyramid scheme,"
a thesis Mr. Van Proyen endorses in his article. Also featured
in the new issue is an article about teaching fine art at a
two-year college; and a look at the increasing theoretical and
political sophistication of fiber-art programs. The magazine is
available at newsstands. The article is slated to appear soon on
the magazine's Web site,