Friday, May 15, 2015

No to MFA

At the University of Southern California, seven MFA students in art and design have just said no:

We are a group of seven artists who made the decision to attend USC Roski School of Art and Design’s MFA program based on the faculty, curriculum, program structure, and funding packages. We are a group of seven artists who have been forced by the school’s dismantling of each of these elements to dissolve our MFA candidacies. In short, due to the university’s unethical treatment of its students, we, the entire incoming class of 2014, are dropping out of school and dropping back into our expanded communities at large.
Julie Beaufils, Sid Duenas, George Egerton-Warburton, Edie Fake, Lauren Davis Fisher, Lee Relvas, and Ellen Schafer: a year’s worth of students saying no to what might be described as an academic bait-and-switch. It’s sad to say that these seven men and women seem to be the graduate students of the future, getting wise and walking away.

Thanks to Ian Bagger for pointing me to this story.

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comments: 9

The Crow said...

That took a lot of courage, self-respect, righteous indignation, strength of character and determination to see justice carried forth.

Good for them! I hope they find other places worthy of them.

Michael Leddy said...

And how. It’s very difficult (sometimes impossible) to walk away from an institution.

Frex said...

I just learned the term "trauma bond"--like the Stockholm syndrome, a phenomenon of abused people staying attached, even returning to, their abusers.
I thought of this when you commented it's v. difficult to walk away from an institution.

And then I also remembered years ago that a friend who was getting her PhD joked that grad students recruit others into their programs to justify their own misery:
This is valuable, you should do it too.
What a cycle!
Of course not always a bad one...

But yeah, I've known people who came to a U for a certain prof only to learn that prof was going on sabbatical... and the student stayed anyway.

There's something in humans that can make us loyal to our own suffering.
Is this somehow evolutionarily advantageous? I can't see it...

Anonymous said...

Given the many models of artists throughout the Western canon who studied in the workshops of other artists, the notion that some master's degree of academic study will make better artists has been one of the fine scams of the mid 20th century. These seven would do better and it would cost them far less to rent an atelier together and just work and work and work. As someone who made a live in art, I testify that this remains the old way and the better way. Given the tuition costs at USC of over $30,000 per year according to the admissions portion of their website, seven students could do far better artistically and financially by being "starving" artists than hugely indebted holders of degrees. I found in my life many artists who would share everything from technique to wisdom, when asked. The option might seem USC or some other university, but the real option is freedom from academia. Thinking back, one only need recall the life of Toulouse-Lautrec who worked in other artists' studios, then on his own. And when he died it was the "Academie" which sought to suppress his work.

Reading from biographies of other creative artists in other genres, a similar pattern seems to hold true. Escape the academy as soon as possible.

Michael Leddy said...

Fresca, I remember my friends and me self-identifying as “lowly graduate students.” A joke, yes, but a healthy one?

Anon., your observations remind me of the advice offered by a distinguished cellist: use the money that would go to “school” on private lessons with a great teacher.

Slywy said...

I've read many times that many of the great authors didn't have much in the way of education. It's not formal education that inspires great work.

On another note, this reminds me of the birth of Roosevelt University in Chicago, which began with a walkout at another college based on principle.

Anonymous said...

"...use the money that would go to “school” on private lessons with a great teacher."

Juilliard's tuition is estimated these days at above $50K per year, half carried by grants and such. A four-year presence at the minimum runs $100K, and perhaps more.

That's one thousand lessons at $100 a hour. Two a week for four years leaves lots of money left over. Perhaps basic math should be taught to aspiring artists?

Michael Leddy said...

Diane, credentialing creativity has always seemed to me odd.

Anon., let me rephrase: spend money on private lessons with a great teacher, not on tuition.

Frex said...

At a talk given by sci-fi great Samuel R. Delaney, an audience member asked SRD how to be a good writer while being a college teacher.

"Quit teaching," he said.

He did teach college writing classes, but I imagine he might have happily accepted $100/hour for 1,000 hours from a private student. :)