Alternative art schools: a threat to universities?

BOOK CLUB article>> Alternative art schools: a threat to universities?
Please read (and contribute your own) responses to the article in the comments of this post below…

The crisis of higher education is not unique to the arts, or even to the humanities. However, artists in particular sit at the crux of this broken system more (or perhaps just earlier) than most people in other fields, in part because the arts have the largest debt to asset ratio. Art programs are both the most expensive college programs and offer the least (including low to non-paying) job prospects. Through both intentional choice and utter necessity, artists are seeking (and creating) new models for how to educate themselves and each other. In the following selection of articles for our second edition of BOOK CLUB, we will explore some of the problems in art education and discuss the role that alternative forms might have moving forward.

For this third and final article in this BOOK CLUB we will review “Alternative art schools: a threat to universities?” by David Batty from The Guardian October 21, 2013. For each article, Temporary contributors will initiate a discussion through the comments in the post and anyone may continue the discussion by contributing their own comments and observations on the text.
Please also see Open School East’s recent profile.

BOOK CLUB schedule
April 14: “Permission to Fail” by Barry Schwabsky from The Nation January 21, 2014
May 5: “Art without Market, Art without Education: Political Economy of Art” by Anton Vidokle from e-Flux Journal #43 March 2013
May 26: “Alternative art schools: a threat to universities?” by David Batty from The Guardian October 21, 2013

We look forward to the discussions!


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  1. Sarrita Hunn

    While a mere £9,000 ($15,000) sounds like a deal by American standards where MFA programs can costs over $40,000 a year, the message is still the same. As graduate art programs become more expensive, the income gap will increase and the artists and the programs will all suffer. But – can these alternatives really replace a traditional MFA?

  2. valerio

    The article makes definitely a good list of different great education projects.
    Although we need to make some distinctions:
    1. Schooling\Learning
    Schooling is a complex amount of education procedures that everyone does to gain a certain knowledge. Learning is any other self-motivated form of training.
    They are both important for the formation and implementation of human subjectivity and in my opinion they can’t be replaced within each other. That is, everyone needs both of them!

    2. We need to clarify that Open School East is an independent studio project such as for example the Whitney Independent Studio Project. I believe these kind of programs can definetely substitute any Master Program. Firstly because most of them have very interesting faculties (make a comparison between the Withney Program Faculty and any Fine art Dep at Royal College or at Goldsmiths…); secondly because most of them are for free or cost little money; and thirdly because they offer a great combination of theoretical speculation and practice-based activities. The only “negative” aspect is that It’s usually harder to be accepted in those programs – i.e. highly competitive!
    Check also
    http://ashkalalwan.org/programs/hwp-14-15/ (they offer maintainance scholarships)

    3. It’s absolutely not true that Open School East is the alternative Education Project of Barbican. Barbican had funded the project only for the first year, as It has done for many other artprojects. From this year Open School East doesn’t receive full funding from Barbican!

    4. Some big institutions such as ICA in London for example, already set up their own MA Programs in parternships with some Universities. This happens for two reasons:
    – in the accademic world there is not such room for debate on practical knowledge; and often not even space to meet real practitioners;
    – very often art-institutions offer very interesting public programs (such as talks, screenings, workshops) with an international agenda and with great educational outputs;
    I believe these MA and PhD programs in collaboration between Art Institutions and Universities will be definetely the future of education!

    4. The Silent University is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting project ever realized by an artist!
    But it’s an artist project with great implications in other fields such as the immigration policies and the idea of institution building as an artistic act mainly.

    5. Finally a free school is not free only because it is free of fees. As Irit Rogoff has claimed in her article Free published on e-flux, a free school is free because does not accept any ministerial educational programs, because it doesn’t release any certificate\diploma, because everyone can be accepted without taking in account his\her previous curriculum stodiorum.
    Moreover in UK the fees go between £3400 and £ 7000 for a MA in the Arts. But this is only for EU citizens. Non-EU citizens pay between 18 and 24 thousand pounds! That is to say that education has started to adopt nationalistic policies all around Europe!

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