Art Education: Julia Cole
Topic: Art Education
Prompt: Working within a $10,000 budget, how would you recommend for a young/emerging artist to spend their time and money as an alternative to a traditional (expensive and competitive) graduate education?
Attempt: It’s really not just about the money, and it’s not even about the way that arts graduates are being trained like topiary bushes into the trending shape of the market’s needs and desires. For me, it’s the dwindling likelihood that – despite the best intentions and practices of faculty – a top-heavy, bottom-line art school will offer an authentic education to a (young) person of passion and imagination. Artists have always invented alternative solutions, and the best of these are guaranteed to stir up a swarm of new problems. Art schools will become as vestigial as a cultural appendix – unless they find ways to become more useful again. In the meantime, it’s rare that artists attain their full potential simply by their own counsel and agency, but a community clearly has the capacity to nurture, prod, mirror, question, inform, model and provoke. The freedom and ease of a ‘commoner’s degree’ recommends itself to those who wish to invest in a self-motivated, open-ended exploration leading outwards from an expanding self and into the wider world. Some simple steps to begin:
- Use most of the money to supplement a 3-days-a-week job for as long as you can make it last. Find a job that either feeds you with ideas, opportunities and connections or provides you with an opportunity to ‘make work at work’. Consider an apprenticeship or becoming a resident artist. Solve for happiness, resources and convenience.
- Live lean. Find roomies/studio mates who will sit up and talk till 3 AM, and who have strong work habits associated with pursuing their own paths. Live where you can walk/ride a bike/grow food.
- Read voraciously, ask for recommendations, share books and talk about them with your friends. Watch films, go to shows, be curious about others’ work.
- Seek mentors in the local community, and invite them to meet frequently. Ask difficult questions, and don’t be afraid to request advice and help. Be a mentor to others in return.
- Identify skill sets that seem important and either acquire these through a day job, or find teachers who will barter for time or skills you already have.
- Plan to attend one or two national or regional conferences, or residencies. Engage actively to make friends who will challenge and support you, and who will let you sleep on their couch when traveling. Invite them to sleep on yours, and connect them with your community when they come to town.
- Commit to present work, publish writing, submit to exhibitions or apply for grants – set deadlines that require focus and stretching. Share opportunities.
- Dig in locally to grow a strong network and invite collaboration. Show up and pitch in to build reciprocity and exchange.
- Set aside dedicated work time that is non-negotiable, and that provides a space for both rigor and play.
- Ask a group of artists and makers you admire to meet regularly to discuss work. Formalize the relationship sufficiently to build a long-term accountable relationship of trust, honesty and generosity. Commit to meet especially when you have nothing to show or are failing.
Futures is a new series that presents speculations about emerging models, responses to ongoing crises and a catalogue of possible futures. Responding to the etymology of “essay” as an “attempt,” this micro essay format invites diverse voices to address pressing issues in the arts.