Tuesday 12 April 2022

Art Education

In a previous post, I already spoke about the academic ineffectuality of a doctorate in art making.
I do however recognise the fact that degrees and education primarily hold a signalling function in the broader context of society. So perhaps it could be the case that such a degree in art making holds more value when looked at from such a perspective. 
I don't believe that it does, as is evidenced by the fact that an art degree doesn't qualify you for any kind of particular job or field. The general perception of an art degree thus seems to be that it doesn't guarantee any particular skill or knowledge in the same way that even a degree in sociology does and based on my personal experiences I would tend to agree with this sentiment.
As far as society is concerned any degree in art making is thus practically worthless and where before one could merely obtain a undergraduate degree in Stupidology, one is now able to spend even more time and resources to obtain a doctorate in Stupidology. Congratulations.
However, I also believe that in their working capacity artists are nevertheless equipped with a broad general knowledge and the ability to look at problems from many different angles. This gives them the ability to come up with novel solutions and applications, which is a useful and important skill in a knowledge economy.

So what would an art education look like that reflects, or even guarantees, these qualifications and thereby ostensibly raising both the status of artists working in their field, as well as those with an art degree who seek other types of employment?
Education today is very specialised. Whether this is a cause or a consequence of a specialised job market I don't know, but I do know that businesses can have trouble with finding generalists who are able to assimilate various aspects of the business in a meaningful way.
Perhaps it would thus be worthwhile to have art education cater to this overlap, where both the strengths of artists are made more tangible and a lacuna is filled in with other fields of education. 
Instead of a four year studio-based education with some theory classes related to art history and (continental) philosophy, as is now common practice, I would argue for a six-year program, where studio practice only accounts for a a quarter to a third of each year. This might seem like an immediate detriment to the development of young artists, but I would disagree. It's rare that an artist graduates with matured work, with many 'finding their voice' only some years after graduating. Two years extra might thus help artists to find their footing, even if somewhat less of those two years is dedicated to exercising their fingers. 
The other part of this six year programme is then spent in getting an education to the level of an associate's to bachelor's degree in a number of fields. Instead of the usual focus on art history, anthropology, semantics and other continental philosophic fields, I would propose a larger focus on foundational STEM knowledge. So the natural sciences would make a mandatory introduction. My personal recommendation would be chemistry, but physics or biology are acceptable alternatives. Math is of course important, with both statistics and logic being fields that are universally applicable and useful in today's world. 
I have also always found it confusing that economics isn't a larger part of current art education. There could be a focus on theoretical subjects such as micro-economic markets and information theory, but even a finance course in accounting would be a welcome addition to any art education.
Art history would be taught of course, but I would present it only as a smaller part of a broader historical perspective. Being able to asses and place what is going on around you in relation to what happened before is a vital skill that is often overlooked. Within that context some basic knowledge on the principles of civil law would likewise serve artists well, both inside and outside their field. 
In addition to this, or as an alternative to this, there could be an additional focus on craft. That within the context of an art education one would always get certified in welding, carpentry or as an electrician.

Even if one could argue about the exact contents of such an education, it is easy to see how such a varied education would benefit the students both within their field as well as beyond it. Instead of graduating art students currently knowing an unknown amount about nothing, they would demonstrably know a decent chunk of everything.
A doctorate in art making would still make little sense with this system, but it perhaps could be used as a fast-track for further specialisation in any other field. Thereby also increasing the specific academic relevance for such a degree.