Is Art School A Scam?


Art School and its value is a hotly debated topic. The criticisms being leveled against it include that it is too expensive, its curricula are too outmoded and that it is failing to produce an acceptable number of graduates who succeed in the art world. How can it justify a success rate below five percent? We think Art School can be accused of being a scam.

One problem is that too many art schools exist that have little business offering the Bachelor’s or Master’s fine arts degree. U.S. News and World Report ranks 200 “Best Graduate Fine Arts Programs” in the U.S. Such a figure is laughable. Anyone attending an art school below the Top 50 is not making a sound educational investment in their future.

To explore the topic in this issue, the Examiner features essays by two art teaching faculty, one at Northern Illinois University and the other at the University of Illinois, along with personal reflections by two MFA graduates. We share with you below a series of axioms penned by Robert Storr, noted art critic and former dean of Yale University’s School of Art. We hope you find this editorial package informative and challenging.

Tom Mullaney


Robert Storr’s “Rules for a New Academy”

  • Students go to art schools to get what they lack.
  • Students don’t always know what they lack.
  • The purpose of art schools is to prepare students with the things they know they lack and a way of finding the things they don’t know they lack.
  • Schools that do not recognize what students lack should rethink what they are doing.
  • Schools that do not rethink what they are doing are enemies of art and anti-art. They should close.
  • Any student who goes to art school is an academic artist.
  • Non academic artists are generally fairly poor or fairly rich; academic artists tend to make do or make out.
  • Non academinc artists are either exceptionally intelligent or exceptionally neurotic, and sometimes both; academic artists for the most part are smart, sane and hard working.


SOURCE: “Art School: Propositions for the 21st Century,” MIT Press, 2009



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