The apprenticeship system has always worked in the arts with a student learning from a practicing master artist. The idea of masses of students in an institution learning how to be artists is a modern invention. Institutional fine art education has produced some notable artists, like Andy Warhol, but the question is still worth asking: do all these degrees really help the contemporary art world? And what are the alternatives to a fine arts degree?
There are so many things missing from fine arts degrees that are expected of contemporary artists: business skills, media management public speaking, to name a few. Many contemporary artists are working in areas that could be described as sociology or with digital media that art school studies seem to be a deficit to their education. There are many notable artists without an institutional fine arts education, for example most artists prior to the 20th Century.
What about getting a broad education before specializing? I received most of my education for free, taxpayer funded (and now look what I’m doing with it giving it back for free in this blog) but that’s another story. The idea of paying for a fine arts degree, along with all the materials and other expenses is no longer economically or socially viable.
A studio-based education is still possible for artists. I’ve meet one young artist, Joseph Flynn at Blender Studios who is avoiding art school. It is not that Joseph Flynn dislikes education; he has an interest in many things from science to the humanities. Doyle, who runs Blender Studios, describes Flynn as an “apprentice”. Flynn has“created my own personal Uni as a conceptual artwork entitled ‘University of Joe’“complete with his own rectified sweatshirt. Flynn lists his mentors as: Lewis Miller, Adrian Doyle, Regan Tamanui, Tim Sterling and Joel Gailer. I asked Joseph Flynn how his self-education had developed and he emailed me this reply.
“When I finished school I moved straight to Melbourne from Perth at the end of 06 and rejected the idea of being molded to the teachers ideas and ideals of art and set out on my own course of learning about art and it’s relationship to the real world outside of an institutionalized arena. My next step was getting a studio and I found one, in the heart of St Kilda. And at that same time 1998 Archibald winner Lewis Miller moved in and became my friend and mentor, I went on the learn the ropes of painting. I then moved out of that space and to somewhere down the road all the while keeping in touch with Lewis and borrowing many art texts and books. After a while paying rent became an issue so I moved my studio into the largest room in the house I live, which then became too depressing and conflicting with home life. So I set out to find a new studio and came across the Blender. At that time I was 19, but very ambitious. Doyle wasn’t going to accept me at first, but later decided to on the basis that he knew I was a true artist and also quite nagging. It’s almost been a year now that I’ve been at Blender and it is the current location for the ‘University of Joe’.”
So before enrolling for a fine arts degree consider the alternatives.