I used to believe that my role, and that of my teaching colleagues, was to ensure that we gave to our art majors our full measure of knowledge, skills, and understanding. I like to think that we took every opportunity to sharpen their critical eyes and guide them to more enriched sensibilities as they aspired to be artists, art teachers, and art historians.
That was what college was all about, and I thought that if they worked hard and gave it their “all,” then we’d applaud them at commencement and wish them well (while, among ourselves, we knew full well that many, perhaps most would not “make it”).
While I don’t think I ever said it straight out, I do believe that my message to graduates at every commencement was, “We’ve done our part; now it is up to you.” I now am embarrassed to say that implicit in this thinking was the notion that we in higher education need not assume any responsibility for what happens later, after our students leave. After all, we gave 100 percent to all of our students—so we thought—who were with us for those four, five, or six years. What they did after graduation was unquestionably up to them.
The national discourse about the value (or lack of value) of higher education is making it quite clear that there is a greater (or new) expectation that we in higher education now provide a bit more—perhaps a lot more—than a “discover yourself” curriculum that results in nearly half of arts graduates dropping out of the field before the second anniversary of their commencement (see Strategic National Arts Alumni Project that has been tracking the lives and careers of arts graduates in America). This, of course, is not a desirable result; therefore, we must change the way we’re doing things or we will continue to get the same result in years to come.
What has become obvious to me is that artists are entrepreneurs too. Artists have to network, have to market themselves as well as their work, they have to take risks and have to profit from failure not unlike those we recognize as the most successful entrepreneurs. Whether a designer or painter or sculptor or even art historian and art educator, there is a benefit to being additionally prepared with the tools to manage one’s career and apply one’s creativity to ensuring success. Read the rest of this entry »