Privilege begetting privilege, it’s nothing new.
An open letter from our Director, Monika Proffitt.
I read the article linked below several years ago and I have been hunting it down on the internet for a while now. It is about why so many Columbia graduates are represented – quite early in their careers – by galleries in Chelsea, and it is a topic that has really stuck with me.
Because who can afford Columbia? The last time I checked, tuition alone was $54,000.
One of the important points that the article touched on is that Columbia has a course in their Fine Art curriculum called Practicum where students are taught the business side of being an artist.
First of all let me just say that I am in full support of this – how could someone not be? Artists learning what they need to know so they can survive and become professional, working artists is a good thing, hands down.
The problem that I have with this it is that such vital training is only available to those who can afford a degree from Columbia – which is more often than not, a barrier that is financially insurmountable, even for the most talented artists.
As a working artist who was trying to figure out how to get ahead in my own career, I read this article (written in 2005, I believe) and started looking around for other resources where I could learn this less romantic, business side of things.
I devoured the books that I came across in hopes of gaining this insight without the big price tag of Columbia University, which, frankly, has never been in the cards for me. But better than the books, I ended up working at several arts organizations and then being invited to be a panelist for other arts organizations during their review processes. That allowed me to see what was happening when the powers that be were looking at an artist’s work and ranking them for highly sought after money and other opportunities.
Since then, I have reviewed literally thousands of applications for all kinds of calls – residencies, grants, exhibitions, publications, you name it. And compared to all of those books that I read, nothing has come close to actually being behind the scenes of the review process. Every panel is different, but certain expectations stay the same.
I can see how these Chelsea galleries are so wowed by the artists who come in knowing how to present themselves professionally, how to network, how to be ready when they found themselves in the right place at the right time. They know the “soft skills” side of being a successful artist.
But I just don’t think this skill set should be for only artists of means, or those who can somehow sustain themselves beneath with the burden of crushing student loan debt.
It has been years since that article came out, and I have created a lot of programs for artists in the meantime, along with maintaining my own art practice. Over the past year, I’ve worked with my team to create a comprehensive, online training program, Artist Resources & Tools, or ART School for short.
Compared to the tens of thousands of dollars that only an elite few can afford in a program like Columbia’s, I have made this program accessible to artists, and they can get started in the program for waaaaay less than a several thousand dollars.
Join the ongoing conversation in our Starry Night Artists group.
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Dedicated to nurturing the careers of emerging artists, Starry Night’s programs are designed to lower the traditional barriers that artists face when trying to establish themselves, and help them to start making a living doing what they love. To learn more about our comprehensive online training program, Artist Resources & Tools, click here.
Oh, and here is the article that got me fired up to create this program in the first place: