Twenty Things About Art Education—One for Each Year That I’ve Taught
1. An academic education is only a fraction of the total education of any artist.
2. Educational diversity—of practices and practitioners—requires all participants to kill cherished myths.
3. Colleges and universities are hierarchical institutions—artists are best served by learning the structures in order to use them up before departure.
4. MFA programs that have to accept applicants not yet ready for grad school, just so they can stay financially afloat, should be closed.
5. Need-blind admission makes tuition free to those who need it; free tuition helps the privileged remain privileged.
6. Large programs require sustaining a responsive curriculum and the right number of faculty to do that work while also teaching.
7. Teaching and learning have nothing to do with fame.
8. A curriculum is meant to serve students—not faculty or administration.
9. Serving the students does not mean treating them like customers.
10. Those enrolled in academic programs willing to set aside the identity of “artist” in order to be students are the only ones who have a reason to be in school.
11. Professionalized “student exhibitions” should be banned, schools should get out of the business of it—and students who exhibit professionally should be expelled.
12. Visiting artists programs have “jumped the shark”—all students should get something beyond exposure and an opinion during the visit.
13. The mission of the terminal degree (MFA, PhD) is the development of new knowledge; this requires institutional support for both students and faculty—in that order.
14. All participants in education must be honest about what they don’t know—skill, knowledge, and experience still count.
15. Curatorial and art history programs that “study” the work of living artists give young scholars unprecedented power to create new canons in real time.
16. Creating new canons in real time positions the participants as the exclusive makers of “peer-reviewed” history, rather than the keepers of it.
17. Displaying memes without context or discourse, we can only assume the role of tastemaker rather than meaning-maker.
18. The term pedagogy should be reserved for those who can name the constituent parts of the practice.
19. A pedagogy that directs students to outcomes without namable criteria is simply tastemaking.
20. Tastemaking is the dominant mechanism of gentrification, which is a more palatable term for colonization.
21. Also: Great learning environments have transparent governance and teaching methods.
SHEILA PEPE is an artist and educator based in Brooklyn.