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April 2006, 33 posts, 1090 lines


On Fri, 31 Mar 2006, michael bulka wrote:

Talk about falling down on the job, the Announcement via went out at... Fri, 31 Mar 2006 13:49:00 -0800

'0800' is Pacific Time -- so, 3:49 pm our time!

Broadcast spam email from one 'Almanza, Amber Lynette' went out at... Fri, 31 Mar 2006 16:21:03 -0600

'0600' is Central Time -- 20 minutes after 4pm.

It's a wonder you managed to find out at all, Michael.



On Fri, 31 Mar 2006, michael bulka wrote:

This does not surprise me, but UIC has the names + connections. An interesting article a couple of weeks ago in the NYT was discussing top tier universities (Yale, Harvard, and Chicago) and how faculty are encouraged not to focus upon teaching, but upon their research and work. This is supposedly why the schools are great? There was a bit of irony in the writing pointing to this being another symptom of why education in the states is rather dismal. But, maybe this is UIC's model. There are a couple genius grant recipients over there. And, I do not see there application numbers going down in the near future.

Anyone going to graduate school today better be loaded (or be willing to study in the sticks). The odds are worse than you will find in Vegas to get in, finish, and find related work afterwards. To complete an MFA at some of these places will set you back 80 grand (and that is not counting the undergrad debt). At some of these places, TA positions are being taken away due to funding cuts. This is absolutely obscene. I chaired a search committee for a studio art position a year ago and we (USF in Joliet) received over 200 applicants from around the country (without listing our search in CAA). We also had a very short advertising run of only 1 month due to the position needing to be filled asap.

All of us understand that the current system feeds off of the young art star myth. This can be seen in the quality and type of work. This system will not change anytime soon as long as $$$ dictate the type of art being seen in galleries and museums. Basically, as a pure capitalists society, we are seeing ourselves through our visual culture.


Info can be found at:


I'm interested in reading more comments re MFA thesis shows or attitudes re MFA study. For example: Should MFA study be tilted toward theory and ideas instead of practice and media? Should the MFA focus on preparing students to teach undergrad art courses where the focus is likely on skills and media? Should the MFA faculty be star quality, with major 'international' careers? Do MFA program faculty have any responsibility re 'placement' of their grads, as is comon in other graduate disciplines? What should an MFA graduate know about art theory, practice, history
--- any minimum standards?

William Conger

--- michael bulka mfbulka at wrote:


Jno, where did you get this guy? is he for real?


First - polvo - you talking 'bout me? I think I'm real. What's your problem?

Otherwise, to Bill Gonger's question -

At my first CAA conference many years ago, I naively expected to meet the best minds in the field. Imagine my suprise when I saw what kind of morons have tenure. And yet I still can't get a job.

As far as I can tell, MFA programs are geared to nothing, to a fantsy that a personal vision is something other than a personal vision. It would be great if there were some kind of integration into the real world, either into the commercial galleries or university teaching or to something else.

I've never seen a MFA, or, for that matter , a fine arts BFA, that could be called a professional program. The art world is like that. All vanity projects, every man for himself.



On Sat, 1 Apr 2006, (((polvo))) wrote:

Thomas, Bulka, Conger, Costello? I don't know anyone. People just sign up.

And as soon as you insult them on-line, or insult their organization, they sign off.

We should perhaps make public the 'subscribe' notices of lurkers and the 'unsubscribe' notices of disaffected lurkers. But that makes email addresses public, which I am against.

HTH /jno


This particular series of questions is near and dear to me since I am now in the midst of interviewing for teaching positions :) and got to check out a few programs up close and sorta personal. So I will surface and put in my 2 cents.

William Conger wrote:

Both theory and practice are absolutely essential. It is a ballancing game and one that most people (not just MFA programs) find hard to do.

In academic setting there is an increased trend towards going to conferences to present papers. I am not sure that this produces the best kind of scolarship nor does it impact artistic production in the most positive way. It does put more emphasis on a theoretical positioning of the work but places the work in the context of a scholarly conference. I would argue that this is even more of an artificial space for meaninful art production then some of the commercial galleries (some, not all). This also causes kind of an amusing trend where artists in academia call their production "research".

I have set through several classes in my life where people where trying to talk about concepts but had such a poor grasp of the medium that it was impossible to argue finer points of a particular work (particularly when in comes to "new media"). I've also seen many many painting and drawings in the galleries with interesting ideas that were very much inhibited by poor technique.

In current time and place material exploration and theory go hand in hand. This is where scholars like Katherine Hayles really rock! Talking about remediation and placing greater emphasis on the meaning of a particular embodiment of artist's idea in a particular medium sets up a climate in which both the idea and physical artifact become equal partners in communicating with the viewer. It is a juggling act but it is, at least for me, THE reason to be an artist and not sociologist/anthropologist/phylosopher/media studies scholar or to simply work at a job shop and produce beautiful shiny things!

Absolutely NOT! MFA program should teach people how to be effective learners. I know this sounds like a freaking highschool councelor preaching, but... You can't teach ins and out of a particular software package or a casting tecnique within the context of a single demo or a single class. Art practice means just that, doing something over and over and... you get the point, the idea is that after a while it gets into your blood stream and becomes and organic part of your thought process :) A teacher can convey an exhitement for a particular subject and make a student relaxed and confident enough to go learning on her own.

There is also a very practical angle to all of this. Most of us try to teach anything and everything that comes our way after grad school! There are few enough jobs and to get that precious teaching experience + art jobs pay horribly little so part timers tend to load up 3 to 4 gigs a semester just to make ends meet. People tend to do acts of amazing mental (and sometimes physical) agility in order to learn a particular skill set that would add that one more class to their resume so that they could have the "2 year minimum experience" that most serious tenure track jobs want :) In these sercumstances an ability to quickly learn a skill outweights a narrow skill set specialization.

This really helps if these "major" faculty are willing to aquant their students with their process. For example, walk students through what it takes to travel a piece internationally (how to ship it, how does one work with a gallery, who picks up the cost of building crates, how does that effect the final prices of the work, etc). Otherwise they are quite useless to the educational process.

In my experience, and I concede I could be wrong on this point, there simply are not enough jobs for all the graduate students in academic field. It is important to show as many "career" possibilites as possible: those within art education and those outside.

As much as possible of theory and history and whatever is relevent to one's ideas when it comes to practice.

Pardon my spelling and punctuation,


-- name Dmitry (Dima) Strakovsky /name email dima at /email website /website


Sorry for repost but somehow William Conger's comments where missing from previous post ??don't know why. I should probably stop using T-Bird on my Mac :( too bad since it rocks on Lin/Win.

This particular series of questions is near and dear to me since I am now in the midst of interviewing for teaching positions :) and got to check out a few programs up close and sorta personal. So I will surface and put in my 2 cents.

William Conger wrote:


Sorry for repost but somehow William Conger's comments where missing from previous post ??don't know why. I should probably stop using T-Bird on my Mac :( too bad since it rocks on Lin/Win.

This particular series of questions is near and dear to me since I am now in the midst of interviewing for teaching positions :) and got to check out a few programs up close and sorta personal. So I will surface and put in my 2 cents.

William Conger wrote:


--- michael bulka mfbulka at wrote:

So what are the characteristics of those 'morons (who) have tenure'?

In many disciplines it's true that graduate programs train new experts for employment in some specialized fields. This is most evident in the hard sciences like biology, chemistry, physics, etc., where government, the private sector, and education supply the jobs and careers. But in the performing and visual arts, it's another ballgame altogether. In the visual arts, the supply of those with MFAs far exceeds the relatively few jobs available in education (the usual first choice) and as everybody knows, there are very few opportunities in the broader economy for 'artists'. The MFA degree is generally a preparation for entrepreneurs, those who intend to create a career (and earn a living) rooted in their own artistic/creative endeavors. Needless to say, that's a very tough thing to do. Young artists are too aware of the few 'stars' who have somehow succeeded in the official artworld, that hot network of the 'institutional theory' in practice. But they sometimes overlook the reality that 'stars' are such mainly because there are so few of them. The sad fact is that the artworld cannot seem to keep more than fifty or so new artists in mind at any given time, so those fifty get passed around, shown everywhere to make money for even fewer, and are then replaced by the next batch. Maybe five of those fifty retain big careers while the others quietly slip away to tenured professorships or just 'keep on truckin' as best they can.

Those newer MFAs who aspire to teaching jobs realize how difficult it is to land a real, full-time, tenure-track position. Over forty years or so, since the first big expansion of art departments in higher education in the 1960s, the trend has been to move away from tenured positions to part-time or adjunct positions. It's simple economics: There are far more qualified people than there are jobs so the market responds by filling jobs at the lowest overall cost -- and that means part time, few benefits and no long term commitments. And MFAers stand in line for every paltry, low-paying part time gig there is, thinking it's the path to a permanent job. Most frequently, it's not. The part timers, often truly excellent artists and teachers are 'known entities' after some time on the job. When the tenure-line job opens, the employers are looking for 'exciting new blood' with a proven record (to muffle the risk to them) and pass over the part-timers. After all, they already have their teaching services.

A consequence of this 'market defined' system is that it chews up the best and the brightest of every new generation of artists. Anyone can become exhausted, physically and creatively, during a few years of pasting together part time gigs at insulting pay. The crude market immorality of higher education, in killing off the productivity of the youthful newcomers is a tragedy and it's relatively new...a growing trend since around 1980. It must change!

But nevertheless, surprisingly, it seems that now is a wonderful time to be an artist. Artists who are gutsy enough to imagine new ways to survive as artists have proven that it's possible. There are no media barriers anymore and that means there are no privileged skill sets in art. The venues for making and showing art are now far more numerous than ever before. The emerging art shows, like the Armory in NYC, and Nova in Chicago, plus others surrounding the Miami shows, were mostly initiated by artists who exhibited their work in hotels rooms and the like. Some artists open their own galleries or deal directly with their public or work through the internt. More and more artists are working as collaboratives or forming groups (the proven mode in modernist art history).

The so-called blurring of boundaries has enabled many artists to work in quasi-commercial fields, remaking them as 'high art/low art' amalgams, like the graphic novel or comics or even in advertising, film, theatre and the like. The arena of public art worldwide is huge. For artists who can collaborate with designers, architects, fabricators, and deciding committees, there are great opportunities ... and one does not need to be a household name to play. All of this requires looking beyond the traditional segments.

I think, too, that art programs, or art curricula, are usualy behind the reality in the artworld. They respond to what has already happened and they take their cues and alter their programs by trying to keep up with...the near past. So who gets hired by them? More likely it'll be those who have (notice 'have') carved out a new option for art. It might be a collaborqative team, an artist who is very savy with new technology and who is hanging out with cognitive scientists or neurologists, or someone who scouts the environment and heightens social alertness.

It's been said that MFA programs no longer have a curricula. They don't teach art but teach artists how to be artists. (See Howard Singerman). That's good and bad, maybe very bad. Without a core of demonstrable skills and knowledge how is anyone to know what an artist does or can teach? But any core may be limiting and off the mark today. The new curricula, whatever it is, may be of a 'melting' sort, one that keeps dissolving in the face of new art options. The MFA curricula has become a series of topics for discussion, a sorting out of what's possible or what is propositional in today's global art scenes.

For better and worse, you talk you way through an MFA and your 'work' is a metaphor of that talk. At issue is the range of the talking. Does it encompass what's really possible or propositional or does it merely serve to solidify the values of those who have the institutional power? I think human nature answers that the latter is the likely case. Power is identified by self-interest and thus those in power will serve themselves even as they claim to be serving those seeking power. That's why, as always, the artist must be an iconoclast. The artist must have criticality and be willing to really mess with the system, not ignore it.

So, actually, I'm a little encouraged by Michael's bad attitude regarding the CAA, the MFA, etc. And I don't mind the pissy query, "Who is this guy?" because they both reveal the artist's stance, a fiesty one, albeit a bit wasted because the targets are too vague.

For instance, the CAA is just too big to be coded with a foolish remark about morons. One could say that about any gathering at all. What the remark really says is "they're in and I'm out and that makes them the dummies". That's a loser's outlook. It shows the right energy but the wrong application because while action may begin with dissatisfaction, effective action requires, as I said, messing with the system.

The CAA is a conglomeration of artists, scholars, and fringers, all seeking recognition through the academy. The academy has rules for recognition and the first rule is to be accepted by peers. To be accepted by peers is often the opposite to doing what one needs to do as an artist --to mess -- and that's the rub.

In art history, the mainstay of the CAA, the old ways of being academic by adding bits and pieces to exisiting scholarship prevail and earn the praise of peers. Why? Because that bolsters what the peers have already done and helps to assure their influence and power and, by the way, may be quite interesting as well. The studio or art practice side of the CAA is a relatively recent -- and often begrudged -- addition. Grungy artists pack the elevators, hang out in the halls, get drunk, and generally degrade the tweedy, elite tone of the scholars' convention. Although the CAA supposedly combines art scholarship (history, criticism, theory) with practice (studio stuff) very rarely is there any joint panel, a presentation by, say, artists and scholars. Mostly, it's the scholars droaning away in some rooms and the artists blabbing in another, each with their own panels, each with their separate worlds.

The real business of the CAA, of course, is the job market. The only tenured people there will be major speakers and/or interviewers; everyone else is looking for a new job. Some of them have just been told they won't get tenure somewhere and they are desperate. Others, huge numbers of pay-their-own-way new or almost new MFAs are hoping against hope to get an interview with Podunk State U where they might teach dawn to dark sections in foundation design. (Interjection: Any full time teaching job is better than Any part time job. Anywhere). Yet almost no jobs are really open at the CAA except those for which interviews have already been arranged. It's scarcely worth the money to go to an expensive hotel in an expensive big city hoping to snare an interivew and go home with a job offer. That rarely happens. That's why the conference bars are filled after a day or two with down-at-the-mouth MFAs telling each other their own horror stories about trying to get some, any, interview with smug tenured profs who are on a power trip. For job seekers, the CAA conference can be a humiliating, painful, expensive, adventure, possibly relieved by a chance encounter, a new love affair, seeing an old friend, or enjoying new restaurants and a big city.

I'd encourage young artists to figure out how they fit into the current artworld. If they're gallery-types and make work that galleries can show and sell, fine, go for it. Take any job and make your stuff and get into a gallery and then start looking for your next gallery. (Nowadays artists outgrow galleries while the galleries stay the same). That's the institutional route. If you're not that sort of artists then forget the 'system' and create your own alternatives, probably with a few likeminded peers. Networking is king. Don't be an art loner. Those days are gone, sunk into valentine prose. Go to the fringe museums and propose shows. Be an artist. Go directly to your public (your work defines your audience). Even lists like this one are excellent paths to activity and I suspect that's why it began.

Someone on this list is arranging the loser's show somewhere. I still hate the idea because even tongue-in-cheek it's a bad attitude and gives too much power to an entrenched system. The real show would be a winner's show that reveals the system, the institutional artworld, as the loser. That's what artists always do. It's still the only game worth playing.

William Conger


Dang, that's some long writtin. I only ever went to state skools. But I leart to write short comments. Not as short as I'd planned. Sorry

. --- William Conger w-conger at wrote:

You may not have met the guy who wears a lab coat and brings hand puppets to a crit (he showed up at a CAA panel I chaired), but you must know people who mistake taste for academics and those who mistake academics for teaching.

About the other stuff -

Teaching shouldn't be the goal of an MFA program or student, but, that is where teachers come from. While students should absorb something about education technique from six or more years of being subject to it, it doesn't always happen. It wouldn't hurt to have a class in running a crit, in what's appropriate for a part-time student-at-large intro/appreciation class, in curriculum development for a four-year program and whatever else teachers end up learning on the fly, and often not doing well. I've never seen this.

Aside from that, people who teach just as day-job, and schools that hire faculty primarialy on their art, not on their teaching, are doing a disservice to the students that expands through the generations.

Most people who take an art class, or even get a degree, don't end up calling themselves artists. Cool. Too damned many "artists" anyway. What one can learn in art school, though, is to pay attention to one's surroundings and history, to identify problems and create new and intersting ones, to explore materials and make use of the available ones, to question oneself and one's peers and the authorities. Ain't nearly enough folks with those skills.

And, yes, the adjunct/part-time system sucks. Only serves managemant. For years I've advocated people avoiding the system or unionizing. But, I've caved. Figured I could do more damage or help from within the system than without. Take the morons on face-to-face. I'm on the market. Be kind when when my packet comes over your desk.



(I hope I have the formatting correct as this is my first post)

Attending CAA is kind of like attending a funeral - a bunch of humorless people dressed in black sulking and crying in their drinks. Why is it that a conference devoted to art professionals has so little creative energy? The place should be chaos, filled with confrontations, interventions, and conviviality. Instead, it is a somber, envy-soaked wake for teaching careers.


Art fairs are the party, CAA is a cattle call. I went to CAA 5-6 years running and quit going as soon as I went with the intent to look for a job. If you are there to browse books, crash a few sessions and scam are supplies, it is super fun, if you are there interviewing or being interviewed it is less fun than being hit with a hammer repeatedly in the head.

eplacekraft/LeisureArts wrote:


CAA, an experience without any real experience that talks about experiences that you could have if as an academic you weren't so involved with your lack of experience that you have maintaining a political foothold that justifies your bureaucratic existence as someone just experienced enough to tell inexperienced people what they should experience so that you might experience something yourself at CAA. Hmmm, what to do with my time? Perhaps I'll groom myself or spend some time watching people leave the local El stop. But crosswords are just as engaging, almost the same as the CAA or an art fair in the end, for some. However neither will justify my actions as an artist in a historical paradigm that s broken and they both suck as models for work and its manifestations in a dynamic world that's inhabited by a majority of people who don't have the financial capacity to give a fuck. Not to mention the fact that they won't cure me of being an artist that works and lives in Chicago. If you were a super hero would you spend all your time punching the same person? Think New, Instituation is not free and Fair is not real. Work hard and enjoy Chicago, its ours but we will share it. MT



I understand you less and less lately. Did you switch from Old Style to Canadian Whiskey?

But, about what Pleasurecraft said a few posts ago - I have a good friend who is a department chair at a state u. We seldom talk about art, almost never about teaching or his students - only committees and beaurocratic paperwork and faculty conflicts. His GA covers the classes while he goes to the office to dig through bullshit. Maybe this is why conferences of professionals are so not fun. (Except, for me, when my undergrad faculty show up; they throw a good party. I'm proud of having hotel security tell my mentors to tone it down. But then, they are on a reimbursed junket, while desperate grad students are paying for everything themselves).

Maybe, in spite of what Mr. Conger said a while back, the lack of administrative responsibility is one advantage part-time adjunct poverty has over tenure.


--- "Michael S. Thomas" dogmaticgallery at wrote:


Yes Michael if it makes you feel better I only stay up late nights editing and reediting aimless sentences in a drunken state. Institution does nothing for this town, CAA is just a vagabond group of them. Fairs are a part of the institulional construct and becoming more so with every year. The capital model in the art world is flawed. Too much culture gets left behind and ignored because of it. MT?DB


For the sake of.. (w/r to emails a while back)...

..Koenen (who wrote "Fabulous, thoughtful response. Perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel" and then added all of Conger's email)..

..and Lipuma (who wrote "bravo" and then added all of Conger's email)..

.. I will move the line:

Conger's email was in "plain text" as iso-8859-1, and was received as 14K. It was big - some 13 screens long, but he had lots to say.

Koenen's email was two lines long, but in multipart/alternative and as 'quoted-printable' became 29K. Exceeded the 16K limit.

Lipuma's email was one line long, but in multipart/alternative became 27K. Also exceeded the 16K limit.

16K allows you to dribble on for 16 pages. Certainly this would be enough? But, if it helps, I removed the 16 K size limit.

Sorry about the delay, I trashed my truck last week. HTH /jno


On Sun, 2 Apr 2006, michael bulka wrote:

I have been meaning to respond to this, because my MFA education specifically used the word "professional" as in "professional artist" with the definition that a "professional artist" is one who makes art for sales to galleries.

But I never knew quite what to do with that phrase and that definition, for we never learned from what the instructors told us, unless it made ultimate good sense. What we learned from was what we saw our instructors do.

And what we saw our instructors do was to subvert their gallery connections to do whatever pleased them, and pass it off as art anyway. That is what we paid attention to, and learned from: a critique of the media, art, presentation, the gallery system.

When the example was good it was a delight to see. But of course there were instructors who never understood the nature of art, and they spent their time seriously making "art for gallery sales."

Bulka also wrote;

I agree, it is just a diploma mill, but it is a great way to (1) avoid ever finding a job, and (2) at the least developing some radical thinking habits.



Barbara Koenen Project Manager, Cultural Planning Division Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs 312-744-7649 barbara.koenen at

For the sake of.. (w/r to emails a while back)...

sorry about the length. this is better, right?


i added conger's email verse, so that individuals would know what I was bravo-ing about-- thanks: Josephine Lipuma

--- jno jno at wrote:


RTFM. Ahhh the old days... Takes me back to the square talbes of the ex-tech lab. I would love to comment, as anyone familiar with me can attest, on the current topic but I can't tell what it is. Also I don't know if this will even post...


I believe there has been some lost info recently?? Incomplete posts (2817, 2918). I assume that others did not receive Barbara or Josephine's total e-mail.

As I look at the CAA and the MFA dialogue, I see certain obvious points: the CAA conferences are meat-markets and studying the MFA can be abusive. Is this bad? Hello, this outlook is pretty consistent from discipline to discipline. Though Thomas may be cryptic in his prose, I do see him at least addressing one of the core issues that Chicago (artists, journals, and local institutions) still have not been able to deal with. That being establishing a successful regional and international voice that people take seriously here and elsewhere. There just is not a consistent and quality system of validation in the windy city. Major collectors buy their art more frequently on the coasts, young artists regularly move to NYC or LA, and our institutions are generally more interested in art from outside of Chicago. I recall only a couple major Chicago artists (Marshall, Heineken) exhibitions as I write this. Thomas's note to create a new system should be taken seriously or plan to continue playing by someone else's rules.

I want to recommend a book:

Stuart Plattner, High Art Down Home : An Economic Ethnography of a Local Art Market, ISBN # 0226670848 ($19.00)

Though it does not directly address CAA and the MFA, I believe it is relative in that it looks at denoting worth. Plattner does an ethnographic study on the artist and market outside of New York. The statistical analysis and stories on how desperate artists are to be seen and validated is worth the read. Unfortunately, I passed my copy on to Julia Friedman before she departed to NYC (her gallery is now out of business). Isn't there a trend for Chicago galleries (and artists) on they're rise to bigger better things in the Big Apple?

In ending, the MFA program or CAA is not going away (unless Bush gets reelected for a 3rd term, and the U.S. invades Iran, and a nuclear war starts, and all of humanity perishes). Hell, There are a couple programs considering coupling PhD elements to make their graduates more marketable for teaching posts (More debt? Yippy!).

Chester Costello


I'd planned to save this for a more appropriate opening, but what the hell, rants are better when they are fresh. And before we digress into whining about not moving enough product through our local storefronts - back to the academy:

Rant mode on.

So, how does art school compare to professional programs? Is a freshman pre-med in Bio 101 encouraged to call himself a doctor? Yet 18 yo foundation students are told they are artists, to go forth and express themselves.

Learn the craft. Learn the history. Learn the theory. Learn to communicate. Learn to identify and create and solve problems. Learn to think in different ways and to appreciate different kinds of thinking.

Self-expression? You're 18 - no one cares. Go to MySpace. Wanna be an Art Star? Go be a star. You don't need school for that. Even if your art rock star idols have had some school experience, that's not what got them there. It was hustling, and connections, and perseverance, and self-promotion, and luck. Same as success anywhere.

How many times do some people fail the Bar Exam before they become lawyers? Of course there is no art test
- the closest thing would be an MFA thesis show, and what may be the vestigial remnant of an oral defense. When has anyone ever failed an MFA show? As evidenced by the current display at UIC, "candidates" aren't even expected to put anything on the line at all. It's a social promotion - you put in your time and get the degree. You are not only a Master of Fine Arts, but deemed qualified to raise others to that level.

Professional? There are more tests of knowledge and competance to pass to be a cop, licenced plumber, probably even mail carrier, than an MFA.

Part of the problem is that few of us are competant to teach in a professional program. There are senior faculty whose whole art education was post-modern - with more emphasis on shopping than making, more on irony than history. The old guys who taught figure drawing and composition and clay modeling are retired or dead or stuck off in a corner. There are teachers who can't conduct a productive crit because they've never been in one. Art history is segregated in the slide library behind a wall of footnotes, sharing a mutual contempt with studio people.

I may have said this before, but part of this problem is that teachers are hired on the "strength" of their art, which may translate into its appeal to the taste of the committe, the current popularity of its genre, how it fits into faculty office politics. The work is at best a clue into how they would perform in the job they are hired to do. This is probably true of other disciplines as well, but still a problem. Artists in a university trying or pretending to fit into the model of a research institution.

Rant mode off.

Gosh, that ended abruptly. Apparently we don't have to pay much attention to the craft of composition here, either.



On Thu, 13 Apr 2006, Chester Costello wrote:


B and J's email were shuttled to another directory, which is only inspected periodically.

- Non-text attachments to e-mails are deleted;
- E-mail exceeding 16K will not be accepted.
- E-mail addressed via "Cc:" is not accepted. Cc: headers are deleted.

The 16 K limit has been removed, since most likely the "cleanup" will reduce the size. I didnt think of this earlier. We were recently spammed for the first time in 5 years. It did not make it through, either.

HTH /jno


Learn the craft. Learn the history. Learn the theory. Learn to communicate. Learn to identify and create and solve problems. Learn to think in different ways and to appreciate different kinds of thinking. writes Bulka.

Sure, and I agree that a large number of faculty are lousy teachers (this too is not that different from other disciplines). MFAs (and artists) are not really that unique these days. This can be seen in the overwhelming amount of graduates without employment in their respective field. Is there really a need for artists and MFAs anymore? Maybe, maybe not. Are MFA programs really preparing anyone for anything...yes and no. There is introduction into the items listed above at most programs on varied levels that can be applied by a small few, but in terms of professional practices, are there any classes entitled "Learn to Make Salable Product 101"? This class might be perfect for an ultra capitalist society like our own. Regardless of how you look at these issues, education and marketplace are interlinked. The savvy undergrad looking at MFA programs considers two issues - 1. Faculty/institution reputation, and 2. Cost. What the student gets out of the program is up to him and her.

Artists in a university trying or pretending to fit into the model of a research institution, writes Bulka.

Do you really believe this? Again, as previously stated, artists are not really that unique these days. Contemporary art practice is so embedded in theory (and $$$) that in many respects the aesthetic qualities are considered only in passing. In most cases, artists teaching at higher education institutions are not radicals (nor do I think they ever really were). If you want to encounter some radical thinkers, you need to look at the Economics Department at the University of Chicago.

Chester Costello


Chester Costello writes:

The notion of "aesthetic quality" is itself highly theoretical in nature, so that is no alternative...

In this discussion of the "value" of MFAs, it seems like we should draw a distinction between education and training. Training provides job skills, education is "useless" in a non-pejorative sense. Some programs educate, some train, a few do both, and many do neither. Perhaps it's easier to assess the success of programs when we sort out what one wants from them and what each program claims to do.

One major problem I've encountered is that institutions don't do enough to establish high standards for their students. A good deal of MFA students/graduates I've dealt with wouldn't be able to pass any other grad program other than education programs which are notorious for their poor students.


I agree. Writing and speaking skills are emphasized for MFA's (and I surprise my Web-students with these expectations all the time), but very little was disclosed (at UIC; mid-90's) about how to operate as an organizer or facillitator, which artists often do find to be necessary skills if they wish to operate professionally. Then there's business, marketing, taxes -- the stuff we scramble to pick up on sometime after graduation.

As far as the use value of an MFA -- it makes people smarter. Creative people will shift about in different professional fields, but smarts is the common denominator.



Of course I wish John Brunetti the best of luck on this venture (rumored to open in the fall), but these are some scary head shots:



I have no idea who this guy is and what this new venture will mean (and I admit to being to lazy to do due diligence on this matter) but...

LOL! those are some crazy head shots.

On 4/16/06, michael bulka mfbulka at wrote:


On Thu, 13 Apr 2006, michael bulka wrote:

It would be nice when all this is true. But Michael, art's not about craft, and doesn't need to be imbedded in history.

On the other hand, I have no idea what art-theory is. And I agree, I do not want the opinions or personal feelings of 18-yr olds communicated to me. Have we had "professional artists" since the days of Vasari?

IMHO /jno


Brunetti is a critic (at least used to be; I haven't read anything recently. Although, no "due diligence" from me either). You could probably track him down at CACA. John, you're not on othergroup? Wassamatta?

He's gonna open a gallery. River North I think I remember. His taste runs to mid-career abstract painters, but I recognize one figurative guy in the mug shots.

I'm scaired, though. It looks like all his artists want to kill me, or have their people kill me.

On a related heads-up kind of thing - Drago Djekic, a Serbian painter, is planning to open a gallery sort of soon in Wicker Park. On Milwaukee, across from Walgreen's. He's putting some serious money into it, so it won't be your typical artist-run live/work/gallery. Should be interesting or different. He doesn't run in the circles some of us do - the only openings where I've seen him were shows I've curated him into. I think he runs to Euro-Academy-trained paintings-in-frames, but then I haven't talked to him much in several years, so, who knows.


--- Justin Goh reallyround at wrote:


me again. Obviously with too much time on my hands.

mostly in response to jno -

I don't remember how the "professional" part of this thread got started, but, by one definition, the folks who set up tents at the Old Towne Art Fair are the professional artists, and those who make their living teaching, rather than selling, are amateurs.

On the other hand, Realtors have a professional organization and code of conduct, so do clowns, and many other groups. Artists - no. I'm not saying that the way the art world works is wrong, just that "professional" is probably not an appropriate word for it.

About the other stuff:

Art may not be, but art education should be. Maybe I'm an old fart claiming priveledges, but I don't think so. It is a very different thing when someone seasoned filters years of experience into the condensed "I did it because it seemed intersting", and when some kid, with little experience and a largely unexamined life, misinterperets what he sees and says "I did it because I wanted to do it".




I 'm wondering......

If you do not know what art theory is, are don't believe there is such a thing that is important, how have you decided that art is not about craft or doesn't need to be imbedded in history, and if not history, what then?

And, why not 18 year olds, since history and craft have no importance.

On Apr 17, 2006, at 1:48 PM, jno wrote: