Staring upward into Anish Kapoor’s queasily municipal Bean, we begin to wonder whether we’re getting our point across.

In Chicago, as was the case in Pittsburgh, the Q & A following our presentation quickly devolves into the bitter battles of institutional politics. The plight of the adjunct professor, the exclusionary expense of art school tuition, the meddling of administrators – while all concerns worth having – miss the point of what we’ve been trying to mean when we talk about arts education.

Some seem to think we’ve come to offer up BHQFU as a singular sweeping solution for all that ails our educational institutions. No. We aren’t. We’re arguing for the shriveling down of institutionalized arts education.

Generally, we get one angry professor. It’s a pattern of performed criticality, and while we’re happy to contend with criticism and adapt what we’re doing as we go along, the redundancy of their positions is making it more apparent to us what annoys us so much about the art education industry:


Do we want our nation’s artists to have all been funneled through an increasingly regulated system of sameness or do we want our artists to be more different from each other so that they can offer us more ways of seeing the world?”

We need difference. It’s what keeps art interesting, that we can stretch our divergence from one another, push its bounds, yet find our humanity at the end of each fingertip. Art has the capacity to limber our empathy.

And the academy, for all the valiant attempts made by professors with their minds in the right places, is treadmilling what it means to be an artist. Fifty years ago no one thought an artist needed an MFA to call herself an artist. But we’re becoming a society of credentials. Artists in their twenties worry how to format their resumes.

And what good has the professionalization of the artist done? Do we have unions? Do we have health care? Do we have tax incentives? Are we considered to be a more critical part of American society? Not really. Our strength is in what remains of our willingness to challenge normalization.



2 Responses to Deepening the Dish in the City of Broad Shoulders

  1. Keith Brown says:

    I don’t know what happened in Chicago, but none of the artist run, apartment gallery, community arts pedagogy, SDS, or free school folk turned up to your event. Myself and Jim Duignan were in attendance supporting you and reppin’ Stockyard Institute. It’s good that you encounter those who cannot understand you, keep pressing on.

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