MFAs Aren’t Worth It

Jerry Saltz urges all but the wealthiest young artists to stay away from MFA programs, which after two years are “hovering near a quarter-million dollars” in cost. And besides, students have to deal with “a lot of bullshit”:

Iffy artist-teachers wield enormous artistic and intellectual influence over students, favors are doled out in power cliques. Zealous theoreticians continue to scare the creativity and opinions out their third generation of young artists and critics. Too many students make highly derivative work (often like that of their teachers) and no one tells them so. A lot of artists in these programs learn how to talk a good game instead of being honestly self-critical about their own work.

… I’ve taught at institutions across the prestige spectrum. Truthfully? Students who go to high-profile schools get a subtle eighteen-month bump after they graduate, in part because dealers and collectors (oy) see their MFA shows. However, once this short-term advantage dissipates, the artist becomes one in a crowd, with a mountain of debt, and may need to have a full-time job indefinitely to pay it off. There’s no surer way to throw away that early advantage than getting a job that saps their art-making energy.

Saltz also recommends a new essay by artist Coco Fusco, who “pulls back the curtains on the risky business and chancy racket of the Master of Fine Arts degree.”