Odds and Ends – Monday, Feb 23, 2015
Last weekend, the Globe and Mail (“Art School Confidential” by Simona Chiose; Feb 14, 2015, Section R1) had an article on the OCAD University and the many challenges now facing the institution.
One of the key problems, from my perspective, is how do you make money once you leave art school. As the article states:
“The economic prospects of arts grads have never provoked as much anxiety. Those with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts or design make the lowest salaries of all university graduates; over 20 years, they earn $300,000 less than someone with a philosophy degree.”
Going to art school is not the best way to become rich, but you do hope to be able to survive as a working artist. The challenge of making a living from the arts is something that was recently explored on the PBS Newshour.
Economic Correspondent, Paul Solman, produced two very good stories on how artists were coping in the post 2008 great recession world.
June 27, 2013 – Performing Artists Compete, Move, Adapt in Tough Economy
Sept 21, 2014 – Artists Learn Art of Business to Brave Tough Economic Times
What further complicates things is that the digital revolution is now affecting all aspects of society.
At one time, you had to visit a physical location to see a piece of art. Now, distance is no longer a barrier. You can make a judgement about its value without ever physically encountering the work. The unique object that took the artist time, effort, and money to make is now turned into information of a digital image. Once this conversion happens, the work of art becomes a digital commodity and with a very low threshold to owning. An art poster may lack some of special qualities of physical size and texture, but this is only a marginal lost compare to the image itself.
This is the same problem that authors with paper or musicians with vinyl.
How do you charge for something that can be experienced or consumed for free?
It is not clear from the article whether the OCAD is addressing this problem, but if art schools wish to survive then I believe they must.