BFAMFAPhD

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What is a work of art in the age of $120,000
art degrees?

Concerned about the impact of debt, rent, and precarity on the lives of creative people, we make media and connect viewers to existing organizing work.

About

Concerned about the impact of debt, rent, and precarity on the lives of creative people, we make media and connect viewers to existing organizing work. We are a collective of artists, designers, makers, technologists, curators, architects, educators, and analysts who ask: What is a work of art in the age of $120,000 art degrees?

The 2000 United States Census revealed that there are more people who identify their primary occupation as “artist” than as lawyer, doctor, or police officer combined. And each year, our schools graduate another 100,000 students with arts-oriented BFAs, MFAs, and PhDs. Since 7 of the 10 most expensive schools in the country are art schools, artist-graduates live with unprecedented debt burdens. Looking at the Census Bureau’s 2010-2012 American Community Survey, BFAMFAPhD Census Report shows that most artists (85%) in New York City have non-arts-related day jobs. Only 15% of people with arts degrees in New York City make a living from their work. Artists who are lucky enough to make a living in New York City (and these are mostly people without arts degrees) have median earnings of $25,000 a year. This is one-half of the annual median earnings of other professionals. With elite art schools charging $120,000 for an art degree, and with tuition rising at public universities, both artists and culture are under threat.

Often legitimized by its relationship to elite institutions of higher education, a work of art today is a product of the classroom, the loan repayment, the lecture-hall, and the homework assignment. But before the 1950s, becoming an artist had nothing to do with a BFA or an MFA. As Mark McGurl points out in The Program Era, what is novel about our time is not that it’s hard to make a living as an artist (that has always been the case), but that so many young people go to school, and often to expensive art schools, to try to become artists.

Who goes to art school, and who makes a living as an artist? The Census Bureau’s 2010-2012 American Community Survey shows that artists are more than twice as likely to be White, nonhispanic, as New York City’s population at large!

  • New York City’s population is 33% White, nonhispanic, but 74% of people in the city with arts degrees are White, nonhispanic, and 74% of people who make a living as artists are  White, nonhispanic.
  • New York City’s population is 23% Black, nonhispanic, but only 6% of people in the city with arts degrees are Black, nonhispanic, and only 7% of people who make a living as artists are Black, nonhispanic.
  • New York City’s population is 29% Hispanic, but only 8% of people in the city with arts degrees are Hispanic, and only 10% of people who make a living as artists are Hispanic.
  • New York City’s population is 13% Asian, nonhispanic, but only 10% of people in the city with arts degrees are Asian, nonhispanic, and 8% of people who make a living as artists are Asian, nonhispanic.
  • Of the people who identified their primary occupation as artist in the 2010-2012 American Community Survey in New York City, 55% were male, even though only 42% of people with art degrees are men.
  • As the National Endowment for the Arts’ report Artists in the Workforce reminded us in 2011: “Women artists earn $0.81 cents for every dollar earned by men artists. This gap is similar to that in the overall labor force (where women earn $0.80 cents for every dollar earned by men); professional women earn even less — $0.74 for every dollar earned by professional men.”

If education and freedom of expression are human rights necessary for a democratic society, we must support artists who self-organize alternative institutions for art education while we struggle to retain the remaining institutions that provide free and low cost art education in this country.

While we work to resist, rethink, and reform the dominant, inequitable art/world, we also join and support New York City’s artist-activists, artist-organizers, artist-run spaces, sweat-equity theaters, gift economies, barter economies, producer cooperatives, worker cooperatives, prison abolitionists, radical historians,  community archives, community land trusts, and solidarity economy initiatives. Experience and data indicate that few of us will get invited into elite racist and sexist institutions, and that even if we do, we will not receive enough financial capital from these elite spaces to repay our student loans or produce our work. Knowing this, we consider elite invitations with caution while building art worlds that we want to see. Join Us!

BFAMFAPhD

  • Core Group: Susan Jahoda, Blair Murphy, Caroline Woolard
  • Web Contributors: Zipeng Zhu, Ben Lerchin, Rich Watts
  • Media Contributors: Brian House, Susan Jahoda, Jeff Warren, Annelie Berner, Vicky Virgin, Julian Boilen, Lika Volkova, Caroline Woolard
  • Data Contributors: Vicky Virgin, Agnes Szanyi, Jackie Armstrong

Authorship

BFAMFAPhD contributors provide data, make media, and write about that media. Through open calls for submissions, BFAMFAPhD solitics media that the Core Group selects to showcase. Contributors who make media with and for BFAMFAPhD own that media. They may choose to share it, sell it, show it elsewhere, and/or disclaim it. Following the model of Just Seeds, any contributor who gets an offer to show work can invite the entire group, or only a few of us. Any invitation to show work created in relationship to this group will credit the group, and the artist(s) whose works are shown. Most works are open access, with a creative commons sharealike attribution license.

Look

What is a work of art in the age of $120,000 art degrees?

Statements

Caroline Woolard, 2014
Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 3.43.37 PM

… in which nothing can be finally paid off

Susan Jahoda, 2014
Dear Viewer

Dear Viewer

Caroline Woolard, Susan Jahoda, Blair Murphy, 2014
Data Sprint Alex

Data Sprint

Alex Mallis, 2014
The Program Era Davey

The Program Era

Davey Field, 2014
Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 12.01.26 PM

Census Report: Poverty

Vicky Virgin, Julian Boilen, 2014
Census Report

Census Report: School to Work

Julian Boilen, Vicky Virgin, 2014
By Gender Ann Chen

By Gender

Ann Chen, 2014
Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 11.51.42 AM

Census Report: You

Julian Boilen, 2014
sound

BFAMFAPhD Sound

Brian House, 2014

Disclaim Bolt N.14.6

Lika Volkova, 2014
logo-lg

Logo

Zipeng Zhu, 2014
Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 11.52.56 AM

Census Report: Rent Burden

Vicky Virgin, Julian Boilen, 2014
Magnetic Data Tape

Magnetic Data Tape

Vicky Virgin, 2013-present
degrees_crop

Art Degree Recipients per year, 1987-2012

Annelie Berner, Brian House, Jeff Warren, 2013

Make

We ask questions about equity in the arts using the Census Bureau’s 2010-2012 American Community Survey and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. We provide files to download so that you might make media with us, and connect that media to lived experience. We aim to demonstrate that the personal is political.

For more information on the conditions of working artists today, see national reports like the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, Creative New York, and Artists in the Workforce as well as artist-initiated reports—including recent surveys made by W.A.G.E., The Present Group, Gallery Tally, and Who Pays Artists. In these reports, be wary of claims about “artists” that include designers, as designers’ high earnings throw off the median earnings of “artists.” Artist-driven surveys provide the narrative—the anecdote—but they do not represent the population at large. It is only the large, randomly drawn U.S. household surveys such as the ACS, replete with sampling and nonsampling error, where claims about the population at large can be made. Please make media and share it with us! We will connect you to additional datasets, analysis, and potential collaborators if you email us: info@bfamfaphd.com

Files

Github

Events

BFAMFAPhD held a series of meetings from November 2013 through May 2014 that resulted in data visualization, proposals about affordable space, and the creation of a closed, autonomous group that is dedicated to building an income-sharing intentional community. In the summer of 2014, open meetings focused on data visualization and “creative debtor” media. In addition to working together to make our shared contexts visible, we have created a public calendar of relevant events in NYC. We shared our work at the Museum of Art and Design in a summer series organized with NYCTBD.com, at Unruly Engagement at the Cleveland Museum and at Hidden Economies in Copenhagen in late 2014.

Join the BFAMFAPhD mailing list

 

July 1st – October 12th

NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial

See the work of BFAMFAPhD contributors Julian Boilen, Vicky Virgin, Lika Volkova, and Caroline Woolard at The Museum of Art and Design.

July 19th

Artists are long-term residents too!

Join NYCTBD.com and members of El Puente, Fourth Arts Block and Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts NY at the Museum of Art and Design for a workshop on the intersection between arts, culture, and community.

August 9th

Mayor de Blasio Listens: Artists as Policy Advocates

Join NYCTBD.com and Anusha Venkataraman of El Puente and Abby Subak of Art Gowanus at the Museum of Art and Design for an interactive discussion about the ways in which artists can get involved in local organizing and advocacy.

September 20th

New York City Community Land Initiative

Join NYCTBD.com and organizers of the New York City Community Land Initiative’s Education and Outreach media team at the Museum of Art and Design for a presentation on Community Land Trusts, featuring Picture the Homeless’ Banking on Vacancy report, and discussion of sustainable, truly affordable housing for artists and all low-income people in the city.

October 3rd - Jan. 4th

Brooklyn Museum: Crossing Brooklyn

See the work of BFAMFAPhD contributors Julian Boilen, Vicky Virgin, Susan Jahoda, Blair Murphy, Lika Volkova, and Caroline Woolard at the Brooklyn Museum.

October 4th

Intentional Communities and Collective Houses

Join NYCTBD.com and members of 3B, a worker-owned Bed and Breakfast and members of Divine House at the Museum of Art and Design to discuss the ways in which New Yorkers live together to support one another financially, emotionally, and intellectually.

May 17th

Howard Singerman

On May 17, from 3-5pm, Howard Singerman, author of Art Subjects, joined us.

March 15th

Mark McGurl and Leigh Claire La Berge

Mark McGurl, author of The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, and Leigh Claire La Berge, author of the forthcoming Scandals and Abstraction: Financial Fictions of the Long 1980s, joined BFAMFAPHD.com for a dialogue about how the nexus between the university and the market has transformed American fiction, given rise to forms of institutional creativity, and produced new sites for creative collectivities. Watch parts of the talk here.

February 2nd

Data Sprint

November 9th

Open House at The Queens Museum of Art

 

Join

BFAMFAPhD

Concerned about the impact of debt, rent, and precarity on the lives of creative people, we make media and connect viewers to existing organizing work.

  • Core Group: Susan Jahoda, Blair Murphy, Caroline Woolard
  • Web Design: Zipeng Zhu, Ben Lerchin, Rich Watts
  • Media Contributors: Brian House, Susan Jahoda, Jeff Warren, Annelie Berner, Vicky Virgin, Julian Boilen, Lika Volkova, Caroline Woolard
  • Data Contributors: Vicky Virgin, Agnes Szanyi, Jackie Armstrong

To inquire about becoming a BFAMFAPhD contributor, please email us: info@bfamfaphd.com

Join the BFAMFAPhD mailing list

Authorship

BFAMFAPhD contributors provide data, make media, and write about that media. Through open calls for submissions, BFAMFAPhD solitics media that the Core Group selects to showcase. Contributors who make media with and for BFAMFAPhD own that media. They may choose to share it, sell it, show it elsewhere, and/or disclaim it. Following the model of Just Seeds, any contributor who gets an offer to show work can invite the entire group, or only a few of us. Any invitation to show work created in relationship to this group will credit the group, and the artist(s) whose works are shown. Most works are open access, with a creative commons sharealike attribution license.