Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Slowly Falling off the Cliff

Emails have been circulating among some colleagues about students “working” for free. We often get requests from people in the community who want a student “intern” to do an illustration job, work in a gallery, or shoot photos, etc. The offer is credit or experience in exchange for the work.
My tenured colleagues think this is terrible, that students should be paid for their services, and in a perfect world, they’re right. You wouldn’t expect a plumber to trade for services, why should artists do it?
Well, plumbers and artists are not the same. Here I am, with tremendous skills and experience, and there is no market for what I do. I should be at the height of my career, but there's no career there. It’s sort of disingenuous for me to discourage students from taking non-paying work, when I work for “free” all the time: for my resume, for the contacts, anything to help me make ends meet.
Friends have told me that my paintings are too cheap, but really, I can’t sell a painting for $100, let alone $1000. I should give up my studio because I can’t justify the rent, but I’m loath to do it.
Am teaching about Medieval Europe, explaining to my students that when the centralized government of Rome broke down, and feudalism became the dominant economic force, very little art was produced. When people are starving, can they make art? When educational systems disappear, as they will in California, will anyone care about painting or dance or serious music?
Sad, sad, sad.


namastenancy said...

This is simply heartbreaking. I read in today's news that the Regents have raised UC's fees 32% which will make the university an even more exclusive club. A friend of mine is a math teacher and he is on a semester-to-semester contract to a couple of colleges who keep cutting back on his classes (and his salary). The US seems to be the only wealthy country that devalues education this way. An educated public has been the basis of what made America great; to see that slashed and burned from the arts to math is a tragedy.

kloeamongtheturks said...

Yeah, I'm pretty down about it. We'll all continue to make art, we'll just be more underground about it. It's the current crop of students I'm really sad for.

ms. v. said...

I am *horrified* by the UC tuition increase. I've been thinking about you as I read about it.

kloeamongtheturks said...

Hi Ms. V--it's a new world out there for students. The risk of so much debt, what will it do to the choices our kids make?