I am haunted by this question: What is a work of art in the age of $120,000 art degrees? If education and freedom of expression are human rights necessary for a democratic society, I think that artists and arts advocates must support artists who self-organize alternative institutions for art education while struggling to retain the remaining institutions that provide free and low cost art education in this country. While artists work to resist, rethink, and reform the dominant, inequitable art/world, I suggest that 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 histories, 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, I consider elite invitations with caution while building and supporting the art worlds that I want to see.
To avoid a century of creative debtors who owe $120,000 in student loans for art degrees, here is a framework for change: 1) raise consciousness together, 2) resist and reform bad systems, 3) support spaces of hope, and 4) create options for cooperation.
3. SUPPORT SPACES OF HOPE: Attend free and low cost art schools and alternative institutions, radical histories of land reform and media making, gardening in empty lots, community-control of land, and coalitions of worker cooperatives and solidarity economy initiatives, and place-based organizing for cultural policy.