Through the years I have spoken with many artists who seemed disgruntled about having not earned a Master of Fines Arts degree. Many of them feel that their art careers have suffered since they never obtained a higher education in art. They often complained about artists who have earned an MFA when we conversed about this issue.
It was common for them to claim that artists who have an MFA are treated "better" because of the degree they hold. What do you think about this issue? Does a degree in art make someone a better artist? Does it 'pay' to earn an MFA? Do you think people favor artists who have an educational background in art? Should they even consider it when considering the value of the artist as a whole? Have you ever experienced anything negative in your art career due to not having a degree? (Or having one?)
Once, over several cups of coffee at a cafe, a fellow painter ranted for over an hour about the "elitist mentality of galleries and museums". He ranted, "They only value the degree you hold... not what you are doing with your art!" (Needless to say, I made him pay for the coffee after enduring his lecture.). This associate felt that "untalented hacks" were being chosen over him simply because of their degree.
How true is his experience? Could he have just been paranoid or trying to find an excuse for his failure? Has it happened to you? I'm sure we all have examples of it, but do you think it is a widespread problem? If it is, are these professionals wrong for 'raising the bar' as to who they accept and who they turn away? Are the professionals making a grave error as to who they select for representation? (Remember, there have been many famous artists who never attended a school of art).
I highly doubt that every museum/gallery decides the art they are willing to represent on a degree alone. However, I can see why an inexperienced collector would choose an artist who has an MFA over an artist who does not. Our society values higher education so it may be easy for someone new to art collecting to think that only artists with a degree are worth investing in. After all, when you need something fixed do you call the guy down the street or do you call the certified repairman?
In truth, Average Joe down the street may have more experience and knowledge of the repairs needed, but the certification gives the other guy a sense of credibility. It gives the customer the feeling that he is getting what he paid for. Is this fair? Not necessarily, but how can you change the mindset of the general population? How can you make them feel secure in their purchase when their security is often rooted in the credentials that you have?
This topic is a two-sided coin. I've also spoken with artists who are unhappy with the MFA they have earned. Some have stated that the degree is, "Nothing but a waste of money." or that they could have "learned all of this on my own.". A few have even claimed that the MFA "Held" them back as artists. They felt that the art they do would have been better accepted by others outside of academia had they been 'outsider artists'.
How ironic... some of the haves and the have-nots both feel "held back' over the same degree, but for different reasons.What do you think about this? Do you think an MFA degree is a necessity in regards to having a successful career in art? Do you think it is just a piece of paper that brings with it much debt?
Take care, Stay true,