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Debtfair: It’s Not About the Art

Does the pressure of your debts distract you from your daily work?

Has the pressure of your debts ever caused you to consider getting drunk?

Do you justify your debts by telling yourself that you are superior to the “other” people, and when you get your “break” you’ll be out of debt overnight?

– Debtors Anonymous, from the 15 Questions


student debt

(Image by DonkeyHotey, via Forbes)

Here’s the idea: an art “fair” open to anybody, where there are no dealers, no formal or aesthetic considerations, no value placed on the ideas behind the artworks or the reputation of the artists involved. The only thing that matters is the amount of each artist’s debt, and where they owe money. Works are hung in groupings by creditor, i.e. all the artists in a particular group are indebted to the same bank or university. Works are sold in “bundles,” like financial derivatives, and priced according to the artists’ monthly debt payments.

Sounds swell, right?

Debtfair, a New York-based organization that is a project of Occupy Museums (which grew out of Occupy Wall Street), is currently inviting artists to come clean about their personal balance sheet for an upcoming exhibition at the Art League Houston. Somewhat in the same spirit as W.A.G.E. (the movement for fair payments to artists that the Art League initially sponsored in Houston), Debtfair is an opportunity for artists to commiserate about their financial, if not existential, struggles. For most older artists, this means decades of underpaid work. For younger artists, this means the crushing burden of school loans. A quick look at the Debtfair website reveals young artists with over $100,000 debt, mostly due to student loans (as Debtfair points out, 7 of the 10 most expensive colleges, adjusted for financial aid, are art schools).

My primary debt is student loan debt, which I pay a very low monthly payment on a monthly basis. Because I am on the Income Based Repayment plan, my payment fluxuates according to my yearly income. Therefore, I try to make sure I make as little money as possible. – Lucas Berd, debtfair.org

In an open letter to Houston artists, the organizers of Debtfair acknowledge that their concept may not be everyone’s cup of tea. For one thing, the exhibition sounds like coddling—your debt is not your fault, honey, so let’s all share a big group hug about it. For another thing, debt is highly personal. It’s unseemly in our society to discuss it, but it’s this very secrecy that Debtfair seems designed to address. Indeed, the primary goal of Debtfair seems to be to reduce the shame associated with debt by asking artists to come clean about the topic, much like the “searching and fearless inventory” that Debtors Anonymous asks of its members as part of its 12 Steps.

The sense of shame often associated with debt has been a roadblock in creating the solidarity necessary to challenge the institutions that profit from ever higher loans. Debtfair proposes to engage these challenges directly and explicitly. – Debtfair

Clearly, an exhibition at Art League Houston is not going to affect usurious tuitions and lending practices by universities, banks, and indeed the US government. There is also a reasonable argument to be made that Americans struggling with debt need to stop acting helpless about it: you got yourself into this mess, you can get yourself out. I’ll be interested to see whether Debtfair gives participating artists any tools to address their debt load, or if it’s just a hodgepodge exhibition that fosters a chorus of complaining about the big, bad, vague forces of indebtedness that are simply forcing us to live beyond our means.

[To younger artists who are facing the decision to go to graduate school: my advice is that you should not go into serious debt (and by serious I mean more than $10K) for a graduate degree. You’ll never pay it back if you’re working as an artist—even the most established, successful artists experience financial struggle after they’ve seemingly “made it,” sometimes for extended periods of time. You should go to a cheaper school and/or wait for a free ride. A $75,000 MFA isn’t worth it, from any school, period. Don’t mortgage your future. Don’t count on being an art-market darling. Don’t think you’ll get a teaching job (which half the time will suck your soul dry and make you a worse artist anyway). Don’t listen to people who say you’ll never amount to anything as an artist without a fancy MFA. If you’re talented and resourceful and committed, it’s likely that you will—and anyway, plenty of artists with fancy MFAs don’t amount to squat. Again: wait for the free ride, or go somewhere cheap and make the most of it. Knowing your art history inside and out is half the battle, and you don’t need a degree for that.]

And if you already have a crushing load of school or other unsecured debt, well, you can take part in Debtfair and lock arms with your fellow indebted artists in solidarity. The deadline for their call for entries is October 30.

You can even participate anonymously. Remember: the first step is admitting you have a problem.


also by Rainey Knudson
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58 Responses

  1. Hi, I’m one of Debtfair’s organizers. We appreciate Rainey’s op-ed since 1. We know she is amazingly passionate and committed to the art community and 2. Its great that she describes Debtfair in her words and touches on the debt issue citing the figure that 7 out of the top 10 most expensive school are art schools. Her advice simply not to attend expensive school is not bad advice at all. However, we beg to differ with her title. Debtfair is ALL ABOUT ART. The project is about understanding art practice as part of reality, not removed from it. As an essential, beautiful, fragile thing that needs to be sustained in the realities of our economy. The aesthetic visions that can be seen on Debtfair.org give the issue personal form and dimension. Give it voice and complexity. I think that’s what she is missing in the op-ed. It’s not all negativity and confession, its art: Moments of humor and breakthrough and thinking differently about issues. We encourage debate and we encourage artists to join Debtfair. http://www.debtfair.org/user/register

  2. Loli Frnandez......etc

    No matter how good it may sound I do not think that “Debtfair” is the answer, and it is not going to get anyone out of debt. It might make an interesting show but not much else and, in the long run, it might be counterproductive .

    My advice, much like Rainey’s in a way, is: Don’t go to art school period. Now let me explain. A long time ago, in Venezuela, a well known painter said to me, “if it is money you want, you don’t go into art”. Being an artist sounds lovely when one is young and has not stared poverty, yes poverty, in the face. The reality is harsh, no romance here. The thing is to make art all you have to do is do it. Being poor is not inspiring, the willingness to be poor is does not make an artist. If you still want to go to art school, be an artist, then know the consequences.
    Nothing will guarantee that you’ll make it, not even the high quality art that you may make. And yes, teaching, for better money and tenure, requires the same as being recognized. So what to do? Study business, you’ll get an ok job and , if you are still into the art thing, you’ll know what it takes, at least a little bit more, to make it in the art world. For the art world, my dearest whomever, is a business. Once your work has been made then it is off to market dear.

    The sad part is that either we do not listen, don’t want to listen and no one is going to advice you realistically . Art schools needs you, to keep those like you that studied art alive, God bless us. As for going to a cheap art school…you get what you pay for, maybe no in the quality of the teaching but, when you can out XYC art U and want to get a job, a show, any thing, beware! You have to compete with revered names like, bow thy head, Calarts, Harvard , and so on.

    Finally, the problem with school loans is for every student in the USA. Is is the problem of a country that equates social consciousness to communism. And this, of course, is a totally different conversation.

    1. Rainey Knudson

      I disagree about cheaper art schools. Because there’s so much competition to get teaching jobs, really good people teach at so-called “second tier” schools. (Keep in mind that most people in California or New York would consider any art school in Texas to be second tier.) I think about the glory days of James Surls teaching at UH, or Vernon Fisher (and others) at UNT; of Ken Little’s great sculpture program at UTSA; and of energetic programs garnering attention today in Huntsville and San Marcos. No matter where you go–Yale, RISD, Stephen F. Austin–it’s all about what you make of it.

    2. Jennie Ash

      Thanks for your feedback Loli! This project is not really meant as a solution, but a way to visualize whats already happening, by bringing artists together to find their economic commonalities, in the hopes that solidarity and transparency will start a conversation about something that affects us all at some point in our lives.

      The rising cost of living in Houston, is just one way I look at debt. Artists I have known my 10 years in Houston are beginning to struggle, and having to move elsewhere. The price of rent is as expensive as London!

      Artists as human beings are so important to everything we do at Art league, and our intention with presenting this show is to create a space/forum/exhibition to talk about something that we see affecting the ones we care about.

      I do understand and respect that this show is not for everyone, and that’s ok. The fact that we are even having this conversation is important and valid.

  3. Exorbitant and ever-rising tuitions not only for art education, but for all areas of knowledge is just one more method to prevent the poor from becoming educated. No one should have to decide if they can afford to acquire education. It is a right. It should be free.

  4. I attended a DFW university for undergrad and graduate school. I graduated with a BFA and MFA in painting. I am considered the most successful painter ever to come out of said school (although arguable, it’s pretty well solidified by now). I am the anomaly, I am the wildcard, I did it myself, I had luck on my side. It can be done folks, but that kind of debt is only overcome by a select few. It took me less than three years to pay off 52,000 in federal student debt. I applied to 17 graduate programs before I got accepted, I refused to give up. This article is true for the masses, but for the very special, it is bullshit. If you are truly special, and you have the gift, you should say fuck it all, and go for it. I did, and I am reaping the rewards constantly. I would piss off all kinds of people if I revealed my identity, so I won’t. When I was in graduate school, I expected the competition (other MFA candidates) to work extremely hard and be formidable in every way. I was wrong, they were mostly lazy and derivative, only starting their projects a couple days before graduate critiques. I was the one who spent the night in the studio on the cement floor in a sleeping bag and brushed my teeth in a dirty studio sink. I was the one who started project early and saw them through until the natural end, reaching my potential for every critique. Most MFA candidates are pretty lazy and quick to change course to fit the trends of contemporary work. I never wavered, I never gave up, I didn’t listen to the bullshit in critique that told me that my work was too colorful or pretty. I knew that an actual art market was out there, and I shouldn’t forget about it when making my work. Say what you want, but I paid off my loans and purchased a flagship sedan last month while most of my contemporaries are struggling to have money for gas etc. Not everyone can be me, I know this. But to those out there who have the special gifts, and the balls to stay the course and work harder than anyone else (by a country mile), you are different. These rules don’t apply to you, you can make it, and you can be the envy of the masses. Just work your ass off, and if you can’t make headway, work twice as hard, get more responses from the top tier artists who have success. Don’t give up, and don’t let this debt story scare you off. There is a 1%, and to be in that group, you must dig deeper than the rest, work harder than the rest, and have a bit of luck on your side.

    1. I smell a Troll.

      ” I was the one who spent the night in the studio on the cement floor in a sleeping bag and brushed my teeth in a dirty studio sink. I was the one who started project early and saw them through until the natural end, reaching my potential for every critique.”

      “Say what you want, but I paid off my loans and purchased a flagship sedan last month while most of my contemporaries are struggling to have money for gas etc.”

      “These rules don’t apply to you, you can make it, and you can be the envy of the masses.”

    2. Zeke Williams

      Im gonna assume for a minute you are not a troll who made this shit up and for the sake of neediness / love of gossip I would love to deduce who you could be. The art community in DFW is pretty small how hard should it be to figure out which painter is relatively young ($52k in debt initially implies someone under 40), makes colorful likable paintings, is successful enough to buy a Hyundai Equus ($60k) or better sedan, has recently bought said sedan, and who went to DFW area grad and undergrad programs where he is the most successful painter to have ever graduated, but not UNT cause you are probably not Jeff Elrod unless you did go there and somehow don’t know about Jeff Elrod. I for the life of me can’t think of anyone who fits this profile but the hive mind should have no problem nailing it down. What do you say internets?

      1. Zeke Williams

        So after reading some of the comments below we have more information .. the car is most likely a 2008 or earlier Acura RL as Nighthawk Black Pearl Paint was used from 1999-2008 on that car.
        A Dude who
        is youngish,
        Went to a DFW area College for his MFA and BFA and is a relatively recent grad 3-7 years ago,
        Teaches adjunct at multiple DFW area colleges but is aspiring to a full time position,
        but keeps his Fridays free? ,
        shows at a CADD gallery,
        has sold out a solo show,
        has recently had 2 significant price bumps,
        sold about 80k worth of work this year alone,
        just bought an 2008ish Acura RL,
        has a lady friend so is straight? ,

        any ideas?

        1. Tiffany L.

          Zeke, you need to read more carefully, and consider that he could have thrown you off track intentionally with a lot of those details. Also, cars didn’t come with impact sensing technology in 2008. Would it still have a new car smell now? To assume this artist is in a CADD gallery, or try to guess the age is a stretch also. He never stated these things this way. He could be any age, driving any black sedan. P.s your math is way off on his earnings, read again. Besides, if you did successfully out him, you may just end up verifying his story. Or maybe it’s all made up? We will never really know, unless he decides to share his identity. Don’t hold your breath Sherlock.

          1. Thomas Ezekiel Williams

            The car might be a stretch as it is based on the Nighthawk Black paint. Perhaps he is remembering the color from the previous years as clearly the car is an aspirational object that he is super proud of. It can’t be any black sedan it has to be the best possible sedan that the carmaker makes Acura RL, Lexus LS, Mercedes S Class, BMW 700 series Etc.. New Car Smell is available as a spray but yeah it does not match up as well as i would like.

            He said he will make 83 gross this year adjunct and art sales together and 45k from adjunct .. thats him getting 38k from the art sales so actual sales of 76k rounded up to 80. Unless he is selling out of his studio ?

            He is less than 8 years out of grad school as he is aspiring to a full time teaching position even if it takes 8 years. He also has had a few years of adjunct teaching thats where the 3-7 years comes from.

            I guess i could be way off on the age if he had a huge gap between undergrad and graduate school or just started school late in life. But he also says Whip to refer to a car which reeks of under 40

            He mentioned CADD as a signifier of a good gallery, which is a funny bar again weirdly specific like the “Flagship Sedan” thing. I guess this could be wrong but it seems likely.

            I think the revealing details are
            teaches at multiple DFW schools adjunct,
            graduate of A DFW MFA program where apparently moderate success makes you the greatest painter to have ever graduated! (or is perhaps completely unaware of the history of said institution. )
            Has a FLAGSHIP SEDAN.

            My interest in this is purely speculative. I seek no justice other than a slight embarrassment for this strangely specific braggart.

      1. Hell yes! This show is gonna be ~weird~
        Russell, Did You Know – this will be our third together in the past year-ish. Anyway, I look forward to hanging your video.

    3. Me thinks someone has been reading too much Ayn Rand on those cement floors late at night. Obviously a genius painter and a world class hero…17 grad school applications…really!?? Roar on Howard!!!

  5. Rightsaidfred

    Perhaps you are trolling Russell, because the comment you are referring to is powerful and valid. It’s all about what you bring to the table day in and day out, month in and month out. A heavy dose of Perseverance, added with a heavier dose of extreme work ethic and innovation (sprinkled with luck), is an effective plan. Stars are still made every year, and it takes overcoming the obstacles to get there. You have to be savy and steadfast to reach the top tier, finding an edge and digging in with aggressive ambition is what provides the fuel to surpass.

    1. Gee, thanks Tony Robbins.

      PATH to FREEDOM: My Story of Perseverance
      NASA – Milky Way Churns Out Seven New Stars Per Year
      Top 350 Inspiring Motivational Quotes to Tweet and Share
      16 Wildly Successful People Who Overcame Huge Obstacles To Get There
      Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four years old.
      Bill Gates’ first business failed.
      The Alpha Male Syndrome
      Jay-Z couldn’t get signed to any record labels.
      As Volkswagen Pushed to Be No. 1, Ambitions Fueled a Scandal
      Just A Little Hard Work Sprinkled with Luck!

    2. Thanks for writing my new artist statement:

      I am considered the most successful painter ever to come out of school. I am the anomaly, I am the wildcard, I did it myself, I had luck on my side. I applied to 17 graduate programs. If you are truly special, and you have THE GIFT, you should say fuck it all, and go for it. I did, and I am reaping the rewards constantly.

      I was the one who spent the night in the studio on the cement floor in a sleeping bag and brushed my teeth in a dirty studio sink.
      I was the one who started project early and saw them through until the natural end, reaching my potential for every critique.
      I never wavered, I never gave up, I didn’t listen to the bullshit in critique that told me that my work was too colorful or pretty.

      Say what you want, but I paid off my loans and purchased a flagship sedan last month. Not everyone can be me, I know this. These rules don’t apply to you, you can make it, and you can be the envy of the masses.

      There is a 1%, and to be in that group, you must dig deeper than the rest, work harder than the rest, and have Flagship Sedan.

      It’s all about what you bring to the table day in and day out, month in and month out. A heavy dose of Perseverance, added with a heavier dose of extreme work ethic and innovation (sprinkled with luck), is an effective plan. Stars are still made every year, and it takes overcoming the obstacles to get there. You have to be savy[sic] and steadfast to reach the top tier, finding an edge and digging in with aggressive ambition is what provides the fuel to surpass.

      Russell Etchen

  6. Mario andreddi

    Rainey you have solidified your nihilistic and apathetic viewpoint on investing in an MFA at current tuition rates. We get it, you are demoralized and quite dejected at a students chance to “make it”. How in the hell are you still writing for glasstire by the way? In my circles your name usually is met with several eye rolls and a quick change of subject.

    Russell Etchen asked “What kind of artist says things like ‘flagship sedan’!?!” Answer: an Artist who is safely in the tax bracket of those who know about fine automobiles, and can afford one. ….jealous much

    1. Rainey Knudson

      You’re absolutely right: every MFA applicant in the country is a special butterfly of talent who should be encouraged to take on mountains of debt because they’re going to be a Great Artist.

      Or as Kenny Schachter put it recently speaking of the Frieze Art Fair: “If the 1967 film The Graduate were remade, the word that would replace “plastics” as the nugget of career counseling would be “art.”

      1. Mario Andreddi

        You are taking the commonly used retort that incorrectly assumes an extreme position where EVERYONE is lumped into one category. When you responded ” every MFA applicant in the country is a special butterfly of talent who should be encouraged to take on mountains of debt because they’re going to be a Great Artist. ”

        I was not saying that EVERY artist should do anything at all, or that EVERY MFA candidate should be encouraged to accrue mountains of debt. I was saying that A SPECIAL FEW artists out of many, should be encouraged to attend a quality graduate studio art program that will have them accrue debt on an average of 30K-45K (which is normal) for the 2year and 9months program. How you get mountains of debt, I’ll never know.

        I’m not surprised that you misquoted me completely though. You seem to have a knack for that, or should I say, you do it all the time in your writings and responses.

        Is anyone really under the assumption that EVERYONE will be a success at a quality MFA program, when compared to the debt they accrue? I don’t think so.

        Their are many graduate programs that don’t produce a heavy percentage of high earners, and it’s no surprise that the creative arts is one of these many programs. Do most people expect music, theatre, theology, art history, liberal arts, etc. will produce high earnings compared to tuition expenditure? No they don’t. Although, the top tier of talent will have great earnings, especially if they can teach at the college level (even adjunct). If you work at more than one or two colleges, you can have a still light hourly work load, and make a decent living despite your creative earnings (artwork sales for visual artists).

        No one is saying it’s easy Rainey, but should it be? Should it be a wise decision for average artists to take on an MFA program and it’s debts? The answer is sometimes it is worth it. It’s all about what you make of that program. I grew exponentially as a graduate student and I would never have sold a piece without the skills, response, and networking connections that support me now. All of this from an excellent graduate program.

        You might want to slow down a bit when trying to articulate a response. Perhaps your musings will blossom with some maturity and diversified thought for a change.

        Or you could just post Onion articles…..eye roll.

        1. But you and your ilk are still too much of a SPECIAL FEW Coward to post your name and stand behind your words and your work. You don’t want lurking eyes to know that you make mediocre garbage sold to mediocre people for the mediocre world you’ve built up around yourself (for your grandiose ego) to inhabit.

          But seriously, tell me about all the options to picked for your Flagship Sedan.
          • CD player? (fingers crossed)
          • Rear seats recline and offer massages? (hope so)
          • Wi-Fi hotspot? (I just came)

          Also, there, not their.

          Nothing to lose,
          Russell Etchen

          1. Mario Andreddi

            Do you have an M.F.A. in studio art? Do you even know what you are talking about?

            Oh, I see on your website that you didn’t even go to graduate school,…what a shock! Could you be feeling lament about your decision, maybe you think your trajectory could have achieved more altitude if you had chosen more wisely? Or maybe you are happier with mediocrity? I see you have a bachelors degree in graphic design, what the hell do you know about studio art? You should stick to cute replies online, or the Adobe creative suite, this discussion is best left for those who have actually experienced the realities of a quality studio art M.F.A. program and the debt that comes with it. Your reality is certainly preoccupied with the clone stamp tool, and it’s just better that way. So go print your “art” and get a nice little frame from Michaels. Meanwhile I’ll be selling out my solo show, experiencing two significant price increases in the last 9 months, as well as critical acclaim from established publications.

            Other than taking the plunge in a M.F.A. program, how else can a studio art student expect to ever teach Art at the university level, or potentially become represented by a CADD gallery (or similar space)? The odds are much more highly stacked against you if you reject this route. It’s rare for a studio artist to thrive on a B.F.A. alone, although it does seldom happen. If your playing the odds, it’s clear to everyone who seriously considers applying to graduate school, that the overwhelming majority of artists who are represented by top tier galleries hold an M.F.A, (and the experiences that come with it). Why do you think this is? Could it be that they are much more highly trained in their skill, and have been vetted to an extent not touched in undergraduate studies. Well, you wouldn’t know the difference anyway, would you? How could you, you were memorizing key strokes, and designing those forgettable flyers that annoying assholes put on my windshield in the mall parking lot.

            I know you keep bringing up the car…I love that by the way. It has the works, automatic sunshade, cutting edge sensing that anticipate impact and lane change etc., hand crafted leather, paddle shifting sport options, memory seats, navi, and auto everything to name a few. I never expected to earn something so refined from the sale of artwork and adjunct teaching, but I achieved it none the less. It can be done, so if you are contemplating an M.F.A. program, don’t listen to these writers and graphic designers. Take it from someone who has done the time, and paid the tuition/loans on his own.

            Here us how you do it. Work at two or three colleges/universities teaching studio/design/art appreciation classes. Design your teaching schedule to be efficient and full a few days per week. Then work on artwork the rest of the week after you have earned your rent during the day Mon. -Thurs. You will work about 30ish hours per week at between $40-60 dollars per hour. Not bad, for teaching art. It’s fun, and you never break a sweat and rarely have a truly stressful day. You are essentially your own boss in many respects, you make your own schedule, and rarely have to deal with supervisors or administrators. Even if you do, it’s really not so bad. It’s academia, no one really works that hard, when compared to private industries. I have made a healthy combined salary just from teaching adjunct the last several years. Although, I admit that I choose to work more than most adjuncts do.

            Then you parlay your work into the best situation you can acquire. Shoot for the top when you’re ready, who knows you might just land a sweet gig. If so, you can expect to potentially add an additional sum onto your yearly earnings. The best part is that you don’t ever have to rely on selling work to feed yourself. When those checks come in the mail from your gallery representation, it’s now money that can go to other things. Perhaps a nighthawk black whip with that new car smell. It’s a nice drive on the way to take your lady to the jewelry store for an upgrade on her diamond earrings.

            Don’t believe the narrative of the starving artist, you can write your own narrative if you have the talent and the perseverance over an extended period in the right graduate school. I did it, and so did several of the studio grads I walked the stage with. Although to a lesser extent overall, but still easily successful enough to know that it’s worth it. You only live once, do you want to reach your true potential in the most competitive studio environment that academia offers? That’s a question that must be answered by everyone who is thinking about applying to a M.F.A. program. For me, it was a no brainer, not because I knew I had the talent (because that remained to be seen at the time), but because I knew I possessed the will to make it happen, no matter the costs.


          2. Sorry, this is just too much fun.

            1. Now I really just want to know what a “nighthawk black whip” is.
            2. What’s clone stamp?
            3. No regrets in this life.
            4. I’m actually really content with mediocrity in my life. I save my wants for the work.
            5. redacted
            6. I know a lot about Studio Art.
            7. Oh, how? I’ve done drugs in a lot of my friend’s studios.
            8. What is Adobe Creative Suite?
            9. I haven’t printed any art, yet. But that’s a GREAT idea.
            10. Two in 9 months, huh? Is that good?
            11. Sorry about all my forgettable flyers.
            12. Oh, it’s true. I _do_ know some sweet keystrokes.
            13. We like to call them HOT KEYS
            14. Well, yeah I keep bringing up the car! It sounds so cool.
            15. It’s cool how you seem to have a ©REALlife. What’s that like?
            16. I’m beginning to think you’ve already published a self-help book about this.
            17. “It’s academia, no one really works that hard, when compared to private industries.”
            — oh, gurl, you probably just made a bunch of folks mad —
            18. “Although to a lesser extent overall, but still easily successful enough to know that it’s worth it. ”
            — damn, son, you really are the best! sorry about the thing you’re actually really ashamed of —
            — you know that thing. down there. in the pit of your soul. you know what I’m talking about —

            I may not have been confident enough with my self and my means at certain periods of my youth to make the same decisions you made, it’s true. What you might call a slow-burn or a late-bloomer. I was raised to seek a trade in this life. That happened. I wasn’t willing, nor could afford, to take the risk. Art gets made along the way. And you know, I’ve saved hours of my life with keyboard shortcuts. Days, even. Don’t even get me started on Action Scripting. Oh, girl, the things I could do to your High Resolution Press Ready images and Headshot.PSD

            I know the quest that I’m on and I know the color of your soul. If I had my way (shakes fist at God) People -Like-You would be vetted and rejected from any and all art school. Congratulations on all your material success. It sounds like you’re a really special weiner-dog ding-dong ComputerAlias with 0% backbone making up Troll stories for a Troll world. Pics or it didn’t happen.

            You know who else probably had a Flagship Sedan?
            Thomas Kinkade.

        2. Rainey Knudson

          It’s true: all the adjunct university teachers I know are living large off of all that expensive tuition money getting pushed their way.

          1. Mario Andreddi

            You can still make a very respectable living teaching adjunct. You have to work at several colleges, and be smart about designing your teaching schedule/commute to be as efficient as possible. This may take a couple years to acquire these jobs, and get your schedule solidified, but it’s certainly possible in the metroplex. Especially if you can bust your ass. If you’re a lazy artist type, no such chance. If you live in a rural area, not so much either, because you don’t have enough schools to fill your weekly schedule. DFW offers many colleges, as well as Fort Worth. This is a great city(the metroplex) to work adjunct because of the vast amount of teaching opportunities.

            I have earned just over 45k from teaching adjunct the last several years in a row. When you look at the actual hours I put in, it’s not near as much as a sales representative who makes the same salary in private industry. Also, it’s a ton easier day to day. I’ve done both, so I can attest to this on a very personal level. Also, I can get up on Monday morning and do what I want for a living for the rest of my life essentially. Eventually I will land a fulltime position, but even if it takes 8 years or so after gaining my M.F.A., it will still have been worth it. Hey, no one is saying it’s easy, but if it was easy, then everyone could do it.

            I can almost guarantee that I out earned everyone on the glasstire writing staff (individually, not combined), once you add in my artwork sales. This year I will clear 83k gross and last year 64k, when combining artwork sales and adjunct salaries. I work a lot more than most adjuncts, so this is not the norm, but it is totally possible for a few to achieve.

            That is why I am writing these responses, because I wouldn’t want someone who can do this to believe the nihilists who are vomiting on the screen with such negativity towards the collective dream that most young studio artists have who read this website.

          2. God,

            I just had the saddest thought. Had you simply signed your name and linked your website to the initial comment, you would have given us the opportunity to judge you quietly and respectfully from our screen-front seats.

            Most likely I would have looked at your work—decided it was clearly “bad art”—and ignored this thread.

            But, ultimately, it was the Anonymous Voice and Flagship Sedan comment that really set me off.

            The Art World is worse off with you “playing along” … I ply my trade (relatively) quietly and use Art as a weapon waged against people like you.

            Russell Etchen

    2. Christina Rees

      How is Rainey Knudson “still writing for glasstire”? Friendly journalism tip #3: Rainey is the founder and publisher of Glasstire. (Yet here you are, reading and commenting.)

  7. Rainey Knudson

    On a more productive note, again on topic: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/learn-by-painting

    “As anyone who has tried to write a poem knows, the discipline in art-making is exercised from within rather than without. You quickly realize that it’s your own laziness, ignorance, and sloppiness, not somebody else’s bad advice, that are getting in your way.”


    “Democracy is about making choices, and people need to take ownership of their choices.”

    1. Mario Andreddi

      You pasted a quote that states: “Democracy is about making choices, and people need to take ownership of their choices”. Do you think students are not taking ownership of their choices? Do they not understand the ramifications of accruing 45k in graduate school debt alone? Maybe so, but when I finally was handed the diploma by my major professor it was only the beginning. You can’t judge the first six years or so out of a program to harshly. Those are the years that are the hardest financially for most students as their loan payments are stifling any notion of major purchases. It took me and my girlfriend a little over six years to really feel comfortable making any major purchases, once graduate school was over. But, hey life does go on, and it does get easier. Medical students and lawyers accrue a much higher debt, and they don’t all make the big bucks right out of school. It’s a process that is chosen, and does eventually pay off for the majority of MFA grads. It is not for everyone that’s for sure. When I had my last showing in show in NYC a couple years ago, this discussion came up with a large table of painters. We all felt is was totally worth it in retrospect, although difficult. I wonder why the tone was so much different by the glasstire writers. How many of them graduated with a studio art MFA in the last ten years? How do you even have a reliable frame of reference if not? You either get it, or you don’t. The degree is meant to declare a separation between those who make this choice and see it through, and those who don’t. It’s a time of major concentration for an artist, it’s where you finally become serious. A big part of that seriousness is the commitment of time and money. Without these aspects, an M.F.A. doesn’t separate talent anymore. Then the less serious, the less committed, the less brave will participate.

        1. It’s possible to do in comment sections of other sites using the same platform, so they must’ve deliberately disabled the feature. I think it means they want us to use our words.

    1. seth alverson

      It’s true! It’s a meeeeee! I’m so successful. The search is over. The flagship sedan is actually a Subaru Forester. That counts right?

  8. Rainey Knudson

    More grist for this mill: http://www.wsj.com/articles/colleges-flex-lobbying-muscle-1447037474?alg=y

    Here is the full text of the article:


    Nov. 8, 2015 9:51 p.m. ET

    Lynchburg College President Kenneth Garren was sipping wine at a reception before Virginia’s gubernatorial inauguration last year when he spotted a familiar face: Sen. Mark Warner.

    Mr. Garren had known the senator for years and had met with the lawmaker’s daughter on campus when she was considering applying to the small Christian college. At the inauguration party, Mr. Garren says, he buttonholed the senator and urged him to oppose a plan from President Barack Obama to create a ratings system for colleges.

    Mr. Warner (D., Va.) announced two months later that he opposed Mr. Obama’s plan, saying he had been persuaded by Mr. Garren and other Virginia college presidents. Scores of other members of Congress did the same, and this summer, Mr. Obama announced that he was backing off key elements. The Education Department released a searchable database about colleges in September, but left the ratings possibilities to others.

    Colleges and universities have become one of the most effective lobbying forces in Washington, employing more lobbyists last year than any other industries except drug manufacturing and technology. There are colleges in every congressional district, and 1 in 40 U.S. workers draw a paycheck from a college or university.

    Over the last two decades, the higher-education industry has beaten back dozens of government proposals to measure its successes and failures. It has killed efforts to tighten rules for accrediting schools, defeated a proposed requirement to divulge more information about graduation rates and eliminated funding for state agencies that could have closed bad schools. The proposals had support from both sides of the political aisle.

    The political pressure on higher education is rooted in a simple but vexing question: Is the government getting a good return on the money it is pouring into the U.S. college system? The government’s goal is to enable nearly every American who wants to go to college to do so. Federal spending on loans and grants, on an inflation-adjusted basis, has jumped more than 50% over the past decade to $134 billion last year, and total federal student-loan debt has hit $1.2 trillion.

    Few metrics
    The concern is that it is difficult for students, parents, taxpayers and the government to determine whether the higher-education investment is well spent because there are few clear metrics to determine if schools are succeeding or failing.

    Colleges and their lobbyists say many of the proposed requirements they opposed would have made it more difficult for colleges to serve students of all different abilities and economic means. They say the government can’t possibly determine the best schools for millions of students.

    “What is a good college for one person isn’t good for the next person,” said Sarah Flanagan, the chief lobbyist for an organization of private schools called the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

    Some lobbyists say colleges and universities have been unwilling to suggest alternatives to changes they see as going too far.

    “The problem is that as much as colleges complain about the current regulatory regime, they oppose every reform proposal primarily because they are afraid of the devil they don’t know,” says Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, a higher-education lobbying group.

    The failure of political efforts to require more accountability and transparency means that colleges continue to collect billions of dollars annually in student loans with few strings attached, including schools that don’t graduate many of their students and where loan defaults are high.

    “Their first answer is, ‘No, leave me alone, but give me money,’ ” said Celia Sims, a former education adviser in the Senate and President George W. Bush’s Education Department.

    White House hopefuls from both parties, spurred by growing concern about student debt, are floating proposals to give parents and students new information to better compare colleges on measures from total cost to the likelihood of graduating on time.

    Public universities, private colleges, vocational schools and other higher education institutions employed more than 1,000 lobbyists last year and spent more than $73 million on lobbying, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

    Each of the 435 lawmakers in the U.S. House represents at least one of the nearly 5,500 colleges in the country, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data. On average, each House lawmaker represents a dozen two-year and four-year schools.

    Those colleges employ 3.6 million faculty and staff members, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Four-year colleges alone represent the sixth-largest industry by employment in the country.

    “Pretty much any elected official will take a phone call from the president of the college in their district,” says David Bergeron, a senior Education Department official until 2013.

    Calls to hold colleges more accountable mounted under President George H.W. Bush, when student-loan default rates jumped. In 1992, Mr. Bush signed legislation creating state agencies to evaluate colleges and potentially cut off student-aid funding to poorly performing schools.

    When President Bill Clinton took office, he directed David Longanecker, an assistant secretary at the Education Department, to set up the new regulatory bodies. Mr. Longanecker said the government “deserves some metrics of success from the institutions to give some indication of what students were getting and what the federal government was paying for.”

    Colleges vowed to repeal the legislation. The American Council on Education, a large college lobbying group, sent a letter to thousands of college presidents saying the creation of the agencies amounted to “administrative overreach,” full of “unintended consequences,” recalls Terry Hartle, now its top lobbyist.

    When college presidents flocked to Washington in early 1995 to attend annual association meetings, many met with their representatives.

    David Ruffer, the retired president of the University of Tampa, says there were so many school presidents on Capitol Hill it felt like a reunion. Mr. Ruffer recalls telling lawmakers the government had gone too far. “Our argument was about control and regulation,” he says.

    That appealed to Republicans, who had just taken over Congress on a platform of smaller government.

    At the convention of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Newt Gingrich, the new speaker of the House and a former professor, delivered the keynote speech to about 450 college presidents. Mr. Gingrich called the state agencies intrusive and said they should be scrapped.

    The Education Department’s Mr. Longanecker was standing near Mr. Gingrich as the crowd cheered. He said he knew at that moment the agencies were dead. Mr. Gingrich said in an email he didn’t remember the speech.

    Congress eliminated funding for the agencies that year. Had the regulations survived, Mr. Longanecker says, many colleges with low graduation rates would have been forced to close. “We lost because of the lobbying effort,” he says.

    Colleges faced another challenge in the early 2000s when officials at President George W. Bush’s Education Department suggested creating a federal database to collect and synthesize more information about the cost and quality of college, including better information on graduation rates, total costs and even the average annual salaries of graduates. A bipartisan commission appointed by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings recommended the collection of the data.

    Colleges and universities lobbied against it, arguing that allowing the government to collect such sensitive personal information would invade the privacy of students. The Education Department assured the public it could protect individual student records.

    Duane Litfin, the president of Wheaton College, a Christian school in Illinois, was one of the many who objected. He says he didn’t want the government interfering with his school.

    Mr. Litfin had a line to an influential lawmaker: Rep. Dennis Hastert, a school alumnus then serving as speaker of the House. Mr. Litfin recalls that he spoke to the Republican lawmaker frequently. “Former Speaker Hastert was very sensitive to our concerns,” he says.

    Mr. Hastert was among the many lawmakers who supported legislation introduced in 2005 to ban the Education Department from collecting additional information about students or tracking them over time. That legislation, introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.), became law in 2008.

    Ms. Foxx said in a written statement that the law reflected the “deep concerns that Americans have about government intrusion into their private lives.” Mr. Hastert, who left Congress in 2007, couldn’t be reached for comment. Last month, he pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge in connection with an alleged scheme to cover up misconduct with hush money.

    The commission formed by Ms. Spellings also focused on accreditors—nonprofit groups made up of colleges that determine if schools are qualified to operate. The federal government requires schools to be accredited before their students can receive loans.

    Accreditors have long resisted performance standards, saying their mission is to improve weak schools, not shut them down. The commission recommended that accreditors find a way, such as a test, to determine how much students were learning. That would allow the public to compare schools.

    Many school presidents complained to lawmakers that the proposal intruded on their independence. “It was a total onslaught, both in terms of letter writing and lobbying to stop the department,” says Vickie Schray, then a senior Education Department adviser.

    Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), a former education secretary, introduced legislation to block the government from setting accreditation standards without congressional approval. Mr. Alexander’s spokeswoman says the senator thought the Education Department’s proposed accreditation changes were too “prescriptive.”

    As the legislation was being considered, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont approached Mr. Alexander on the Senate floor, according to a Senate aide who witnessed the exchange. Mr. Sanders said he had heard from every college president in Vermont urging him to support it, so he would, according to the aide. A spokesman for Mr. Sanders, who is now seeking the Democratic nomination for president, declined to comment. The law passed in 2008.

    Ratings plan
    In August 2013, President Obama announced a college-ratings plan under which the government would collect and analyze data on graduation rates and student-debt loads. Mr. Obama said the goal was to allow parents, students and the government to “get a bigger bang for their buck.” The plan was to slot colleges into three broad categories: high performing, low performing and the rest.

    Money would be on the line. Poorly performing schools could lose student-aid money, while colleges that “are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer money going up,” he said.

    Mr. Obama wanted to establish the ratings plan by the start of the 2015-16 school year and to begin reallocating student aid by 2018.

    Colleges complained that the government shouldn’t be in charge of weighing the numerous factors that go into determining colleges’ performance.

    Lynchburg College’s Mr. Garren worried that smaller private schools like his, which draw average-performing students from rural Virginia, would be compared with Ivy League schools and large state universities, even though they catered to different types of students.

    When Mr. Garren spotted Mr. Warner at the gubernatorial event in January 2014, he recalls, he marched across the room at the Jefferson Hotel and told the senator: “The government doesn’t have a right to tell people what the best schools are.”

    A few months later, Mr. Warner became one of the first Democrats to announce his opposition. “Not every group of students is going to go to the same place,” he said in a speech at Liberty University, echoing Mr. Garren’s objections. “You want to make sure you give that B or C student…a chance to get to college.”

    In February 2014, Mr. Garren was in Washington for a conference for college presidents. He hailed a cab to Capitol Hill and arranged meetings with other Virginia lawmakers.

    He met Rep. Robert Goodlatte, a Republican, who took the lead opposing the ratings plan. Mr. Goodlatte’s district is home to more than two dozen colleges and universities.

    Mr. Goodlatte says he received a letter opposing the plan from every school in Virginia, and he met with several college presidents, including Mr. Garren.

    “I was pretty alarmed at what he was telling me,” recalls Mr. Goodlatte. “These are significant employers in many districts and, when they speak with one voice, it’s powerful.”

    In June, the Education Department announced it wouldn’t rate the colleges and or try to tie performance to federal dollars.

    Among its rationale: It had little support from colleges and universities.

    Write to Brody Mullins at brody.mullins@wsj.com, Douglas Belkin at doug.belkin@wsj.com and Andrea Fuller at andrea.fuller@wsj.com

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