The traditional fine arts are being replaced, slowly disappearing from public view. Drawings are mummified in art museum displays, an obituary of the fine arts. Some university art departments no longer teach life drawing, focusing on contemporary technologies. University tuition is becoming extremely expensive, beyond any measure, and there is only so much room on any BFA curriculum. Students future income security, required to pay that student debt, is ever on assault. Commercialization trumps historicity.

     When I was a an art student studying fine arts was affordable, in the 1970's. Our professors callously left the financing of our lives up to us. They had large repeating Canada Council grants, and good for them, but that teaching and grant strategy is no longer feasible. Student loans weren't even available. I worked through school in advertising as a graphic artist, a fascinating allied profession. At that time graphic design wasn't a degreed subject, but a guided  studio trade. There was hand lettered headlines, hand retouching of photographs, hot metal type, and hand advertising illustration as a mainstay. All gone. 

     University tuition was $800 dollars Canadian. Rent and food was cheap. One didn't need a computer in the 1970's. Today tuition is around 10 times that amount. Student rents are now unaffordable, and so is food. A computer and software is thousands.
     University is not achievable for a lot of talented students, and especially for Fine Arts students, who are taking a long term employment risk. It is time to rethink the rationale of fine arts in a degreed institution.  The encumbrance of student debt is becoming predatory. Installing interior design and graphics degrees is going to help, but isn't a career that can pay the huge university bill. University as a philosophical institution was once only for the very lucky few, or the monastic. The universities democratization was a great feat that may have overreached.

      The repetition of historical european artistic practices can bring post-colonial critiques from an ever increasing authoritarian left. I'm not against any critique, but the lack of civility can lead to a censure of expression, creating speech free zones on college campuses. Art can't exist in a speech free zone, unless its art propaganda.

     The idea that life drawing gives an artist a visual memory from a figural subject, is debunked as a corrupt class, race or gender power relationship.  Figure drawing practices still inform cartooning and fashion design, or are romanticized as soft focus naturalistic visions in academic sepia tones as a kind of laborious illustration for hire. I can't imagine much is really observed or learned, as the studio becomes factory becomes office. Those student debts must really need servicing.

     Fine Art was the pinnacle of a hand craft and guild based society. The individual artists vision was a moral goal in the enlightenment, the product of this vision put on display in treasure palaces for all citizens of the republic to admire. As the means of capitalist production has shifted from hand to machine and to computer guided machine, the valuation of the intellectual labour required is now unnecessary. The technological genius behind the hand axe, the greek statue, the oil painting and the life drawing, are finally supplanted by the minor finger manipulation of information on a graphical user interface, or GUI.  Press A to level up. Hardware and software enables, conforms, amplifies and then automates the mind. 

© Gary G. Erickson 2016