The cost of an education at an art school or in a college art department has gotten too expensive for merely learning how to express oneself in the likes of painting, sculpture, and printmaking. But as Peter Plagens writes in the Chronicle of Higher Ed,
“Who wants to go tens of thousands of dollars into debt just to become another starving artist? Today’s art students now look to the commercial specialties—graphic design, fashion, comic strips and graphic novels, industrial design, textiles, video, filmmaking—to provide them with postgraduate employment and, in the bargain, status as hip young determiners of society’s style.
“This is why the Savannah College of Art and Design awards degrees in more than 40 majors. The school—founded by the hard-driving Paula Wallace in 1979 with just a handful of students—offers courses as varied as figure drawing and marine-vehicle design, with several 3D printers available for student use. The college has about 11,000 students, in Savannah (where it owns more than 60 buildings, including a first-rate contemporary-art museum in a beautifully renovated train station) and at new branches in Atlanta and Hong Kong. Wallace, as president and CEO, reportedly earns about $2-million a year.
“While Savannah’s numerical robustness may be exceptional, the number of students getting degrees in the visual and performing arts in the United States seems to be increasing. According to Americans for the Arts, between 2000 and 2009, the number of bachelor’s degrees rose from 59,000 to about 93,000, and the number of master’s degrees from 11,000 to about 15,000.
“The proliferation of so many art specialties raises the question of whether there any common elements of an educational “foundation.” If there are, how can they be most effectively crammed into a four-year curriculum that’s supposed to produce employment-ready video-game creators, carbon-fiber-kayak designers, and textile artists? Examining this issue is an organization called FATE (Foundations in Art: Theory and Education), 600 of whose members—art teachers in the undergraduate trenches, largely in regional state universities and private colleges and art schools in the “flyover states”—gathered in Savannah in April for its biannual meeting, with the Savannah college as host.”