In this episode of the ArtTactic Podcast, Francesca Bellini-Joseph, founder of ACT Programme, reveals how their artist programme works and some of the skills artists learn.May 18, 2021
08:06 Adam Green: So let's start with artists you offer a specific class for, you know, for my conversations with many artists (...) I like to talk to them that they aren't just an artist they're really a small business (...) Are they teaching any of these skill sets nowadays at art school? Or is the education solely focused on making art? And do artists feel prepared to have a career when they leave their MFA programs?
08:54 Francesca Bellini-Joseph: Well, the very notion of entrepreneurship it's already too much to ask art schools! I strongly believe in what you're saying about the idea of artists as entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, this is not taught in art education.
One thing you must know is that the main fear that artists experience is the fear of selling out ⏤this has no nationality, no region and no age.
Entrepreneurship, sales, money, networking are all taboo words in art education. Art schools are constantly antagonising artists with the art market. And, obviously, all those words and concepts are more related to the market than art.
Art education is very much about art thinking ⏤more than art producing. The idea of making art is not really central, as you would expect. It is more about thinking, which is why before curatorial studies became popular, many aspiring curators would study a degree in fine arts.
10:57. In that sense, a central notion to art education is that 'art speaks for itself.' And this is something you would almost always listen to from your tutors and teachers, who in most cases are other artists. But this idea that ‘art speaks for itself’ is almost the opposite of what you will experience as an artist professionally.
So no, I don’t believe most art schools offer enough training in developing professional skills. If they do, it can be like a workshop or a conference to tell artists how to present their work and write about it. But it is not representative of art education.
In my research, I surveyed nearly 200 artists from different nationalities through the networks of various institutions like Delfina Foundation and Gasworks in London, Residency Unlimited in New York, Flora and NC Arte in Bogota. I asked artists about their interest in developing, learning or improving different professional skills. And I also asked them about the main pain points that they suffer in their careers. It was interesting to find that younger generations of artists are looking to gain these skills, and they have experienced or are experiencing similar professional pain points than older generations. This implies that art education hasn't changed much over the years. (Download infographic here)
When you leave art school, in general terms, you leave without understanding these professional skills or knowing how to communicate what they do. But they will need them eventually in their career. When you are a 20-year-old artist, you have the ambition of conquering the world, you know, as all young artists do, or a young person in any profession.
It's only when you reach your 30s or somewhere around that age that you truly realise how difficult it is. You have wonderful work, but you lack the communication and professional skills to stand out. And you are trying to develop your career in a very competitive and possibly shrinking market.