What confronts today’s tertiary art institutions, their staff and, not least, art students, is a complexand shifting geopolitical situation in which art and education are undergoing unpredictable transformations. Simply put, what role does an undergraduate or graduate degree (particularly the dramatic expansion of the PhD) play in the education of artists? Everywhere one looks there are substantial ‘push-and-pull’ factors—inventiveness versus tradition, experimentation versus resistance. Each particular tertiary institution will respond differently, depending on its context—culture, geography, history, politics and economics—in terms of its willingness to explore the educative, critical and professional value of enhancing the creative, research and occupational horizons of our art students.
In their social and psychic lives, artists who teach, and their students, are not only engaged in the (new) art-historical, generic, and pedagogic intricacies of their evolving art forms; they are also concerned with intellectual emancipation and inventiveness. This goes against the free-market ideology that is seeping into our universities, art schools, museums, and other cultural institutions. Artists who teach often see themselves as ‘foreriders’ of aesthetic and cultural critique; they prize reflexive knowledge and open-ended, research-oriented pedagogy that is located within the students’ own existential horizons. This ‘one-to-one’, mutually enhancing teacher-student relationship in the studios of the art school questions the utilitarian and vocational instrumentalism of the post-Fordist university and its imbrication in this century’s New World order.
How will an education in the visual arts benefit the present and future generations of students? What opportunities does it create for those who wish to be artists in our increasingly globalised and turbulent world?
These are some of the pressing questions, which will be addressed in this paper.