occupylincoln4

Architecture and Art Grads Unemployed, Occupy the Arts Protesting

As Mitt Romney who is said to be the richest presidential hopeful we have ever had squeaked out of the Iowa caucuses with eight votes, The Washington Post reported today that arts and architecture graduates have the highest rates of unemployment in our society today, according to a study being released by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. The numbers are sad indeed: new architecture grads’ unemployment is at 13.9 percent, arts grad unemployment at 11.1 percent and the humanities at 9.4 percent), according to the study. Health and education degrees fared significantly better with unemployment at just 5.4 percent, and agriculture and natural resources’ grads unemployment numbers at 7 percent (a reason that Iowa has been said to be doing better than the country at large.)

Meanwhile, Monday on the blog Jumper (dedicated to “what the arts do and why”), author Diane Ragsdale picked up “conversations about social inequalities in the arts.” Ragdale asserts that, as her headline puts it, the gulf between the nonprofit fine arts world and the rest of the US is a financial, artistic and psychic gap –

 And we’ve been trying to bridge this gap with duct tape (aka, friends with money) for at least 30 years.

It’s a new year.

What better time to tear off the duct tape, see what holds, and start building something better?

Ragdale’s prompt in turn was a December article in the New York Times by theater critic Anthony Tommasini that dealt in large part with two rallies Occupy the Arts protesters had held in New York after opera performances at the end of last year. Tommasini observed in his story that the United States Court of Appeals upheld a policy of Lincoln Center that has designated it “a limited public forum” where demonstrations cannot occur and leaflets cannot be distributed in its plaza. Wrote Tommasini:

As I listened to these students sing, I thought about the issues of economic inequality that the Occupy Wall Street protesters have moved to the center of political discourse. From the Medici family and Ludwig of Bavaria to Andrew Carnegie and David H. Koch, classical music, like other performing arts, has long depended on the 1 percent.

I’m with Ragsdale. We’ve got to get past the friends with money phenomenon. It may not be just about sitting in the balcony at Tosca or paying $25 to get into MoMa. It is about relevance and why indeed there is judged to be a “luxury” or an “indulgence” to studying those very things that made the cultures that Tommasini references, great.  As I prepare to teach a university class called “thinking about art now,” I hate knowing some of these things, and having to report outward, which is my job, that if we are nurturing a next generation of artists who cannot find work, and without work, cannot create art, we will really be re-examining “the dematerialization of the art object.” (Lucy Lippard’s phrase about the conceptual period of 1966-1972). Those of us who are fortunate enough to be paid to teach. And angry enough to not even know what to say about the tenor of the political debate, and why those things that are our  freedoms are also our rights.

See here George Packer’s December 6 article in the New Yorker: “All the Angry People.”

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