Abolish Undergraduate Art Majors

Article Review
A Modest Proposal by Tony Kushner, American Theatre, January 1998
Keynote address to Association of Theatre of Higher Education Conference

I don’t think you earn your income as an artist to be an artist. But if you are an artist, the artist is what you do, whether or not you’re paid for doing it; it is what you do, not what you are. I regard artist not as a description of temperament but as a category of profession, of vocation. What we call education in the arts is mostly training; it is, in fact vocational training.

This being the year of my ten-year high school reunion I could not help but look back to see what has become of my twenty-eight years of living. While the creation of social media outlets like facebook and myspace allows one to easily connect with people from the past, one’s ideals, hopes and goals of days gone might not so easily within reach.

The summer before my senior year in high school I just had been through a mountain-top experience at the two-week seminar for high school juniors at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. With all the passion and drive of a hormonal seventeen year old, I was ready to enter my senior year and begin my life devotion to the theater. I quit the basketball team to assistant direct the one play that was produced that year and pursued acting and auditioning outside of school.

That January I read the article A Modest Proposal by Tony Kushner published in the American Theatre magazine. I was floored by his premise to abolish all undergraduate art majors. Being from a small town in central California, where the cows at times out numbered the people and my total graduation class was a couple of hundred students, I thought maybe this was crazy east coast, liberal arts ideals rearing its ugly head. As I read the article I grew to appreciate the ideas Kushner proposed, specifically the desire for young artists to receive an education and not merely vocational training. I wished I could say I followed his advice, but I fell into the trap of training. I moved to Los Angeles so I could get an undergraduate degree in communication and theater. Like many students I thought it was the best situation. I was able to get a degree, study theater and pursue acting in Los Angeles. Many good things came from that decision, a beautiful wife, life long friends and studying with some great mentors, but looking back I wonder if I sacrificed formative years of education at the alter of vocational training. As I pursue a graduate degree in theater education I decided to re-read Kushner’s article to see what has changed, if anything. Undergraduate art majors are growing more than ever so what can be taken away from the article now?

Kushner’s proposal is simple: abolish all undergraduate art majors. His thesis is wrapped in the idea that the institutions have exchanged education for vocational training, since the undergraduate arts majors mill is almost as profitable for cash-strapped institutions of higher learning as pesticide development and biochemical warfare research, certainly considerably more profitable than liberal arts departments. Colleges and universities main goal is to make money and with so many people wanting to pursue the arts, the schools are going to go where the money is flowing. What college would deny eighteen year old students the right to pursue a major in theater, visual arts, writing, filmmaking, photography or musical composition? According to Kusher, schools that elevated education over training. Education, as opposed to training, I think, addresses not what you do, or will do, or will be able to do in the world. Education addresses who you are, or will be, or will be able to be.

How is one supposed to study to be an artist? Vocational training in of itself is not bad. The article points out there are many graduate programs, conservatories and private schools in all major cities that will be happy to take your money for exchange in how to make it in the profession. Seventeen through twenty-one year old undergraduate students don’t need vocational arts training, they need an education. Think of the liberal arts, in other words, as meta-Acting Training for Life.

Kusher continues, “The vocalization of the liberal arts undergraduate education echoes the loss in the world at large of interest in the grand dialectic of life, in all dialectics, in breadth, in depth, in thinking as a necessary luxury, in the Utopian”. Jill Dolan in her book Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theatre and in her speech to the Association for Theatre in Higher Education entitled Unhappy Thespians: A Manifesto on Training Theatre Students continues where Kushner left off. She is a practioner of the idea that education should be the focus and models this at Princeton University where the school’s motto of arts education seems to echo what Kushner recommends.

Believing that the best training for a career in the theater is a broad-based liberal arts education, Princeton does not have a concentration in Theater. Instead, we offer a certificate in Theater and encourage students, should they have the inclination, to make connections in their artistic work between their fields of concentration and their love of the theater. The program offers the kinds of courses and co-curricular activities that will allow the student, upon graduation, to move into the best graduate conservatories to pursue advanced training in playwriting, acting, directing, design, stage management, and dramaturgy. But most students who take courses in the program do not elect to enter the certificate program; they simply enroll in the courses that interest them. Students with a particular interest in and commitment to the arts, however, may want to obtain the program certificate.

This mindset seems to be echoed in the work of Dr. Scott Walters in the writings of his blog Theatre Ideas and his work at University of North Carolina-Asheville. In a recent post he describes the sympathy for the students in trying to embrace this type of arts education.

And so when they arrive in a class like Dolan’s, or in my own, they revolt against the attempt [from teachers] to encourage them to think, to develop their own ideas, their own beliefs, and develop them as part of a rich conversation that has been ongoing for 2500 years — because they know that it is a lie; that once they leave that particular classroom, they will once again be forced to erase themselves. Why go through the pain of developing as a unique individual when one must rejoin the masses again in order to survive, to be cast? I have sympathy for them, because they have been told that there are no alternatives, and those who have revolted against those limited opportunities by college have self-selected themselves into other departments, other field of endeavor.

In a undergraduate performing arts program the mentality is to shape the curriculum based on the industry. The problem is that colleges and universities are not supposed to be extensions of the entertainment industry, but rather they are to produce what Dolan calls artist-citizen-scholars. Artists that question society and through their art speak for those that do not have a voice. Instead performing art students are trained to accept the fact that they are viewed by all in the industry as an equivalent of a coke can, a product that is to make money for agents, managers, producers, advertising firms and production companies and if they are lucky have some money left over for themselves.

As Kushner pointed out ten years ago, “I can say let’s get rid of it and we don’t have to worry that anything will actually happen.” The same holds true now. As long as it makes money the schools will not get rid of undergraduate art majors or offer sufficient alternatives. As an educator what can I hope for is that there will be more teachers like Dolan and Walters who try to change the system from within. Teachers who show the students an alternative so that one or two might see the current form of arts education as a facade and that an education that can truly benefit an artist is much bigger and broader than what is currently being offered. How is this specifically to be done? Kushner’s suggests, “What I would hope you might consider doing is tricking your undergraduate art major students. Let them think they’ve arrived for a vocational training and then pull a switcheroo. Instead of doing improv rehearsals, make them read The Death of Ivan Illych and find some reason why this was necessary in learning improv.”

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    18 thoughts on “Abolish Undergraduate Art Majors

    1. Juanita Gomez

      Whether or not it is the intent of the educational system for this to be the case, i daresay that most people go to college so that when they graduate, they will be able to get a job. I would say that a very small percentage of students attend class for the pure joy of scholarship and learning. Therefore, most majors have become vocational training. Would you suggest that we abolish all majors?

      I’m in an undergraduate art major and who knows? Maybe I have been brainwashed, but I feel that I’m getting and education and discovering more about who I am than anyone majoring in business or food science. I don’t know about other programs, but in the one in which I am currently enrolled, only the 4th year is vocational training. The rest is training, surely, but through that training one discovers more about oneself, human nature, and the world itself than one would simply suffering through a class about something that doesn’t thrill or excite.

      The training about which you are speaking must not be good training, or I think that the students would be getting an education, and a damn good one. When one really studies an art to the deepest level that one is able, one broadens one’s mind exponentially.

      “What’s wrong with training?” a student of one of my teachers asked him. The student then added, “Nothing.”

    2. dennisbaker

      Thanks for commenting Juanita. I think you do need skills for a job once you graduate college and that can still happen without vocational artist training. You mention that your program is about discovering of oneself, human nature and the world itself. That is all great, but how are they doing that? Are they having you explore classical literature and history or is it through acting exercises and scene work? I would argue that an undergraduate should focus more on literature and history and less on scene work and acting exercises, but in a BFA program a student is required to take less education courses in exchange for vocational courses.

      If you think your vocational track suits you just right then I would ask what is you program doing to show you that Hollywood and Broadway are not the only options for being an actor? How are they helping you explore all the different options of what it means to be an artist beyond self exploration?

      Second, what is your program doing to help you build up career options when you do not get consistent work as an actor? If you are looking to get a job once school is complete you will need more than three years of self exploration. Do they encourage you to take business courses? Do they want you to explore other fields so you can have a day job that you enjoy and can receive enough income to pay for an expensive acting career? If not, I hope you are finding that yourself, as I would argue that it is unfortunate that theater programs do not make that as much of an importance as finding the artist within.

    3. Scott Walters

      In the theatre, anyone who thinks that college prepares them to get a job in theatre is deluded. How can we possibly make the argument that this is in any way true when 86% of those who have already attained union status are unemployed? Employability is a chimera, a con game perpetrated by theatre departments. We should be educating artists, not training anyone. They should be enriching your soul, helping you understand what you value, how you will interact with others, what you believe. They should be introducing you to rich, wise voices from the past who will enter your heart and sing with you when you speak your truths. They should be deepening you as a human being, so when you create art is has resonance and power. Some of this can be done through the passing on of skills, but not all. And some of those skills should have transferability to other endeavors — knowing the skill of grantwriting helps you as an artist, but also gives you a skill that is transferable to other types of work as well. Collaboration skills, leadership, social entrepreneurship, public speaking and presentation design — all are applicable within and outside the arts. These should be taught as much as Meisner technique and rendering skills. But artistry is a process that comes from encounters with great works of art, great thoughts, great actions. And artistry, not training, is what is needed most now in all of the art forms.

    4. Mick Montgomery

      While, I agree entirely with your point Scott (undergrad work is not about vocational training), I don’t think current “Undergrad or Graduate” Programs do a good job of providing a “Process that comes from encounters with great works of art, great thoughts, great actions” either.

      I am a private coach and instructor in Los Angeles. I teach in the most competitive acting market in the world, where even less than 86% of Union workers are employed.

      I have taught several actors who come from reputable schools (Florida State, Stamford, UCLA) who are neither prepared for the acting business nor are they prepared to be a truly gifted artist. I find that the Under-graduate and Graduate programs are more focused on developing an academic perspective on acting and less of an actual artistic approach to acting. I see many artists who ‘understand’ the tenants of theory, but don’t really have an actual technique.

      My experience has shown me that the actor with a degree is less successful in Los Angeles, than an actor who has trained at a private studio. The actor with the degree often feels they ‘know how to act’ and when the discover they do not, their entire world tends to crumble, and that’s when they give up. Where as, a student who finds a solid program outside of collegiate academia tends to have no ego about learning how to act. They train for a year, grow, audition and book work. It’s probably due to the fact that the person without the degree may have spent their formative years learning how to work, not just learning how to chug a beer bong.

      So, what’s the difference? How come the person who spends thousands of dollars for a degree cannot find work? The difference between my students and a student at an undergraduate program? They’re more focused. They’re not worried about a collegiate social life, or ‘getting into the spring Musical’. They want to just learn how to act and then how to book work.

      I believe that Acting is both Art and Craft. I believe that the Universities must teach actors how to do both. How to be a great artist and how to book work. It must be part vocational training and part artistic development. Sadly, they do neither at this point.

    5. Scott Walters

      Mick — I agree with you that most universities are doing neither job well. The university has been flooded with professors with MFA’s whose interest in anything beyond putting up the next show is pretty minimal. I agree: if you want to succeed in Los Angeles, then go to a place like yours. From my viewpoint, I have absolutely no interest in training young people to enter the LA or NY markets, and so I am totally happy to clear the field for your takeover. I am interested in educating thoughtful, reflective, thinking artists who have an interest in creating meaningful art in a healthy and communicative relationship with a general public outside of the major metropolises. The skills required to do that are very different than those required to enter the LA film world. I would also guess that your students differ from the undergraduate as far as their age is concerned, which frankly sure helps with focus.

    6. Mick Montgomery

      Rest assured, I am in creating ” thoughtful, reflective, thinking artists who have an interest in creating meaningful art in a healthy and communicative relationship with a general public outside of the major metropolises.” I believe that folks can only sustain careers in Los Angeles and New York for so long before they burn out, they can then journey outside the metro battle grounds into smaller communities and make an impact. At least that is my hope.

    7. Juanita Gomez

      Dennis, I don’t know that I’m going to end up covering all of the questions that you asked, but I wanted to say something about your recommendation that the training programs emphasize the need for a day job in order to support oneself in one’s acting career. Perhaps I am wrong and I need my training program to tell me otherwise, but I want to be an actor above anything else, and I believe that the only way to do that is to devote myself entirely to that endeavor. Oh, certainly, I’ll end up bartending or something to pay the bills, but I don’t feel the need to consider a career to “fall back on” until I throw myself entirely into the acting business, do whatever I can, and find that nothing works. If I only put half of myself and my heart into the pursuit of a goal that so many others are competing with me to attain, I almost certainly will not be able to get where I want to go. However, if, in fact, I devote my whole self to the attempt to “make it” as they say, and it seems that I’m simply not cut out for show biz, well then I’m sure there will be something I will be able to do. I’ll graduate from school with, if nothing else, excellent communication skills and a personal presence that will help me get hired in any number of professions that involve those skills. When I was in junior high school, someone came in to our class to speak to us who graduated from college with a degree in French intending to be a translator at the UN, and he eventually became a successful stock broker.

      Maybe this is a naive world view, but I have a fairly broad sense of what I want to do and be, and I’m going to try with everything I have to do and be that. I’m not going to compromise my dreams because they’re not realistic. There will come a time when I have to face reality, but right now, I have the potential do or be anything, and who are you or anyone else to tell me I don’t? Certainly, through trial and error, I’ll find what I’m not cut out for, but until then, I’m going to have my head in the clouds and I don’t want any university professors telling me I shouldn’t.

      Say you were in a program that told you that you weren’t cut out to be an actor and asked you to leave. What would you do? Would you just give up on theater altogether or would you keep trying because you know it’s what you want? Teachers are there to tell us many valuable things, but “don’t try fully just in case you get hurt” is not one of them.

    8. dennisbaker

      I understand wanting to be an actor above anything else. That is a drive that will be needed in this profession. But I think it is a broken system that tells you that you have to pursue it at all finical costs. That one should work as a bartender, while “pursuing” your career. I also know alot of forty year old bartenders still trying to “pursue” their careers.

      I think you might be misunderstanding my comment. I am not recommending anyone comprise their dreams. I am using my experience to share the fact that their will be many days when a flexible job, that pays well, will be very helpful for an actor. Many flexible jobs that pay well (business, graphic design, etc.) require skills. So while one is pursuing their theater degree, why not also gain other skills that will help you pay for your actor’s life. I know many actors who are so busying working their day job to pay for their headshots, classes, workshops, etc. that they don’t have a lot of time to audition. Or they are working in a super flexible job that does not pay well and they can’t afford all the headshots, classes, and workshops they are being told they need to take to stay ahead.

      Your hypothetical is actually true. I was in an acting program in which they told me I was not cut out to be an actor and was asked to leave. I am not giving up acting, but I also need to pay the bills and glad I had computer skills to pay for loans from the school that kicked me out. Again, I am not saying don’t try. What I am saying is to diversify and have as many different skills, in as many different fields, as possible. So when there are down times in acting, you have other skills that still let you do things you love.

    9. Scott Walters

      I don’t think Dennis is asking you to “compromise” your “dreams” because they aren’t “realistic.” He is suggesting that the best way to realize your dreams is to spend as little time as possible doing other things, and the best way to do that is to have a skill that allows you to be paid a good salary while being flexible enough to allow you to pursue your dreams.

      Dennis, what you are seeing here is the result of so-called college “training,” which encourages young people to close their eyes tightly and chant “I am special! I AM special!” while ignoring reality. The reality is 86% unemployment, and 50% of Actors Equity not having any Equity-sanctioned work during any given year.

      In actor training, an actor is asked what his character wants, and how they are going to try to get it. But there is a third part to that equation that is often ignored, and that is “how do you know when you’ve gotten it?” The same is true of what passes for “career planning” in most theatre departments — students come out of it knowing what they want to do (“make it”), how they’re going to do it (work as a bartender and audition), but rarely are they asked how they know when they’ve reached their goal — i.e., what does it mean to “make it”? Does it mean: do a single show on Broadway? Does it mean make 100% of their money acting? 90%? 80%? 50%? Does it mean “become rich and famous in theatre/TV/film?” Just what is the bar? Not the dream, not the maximum success — what is the minimum success that will allow you to keep going year after year? And what type of things do you want to do? Anything? Only “good work”? Whaty does that mean? Will you appear in schlock? Will you compromise your morals? Will you allow yourself to be exploited as a means to an end? And how long will you allow yourself to struggle until you decide it is time to seek another route?

      Dennis is proposing a very real route — one that allows you to spend as little time as possible putting food on the table and a roof over your head. Malcolm Gladwell, in his latest book “Outliers,” proposes the rule of 10,000 — that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become truly excellent at anything in life. So the fewest number of hours you have to spend working a day job, the more hours you have available to get that 10,000 under your belt.

      Now, I[ll go one step further: why New York when there are places all over this country dying for theatre? I know, I know — its your “dream.” Which says to me that you care less about the work itself than on using the work for some other goal: prestige, fame, fortune. Me? I’m interested in working with people who care about the art form, not their own self-promotion. That’s my “dream.”

    10. dennisbaker

      Good to hear from you Scott. Hope you had a good semester. I am thinking if we can getting actors to think along the lines of diversification, one of those options could be to get out and create theater outside of New York, LA or Chicago.

    11. Jonathan Wentz

      Hey Dennis….
      As always I enjoy not only your drive, but your ability to spark conversation.

      To the group:
      I understand what your saying, and what Kushner is getting at…and I am riding the fence
      on agreement and disagreement. I think he’s right in saying that school’s are teaching a vocation and skill set, thinking that leads to financial and artistic success, like any other career. I agree that has created a generation of frustrated and unemployed artists, many of whom end up doing something else anyhow. While I agree being a fully educated artist with an understanding of more than your craft is KEY, don’t agree that abolishing art degree programs is the answer. They key is not confusing vocation with occupation.

      Here’s the problem, as I see it in abolishing the programs, regardless of their success rate. In earlier eras there were guilds, mentoring apprenticeships, and arts patrons to train/fund young artists in their vocation. Now there is no other training ground (albeit sometimes inferior) other then academia. I am not saying that degrees in art aren’t sometimes overrated (no one knows that better than Dennis or I, having been ejected from a reputable MFA NJ program), but in a society stressing higher education and employers/agents/colleges wanting some sort of “guarantee” rather than actually cultivating people’s creativity and talent, what choice do you have?

      I think changing the programs, as some of these educators have suggested, “from within” is an excellent idea….but the reality is MOST of the teachers out there in academia are PART of the dazed and confused generation of over-educated artists. They THEMSELVES are a by-product of the lost dream…many going into academia because they weren’t qualified to do anything else after their art failed to support them. NOT ALL, but MANY. I don’t fault them….but that’s the reality. So the pendulum is swinging the OTHER way now… rather than programs based on ideas and creativity, they are teaching SKILLS, thinking, “Well at least it’s tangible and gradable,” albeit subjective.

      I am half a generation older than Dennis, and although my experience at graduate school ended similarly prematurely, I came into the program for slightly different reasons. I had earned a BFA 20 years ago, (not 2 years ago), and had a career. I went to an undergraduate college that did NOT allow art majors to avoid general studies or “big picture” thinking, (rather than an art institute or conservatory), and I left there with not only skills, but an education that prepared me to make the jump from easel to the corporate world, much the way Kushner is suggesting. But I still NEEDED that degree to get that job. I worked 15 years as an “applied artist” in the “other world” that was supposed to support my artistry. So great…I landed a good job, became a senior designer, got an AVP title and a nearly six-figure salary. In the end I was STILL seeking art outside my work week day, and the balance wasn’t where I had hoped it would be.

      So I came to my MFA experience looking to change careers and become trained as a scenic designer…wanting that skill-based training….KNOWING that the school was about skills, but thinking OF COURSE in an arts program my creativity would follow along because it would be integrated into the process. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Success was determined by deadlines, shop hours and drafting. So be it.

      In the end, I got 5 semesters of on-the-job skill training, more credits than the degree required, and $50,000 in student loans. I did NOT get a degree, I did NOT get a sense of who I was as an artist, nor the conceptual power I thought would be integrated into the education. But I got EXACTLY what I went there for…. on-the-job, slave, skill training, a portfolio, and a chance to change my career.

      Is that the FULL experience an MFA should be? Probably not.
      Is that what I hoped would be an entrance into the theatre world? Definitely not.

      But if I had thought back and remembered my first years after undergrad, I would have remembered that a degree isn’t a golden elevator to anywhere, the least of all artistic success, but a key to opening a door of opportunity to show your own potential. I put too much stock in the fact that an MFA was going to be magic wand to success.

      Sadly, despite it NOT being the complete experience I had hoped, academia is still one of the few tangible avenues left in the world to be trained as an artist. I took the only route available to a 41yo graphic designer who wants to be scenic designer, same as I did 23 years ago when an 18yo fine artist who went and pursued a BFA in graphic design.

      Academia isn’t the end all, but it is the beginning…and if you go into it with your eyes open, you can come out the other side having gained something useful to pursue the arts.
      The mistake is being blinded by “the dream.”

      Ultimately, for me, being an artist IS a vocation, not just an occupation. It’s an outlook, an approach, a way of living your life, and the secret is FINDING the art in whatever you do…rather than just in the performance or painting.

    12. Kristen Greene

      Hey Dennis,
      I’m really ejoying reading all of your blog and miss getting to have face to face chats with you!
      And this is an entry that I feel I need to comment on.
      I am in my third year in a BFA conservatory program. (the same conservatory that dennis and jonathan were asked to leave.) I’m not an actor, but a stage manager; but I feel that the subject still applies. I know that my program is more vocation than education, but that was what I wanted when I was choosing my school. I was eighth in my class in hight school and had a 4.5 gpa. My guidance counselor tried to convince me to go to ‘more academic school’ and I looked at a ton of other majors. In the end, however, I couldn’t see the point of going to school for something that wasn’t what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. I knew it was risky, but I felt it was in my best interest to dive into the profession as head on as possible to put me in place for the greatest success possible when i graduate. I feel that stage management and the skills needed for it can be very hard to teach. And while therre are classes that help to enhance my abilities for the career I am moving towards I feel that sometimes pure experience is the most helpful thing. I think that the most eye opening and helpful experiences in my program thus far have been the shows that I have been assigned to and the internship that I just did in my semester abroad in London. People can explain to you stage management skills and life skills all they want, but until you can watch those skills in action I dont think you can truly understand them.And I think that vocation is what can give you that edge in today’s shrinking entertainment world. People are looking for experience, and those millions of shows you are forced to do are the experience that gets to go on your resume. And when it really boils down to it, theater is all about the connections. Being at a conservatory causes you to intermingle with other practiconers of theater (your classmates) and by working on productions and working practically in classes people get to see your skills and have a clearer idea of if they would want to work with you in the future. I have already gotten job offers from graduates and current students at my conservatory (nothing big of course) and know that I have those connections for the future.
      In terms of having a better back up plan or day job to support yourself: my high school drama teacher (and one of my biggest mentors) said to me, “If you have a back up plan your never going to succeed at what you really want to do.” I took that to heart in going to a conservatory and keep it in mind throughout this process. I tell myself all the time, I’m going to be a stage manager. the end. At the same time, however, I work as an entertainment supervisor for a pretty well known theme park. I am the youngest supervisor in my department, and I know that I could work my way further up the ranks in this company and have a pretty well paying, benefit including full time job. I don’t consider it a back up plan, but I know that i have management skills and it provides me with paychecks.

      I know that I am an intelegent person and I know that I am well rounded, and I think I can be those things and that those things can be enhanced through a conservatory program. I know I’ll succeed at something in life, and for right now I’m convinced its stage management.

    13. dennisbaker

      Thanks for sharing Kristen. Good to hear from you.

      Do you think there will be a point in your career that you might be doing something you do not want to do? My guess is yes because, like actors, there could be years before a theater artist gets a job that pays the bills.

      Anyone who has been in the arts long enough has been told, “If you have a back up plan your never going to succeed at what you really want to do.” As I mention in the post Artistic Diversification I think that comment is a lie. That comment usually referrs to the “back up plan” that is a full time job with a six figure income. I can work in a part-time job that I enjoy, that pays better than working as a barista at Starbucks or a waiter at a restaurant, and still pursue acting, theater, etc. Because its a marathon and therefore if one works in a different field for a couple of months or a year it does not mean that they will never work as an artist.

      The idea of a starving artist, along with the “back up” quote, are lies that cause an artist to “sacrifice” for their art when really they are using what little money they have to pay into a system that tells artists they need to spend money on x,y, and z to “make it”.

    14. anthony gately

      I am currently pursuing a BFA degree at a liberal arts college and I have recently encountered Tony Kushner’s ‘A Modest Proposal’ and your blog. After experiencing such an arts program Kushner discusses for a couple of years, I agree very much with the idea that such programs/degrees should be abolished or at least altered so that one receives a more well rounded education.
      I am immersed in various scene work, movement and voice and speech classes and have taken only a handful of ‘academic’ classes through my college career. I do wish I took more but due to the requirements of the BFA, I am unable to. I wonder if it would be a good idea to transfer to a BA theater or any other degree so I may be able to take other general courses? Your thoughts?
      I had also thought of pursuing a MFA degree in Acting or Directing in a few years. But I really want to teach theater whether it be in acting, directing, theater history, etc. I wouldn’t stop acting either though; perhaps I could do both. The problem I find with such programs is that if you are not serious about becoming a full time actor, you will not be accepted. Yet, I want to be able to explore more of the techniques so that I will be able to teach it more efficiently, if that’s what I decide to do.
      So the point of me writing is the have some advice from someone who has been in my position before. What do you (or anyone else reading) suggest I do? Do you recommend I leave the BFA program I am in already? Should I wait it out? Do you suggest not to get a MFA but perhaps another type of degree? I am open to any sort of thoughts or suggestions.
      I appreciate your time.

      Thank you

    15. Dennis Baker


      Thanks for the response. I am sorry to hear that the BFA program is not what you expected. There is alot to consider before deciding to switch degrees. What year in the program are you? How much would it cost in extra classes to switch degrees?

      If you are looking to teach, maybe an MFA program is initially not the best place to go as many programs do not teach you how to teach. Check in the M.A. program in Educational Theater. There are programs at NYU, Boston and Arizona and Texas. These places will teach you how to become a good teacher and open your eyes to how theater can be used outside of just performing professionally. After an MA program, if you want to still get an MFA you can do so.

    16. Rachel

      In high school, I was interested in theatre, acting, etc and was well-advised to look into getting a liberal arts education because “a well-rounded education makes for a well-rounded artist.” I ended up not going to college directly and when I returned, I was more interested in visual arts. Apparently, I forgot that earlier advice because I signed up for a BFA program at a huge university with a good arts program and mediocre academics- and I hated it. I transferred my second semester to a small, liberal arts college that was more academically stimulating.

      But now I am in a pickle because I love all my liberal arts classes and am actually planning to triple-major (Arts, French, International Studies) but the arts education there is lacking and I don’t feel like I’m learning anything new or being challenged. So what should I do? I am thinking of just finishing up early with the non-arts degrees and then pursuing intensive vocational arts training at the graduate level, but I think my chances at getting into a good MFA program would be poor if I only minored in art and never had the opportunity to really develop my work as an undergrad. How important is an MFA to becoming a working artist?

      It seems as if you are suggesting artists just chill out on getting any sort of arts training in university and focus on the other liberal arts stuff. But what do you do if you went the liberal arts route but now you aren’t being challenged artistically or taught foundational art skills? I mean, I am pretty much the epitome of this article (broad, well-rounded education) and yet I’m wondering if I should have just gone the art school route at this point. Is there a way to combine the best of both worlds?

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