Why is professional practice not mandatory in BFA programs?

It has now been 2 years since I have graduated university. After a blissful and much deserved 5 month hiatus in Central America, I found myself “back to reality” in Halifax… Jobless, penniless, and feeling somewhat hopeless. If your not into teaching, it’s pretty difficult to find a job in your field with a BFA. I suppose no matter what background your coming from, finding work is pretty tough these days.

In the interest of preserving my sanity in the long term, I started very slowly to build up my own business (some may call that a sanity killer but anywho…). This has always been a goal of mine because I’m not too interested in teaching full time, I’ve worked too long in food service (a job which tends to not have much room for growth), and to be perfectly honest, I have issues with authority and I don’t like people telling me what to do (especially when what they’re telling me to do  makes no sense and caters to the wants and “needs” of uptight, elitest, ignorant asswads with no souls …. but I digress…)

So as I began my journey, learning oh so slowly what works and what doesn’t, I realized I couldn’t really get ahead of anything. “Business” was such a foreign term, if not a kind of 4-letter word.. I seemed unbelievably unorganized, despite my constant attempts at organization and I valued very little my time and effort. It started to make me think, especially as of very recently during 2 great meetings with my partner’s father, Celes Davar, that it could have really helped to have some kind of professional practice class mandatory in my art degree. There was in fact a professional practice class offered at my uni but it wasn’t mandatory, and in all honesty, I had a pretty good idea of how in debt I was going to be so I figured I’d try to make my time in school as short and sweet as I could (as short and sweet as I could after 8 years in my undergrad….guh) So I didn’t take the class… an I am sure that quite a few folks did the same.

So the meeting I had with Celes was basically around forming a strategy for my business: product diversifying, product development, understanding my markets, using spreadsheets (oh my golly where have YOU been all my life!?…Hand made inventory logs are cute and all but I could be spending my time a bit better ), pricing, and overall just laying it all out and making future plans (an act that terrifies me… I dont know what’s going on next week, nevermind in 3 years…). I feel like I have gained a whole new understanding of my business; where I am, where I see myself being, how to get there, new ways of thinking and diversifying, what my core values are… so much!! I am motivated and exited because instead of Mule Mother Books being half opened packages, chewed up by a dog spread about the floor, it looks more like numbered parcels laid before me that I open in order… sigh….

So why weren’t we taught this in school? I do remember hearing from one guest artist about how you need to look at your art practice like a business… sure, yes, makes sense. But what does that mean? And maybe I’m alone in this, but coming out of art school, I was practically giving my paintings away, had no idea how to place value on anything I did, had no clue how to handle taxes and and my budget… what a mess…

What I was told to do in school was to write grants… Look for money in all the little hiding places, write a good proposal (still not too clear on what that is..) and hope for the best… And yes, grant writing is a super good skill to have and yes, there was some emphasis in uni, but how can this be the only option? Sell your work and get grants… forever and ever and work a food service job and make work and wait to get money.

It’s as if you are told over and over the importance and value of art in our society, yet we are rarely given a framework for which to place a value on our time and effort as artists and craftspeople. We are not given the proper tools for operating outside the grant system and within the business world. These tools can enable us grow our “business minds” along with our “artist brains” instead of them sabotaging each other.

Anyways, just a thought.