Here’s just a link to Mr. Lukez’s admonition to draw more- from imagination and life. He references Leonardo’s codexes, and suggests we all channel our inner renaissance guy. He’s a Lexington resident with his business in Somerville, but a worldwide reputation.
The Boston Figurative Art Center is gathering a list of people who would be interested in private or shared creative space in a building in the Somerville area or in a surrounding town. Space will be available for most budgets, and in many configurations- private space on a “time-share” basis, open space with lockers for a more community feel, and larger private spaces.
Please email email@example.com with “studio space” in the subject line, and we will send information when we have it.
Also, please indicate what your preference would be:
Shared space (open, shared room with private areas for supplies)
Time-share (reserved hours in a private space)
Private studio – please indicate size and approximate budget
What types of community or art resources would you like to see in a creative space building? (Wood shop, café, lounge, classroom area, etc.)
Thanks for your help!
BFAC- 6 Vernon St, Somerville
Simply a cautionary tale to those thinking of grad school:
January 30, 2009
Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go
An Academic in American Illustration Careers
By Thomas H. Benton
Nearly six years ago, I wrote a column called “So You Want to Go to Grad
School?” (The Chronicle, June 6, 2003). My purpose was to warn
undergraduates away from pursuing Ph.D.’s in the humanities by telling
them what I had learned about the academic labor system from personal
observation and experience.
It was a message many prospective graduate students were not getting
from their professors, who were generally too eager to clone themselves.
Having heard rumors about unemployed Ph.D.’s, some undergraduates
would ask about job prospects in academe, only to be told, “There are
always jobs for good people.” If the students happened to notice the
increasing numbers of well-published, highly credentialed adjuncts
teaching part time with no benefits, they would be told, “Don’t worry,
massive retirements are coming soon, and then there will be plenty of
positions available.” The encouragement they received from mostly well-
meaning but ill-informed professors was bolstered by the message in our
culture that education always leads to opportunity.
All these years later, I still get letters from undergraduates who stumble
onto that column. They tell me about their interests and accomplishments
and ask whether they should go to graduate school, somehow expecting
me to encourage them. I usually write back, explaining that in this era of
grade inflation (and recommendation inflation), there’s an almost unlimited
supply of students with perfect grades and glowing letters. Of course,
some doctoral program may admit them with full financing, but that doesn’t
mean they are going to find work as professors when it’s all over. The
reality is that less than half of all doctorate holders — after nearly a decade
of preparation, on average — will ever find tenure-track positions.
The follow-up letters I receive from those prospective Ph.D.’s are often
quite angry and incoherent; they’ve been praised their whole lives, and no
one has ever told them that they may not become what they want to be,
that higher education is a business that does not necessarily have their
best interests at heart. Sometimes they accuse me of being threatened by
their obvious talent. I assume they go on to find someone who will tell them
what they want to hear: “Yes, my child, you are the one we’ve been waiting
for all our lives.” It can be painful, but it is better that undergraduates
considering graduate school in the humanities should know the truth now,
instead of when they are 30 and unemployed, or worse, working as
adjuncts at less than the minimum wage under the misguided belief that
more teaching experience and more glowing recommendations will
somehow open the door to a real position.
Most undergraduates don’t realize that there is a shrinking percentage of
positions in the humanities that offer job security, benefits, and a livable
salary (though it is generally much lower than salaries in other fields
requiring as many years of training). They don’t know that you probably will
have to accept living almost anywhere, and that you must also go through
a six-year probationary period at the end of which you may be fired for any
number of reasons and find yourself exiled from the profession. They seem
to think becoming a humanities professor is a reliable prospect — a more
responsible and secure choice than, say, attempting to make it as a
freelance writer, or an actor, or a professional athlete — and, as a result,
they don’t make any fallback plans until it is too late.
I have found that most prospective graduate students have given little
thought to what will happen to them after they complete their doctorates.
They assume that everyone finds a decent position somewhere, even if it’s
“only” at a community college (expressed with a shudder). Besides, the
completion of graduate school seems impossibly far away, so their
concerns are mostly focused on the present. Their motives are usually
some combination of the following:
* They are excited by some subject and believe they have a deep,
sustainable interest in it. (But ask follow-up questions and you find that it is
only deep in relation to their undergraduate peers — not in relation to the
kind of serious dedication you need in graduate programs.)
* They received high grades and a lot of praise from their professors,
and they are not finding similar encouragement outside of an academic
environment. They want to return to a context in which they feel validated.
* They are emerging from 16 years of institutional living: a clear, step-
by-step process of advancement toward a goal, with measured outcomes,
constant reinforcement and support, and clearly defined hierarchies. The
world outside school seems so unstructured, ambiguous, difficult to
navigate, and frightening.
* With the prospect of an unappealing, entry-level job on the horizon, life
in college becomes increasingly idealized. They think graduate school will
continue that romantic experience and enable them to stay in college
forever as teacher-scholars.
* They can’t find a position anywhere that uses the skills on which they
most prided themselves in college. They are forced to learn about new
things that don’t interest them nearly as much. No one is impressed by
their knowledge of Jane Austen. There are no mentors to guide and
protect them, and they turn to former teachers for help.
* They think that graduate school is a good place to hide from the
recession. They’ll spend a few years studying literature, preferably on a
fellowship, and then, if academe doesn’t seem appealing or open to them,
they will simply look for a job when the market has improved. And, you
know, all those baby boomers have to retire someday, and when that
happens, there will be jobs available in academe.
I know I experienced all of those motivations when I was in my early 20s.
The year after I graduated from college (1990) was a recession, and the
best job I could find was selling memberships in a health club, part time, in
a shopping mall in Philadelphia. A graduate fellowship was an escape that
landed me in another city — Miami — with at least enough money to get
by. I was aware that my motives for going to graduate school came from
the anxieties of transitioning out of college and my difficulty finding
appealing work, but I could justify it in practical terms for the last reason I
mentioned: I thought I could just leave academe if something better
presented itself. I mean, someone with a doctorate must be regarded as
something special, right?
Unfortunately, during the three years that I searched for positions outside
of academe, I found that humanities Ph.D.’s, without relevant experience
or technical skills, generally compete at a moderate disadvantage against
undergraduates, and at a serious disadvantage against people with
professional degrees. If you take that path, you will be starting at the
bottom in your 30s, a decade behind your age cohort, with no savings (and
probably a lot of debt).
What almost no prospective graduate students can understand is the
extent to which doctoral education in the humanities socializes idealistic,
naïve, and psychologically vulnerable people into a profession with a very
clear set of values. It teaches them that life outside of academe means
failure, which explains the large numbers of graduates who labor for
decades as adjuncts, just so they can stay on the periphery of academe.
(That’s another topic I’ve written about before; see “Is Graduate School a
Cult?” (The Chronicle, July 2, 2004.)
I fell for the line about faculty retirements that went around back in the
early 90s, thanks to the infamous Bowen and Sosa Report. I still hear that
claim today, from people who ought to know better. Even if the long-
awaited wave of retirements finally arrives, many of those tenure lines will
not be retained, particularly not now, in the context of yet another
Just to be clear: There is work for humanities doctorates (though perhaps
not as many as are currently being produced), but there are fewer and
fewer real jobs because of conscious policy decisions by colleges and
universities. As a result, the handful of real jobs that remain are being
pursued by thousands of qualified people — so many that the minority of
candidates who get tenure-track positions might as well be considered the
winners of a lottery.
Universities (even those with enormous endowments) have historically
taken advantage of recessions to bring austerity to teaching. There will be
hiring freezes and early retirements. Rather than replacements, more
adjuncts will be hired, and more graduate students will be recruited,
eventually flooding the market with even more fully qualified teacher-
scholars who will work for almost nothing. When the recession ends, the
hiring freezes will become permanent, since departments will have
demonstrated that they can function with fewer tenured faculty members.
Nearly every humanities field was already desperately competitive, with
hundreds of applications from qualified candidates for every tenure-track
position. Now the situation is becoming even worse. For example, the
American Historical Association’s job listings are down 15 percent and the
Modern Language’s listings are down 21 percent, the steepest annual
decline ever recorded. Apparently, many already-launched candidate
searches are being called off; some responsible observers expect that
hiring may be down 40 percent this year.
What is 40 percent worse than desperate?
The majority of job seekers who emerge empty-handed this year will return
next year, and for several years after that, and so the competition will
snowball, with more and more people chasing fewer and fewer full-time
Meanwhile, more and more students are flattered to find themselves
admitted to graduate programs; many are taking on considerable debt to
do so. According to the Humanities Indicators Project of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences, about 23 percent of humanities students
end up owing more than $30,000, and more than 14 percent owe more
As things stand, I can only identify a few circumstances under which one
might reasonably consider going to graduate school in the humanities:
* You are independently wealthy, and you have no need to earn a living
for yourself or provide for anyone else.
* You come from that small class of well-connected people in academe
who will be able to find a place for you somewhere.
* You can rely on a partner to provide all of the income and benefits
needed by your household.
* You are earning a credential for a position that you already hold —
such as a high-school teacher — and your employer is paying for it.
Those are the only people who can safely undertake doctoral education in
the humanities. Everyone else who does so is taking an enormous
personal risk, the full consequences of which they cannot assess because
they do not understand how the academic-labor system works and will not
listen to people who try to tell them.
It’s hard to tell young people that universities recognize that their idealism
and energy — and lack of information — are an exploitable resource. For
universities, the impact of graduate programs on the lives of those
students is an acceptable externality, like dumping toxins into a river. If you
cannot find a tenure-track position, your university will no longer court you;
it will pretend you do not exist and will act as if your unemployability is
entirely your fault. It will make you feel ashamed, and you will probably just
disappear, convinced it’s right rather than that the game was rigged from
Thomas H. Benton is the pen name of William Pannapacker, an associate
professor of English at Hope College, in Holland, Mich. He writes about
academic culture and welcomes reader mail directed to his attention at
Well, I think I’ve officially given up on migrating all payment and scheduling to our website. We’ll just keep the website doing what it does best and the Meetup site what it does mediocrely, and if anyone wants to come forward to help us over the hurdle we can rethink things. At least the website is flexible and can be updated at will.
On that theme- if there’s anyone who’d like to make a contribution to the blog, let me know. I’d be happy to have other voices.
Track lights are up, at least four fifths of them… one more track and we’ll be able to nearly completely remove the tangle of clamp lamps and wires that cover the ceiling. Just the spots for the model remain un-modernized. Lastly will need to come a curtain to separate the model illumination from the audience illumination. Looking forward to sharing the joy with many of you. All of this (new easels and painting tables included) paid for out of reserves built up over the first five years of BFAC- that is to say with the patronage of all of you. Very proud of this.
Don’t like the rickety assortment of old wooden easels that the BFAC has collected over the past few years? Well, your dreams of new easels are coming true as I write! Ten new metal easels, perfect in every way (except height, which will be addressed with extensions…) are being assembled by elves and will be available for our monday night drawing session tomorrow… (tonight, technically, I’m up late)
New folding waiter’s tray-stands will provide mobile, light, and easily storable solutions to our painting table shortage. A new 2-foot-wide push broom should address the general mess. A new flat-file will store more paper and drawings, and coming soon: TRACK LIGHTING.
Yes, you can’t believe your ears, I know, but we are moving toward the nirvana of lighting- a light for each easel, and a drop-curtain to separate easel lighting from model lighting. Drawing and painting will flow without resistance from any external barrier as the studio morphs into a simulacrum of the platonic concept of Studio.
Join us if you’re ready for transcendence.
The title simply refers to the fact that this post is a rant against the site that hosts it… The team here at the BFAC are trying to find a clean system to implement a simple calendar and event RSVP and payment system that will fulfill all the needs of the organization, but with the combined power of several dozen (that’s the fabled size of our IT department at present…) liberal and fine art degrees, we can’t quite come up with a viable working system. Luckily, none of us have anything better to do than try to learn WordPress from an assorted patchwork of very long and drowsiness inducing youtube videos. Fortunately for us, they pay us very well here at corporate headquarters because we have such broad and humanistic educations.
With this website, we here at the BFAC are struggling to consolidate the calendar, payment, mailing list, and other information we’d like to have control over to make the physical experience of coming together easier. Please have mercy on us as we climb the WordPress learning curve, and forgive the non-esthetic design qualities we’ve not yet tackled.
I haven’t had access to a really live, updatable blog in more than a year, and I’d like to open with a quote from Hegel that applies to art particularly.
He is said to have said that “it is an illusion of youth that one can attain the universal without becoming anything in particular…”
Not that we need to all be clamoring for attainment of the universal, but I still cling to this idea that in order to touch someone with something you do artistically, you must have a deft hand at that particular thing, and that deft hand is what distinguishes an artist.