Often legitimized by its relationship to elite institutions of higher education, a work of art in the United States today is a product of the classroom, the loan repayment, the lecture-hall, and the homework assignment. But before the 1950s, becoming an artist had nothing to do with a BFA or an MFA. As Mark McGurl points out in The Program Era, what is novel about our time is not that it’s hard to make a living as an artist (that has always been the case), but that so many young people go to school, and often to expensive art schools, to try to become artists.
What are the implications of debt, rent, and precarity on culture in the 21st century? This talk presents recent findings about the poverty rates, rent burdens, and actual occupations of artists by BFAMFAPhD, as well as the power of solidarity art economy institutions to reproduce artists and art works that embody principles of cooperation and justice. Outlining the contradictory ways in which artists navigate solidarity economies within capitalism, the talk is an encounter with mutual aid networks, open source software, and community land trusts.