Should you go to art school? That depends on how wealthy your parents are and not minding using art school as as tool to prepare yourself for a career as an Uber driver.
The only reason to persist is that you love to do it. It rarely is a path to wealth, nor has it ever been unless you are like the lucky artist who discovers lucre in the pickling of hapless Australian sharks for hedge-fund billionaires. Very few in each generation survive. In the flowering age of the Impressionist movement there were 5000 artists in Paris alone when The Prix de Rome was the summit of artistic recognition. Here is a Wiki list of the winners over the years, it is astonishing how many of these painters are totally forgotten. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prix_de_Rome My husband overhearing me said being an artist was for masochists.
Following is a 2013 study promulgated by concern over high levels of art school debt.
A National Survey on the Lives of Arts Graduates and Working Artists.
10% of art graduates are working artists and 16% of working artists are art school graduates.
Art school graduates earn on average 36 K per annum, a bit more than those without a degree- 30K
Art school debt is one of the highest with the least amount of return.
One young man, an acquaintance of mine (BFA RISD, Pratt) is suffering under the burden of over 100K of debt. He had a job with Deborah Turbeville, a renowned fashion photographer until her death. She would get 2 million dollars for a Valentino campaign. Ms. Turbeville never went to art school. Marilyn Silverstone went to Wellesley but learned photography on her own with the help of Henri Cartier-Bresson. I knew her only in her later years.
I think decent art training can be had on the cheap as it were. There are alternatives to the 50K super star schools. No-one has ever asked me if I had a degree, Basquiat did not have one. http://www.complex.com/style/2015/12/famous-artists-who-made-it-without-art-school/
A partial list of the cheaper schools offering degrees.
Now a BFA degree does not mean a secure job as a professor or an art teacher, you usually need an MFA. Most adjuncts, even those with MFA's from Yale make only $3500 per course.
RI College has a fine arts program and the wealthy owners the Alex and Ani jewelry firm have committed millions to the art school. They share the same adjuncts as RISD and RIC is 8K plus per annum instate tuition as opposed to RISD's 47K plus. https://www.ric.edu/art/ Both offer scholarships. RIC was good enough for Oscar winner Viola Davis!
MassArt is a bit more but doable: about 12K
Lyme Academy ( for those interested in contemporary realism) is about 30K
PAFA is about 35K
If I wanted to study under a teacher in America it would be this guy!
The biggest bargain! Spend a year learning Spanish then go to the finest art school in the Caribbean: Escuela de Artes Plasticas Y Disenos
http://www.eap.edu/ in sunny warm San Juan Puerto Rico! $2000 per annum! It is part of the US and Spanish if you don't speak it already it easy to learn. The courses are not in English.
Community colleges are an excellent way to start- again, in Rhode Island- my home state adjuncts float from RISD to RI College to Brown to Rhode Island College. Check out your local schools- many wonderful unsung artists are teaching,
For those interested in Classical Realism- the Ateliers that are springing up all over America and Europe are relative bargains. The upside is that you will really learn the discipline of drawing, but sometimes it is hard telling one artist from another. However, if I had a choice to make for me, that is where I would go and bring a supply of magic mushrooms as an antidote.
About 17K for an education in Italy! Whoohoo!
I like the Gage's approach as it grounds the student in classical drawing and painting skills but offers them more contemporary alternatives. This is a school that I would have KILLED to go to.
A review: The tuition prices are out of date,
The Academy of Realist Art in Boston is quite reasonable and has an online course.
It also has two affiliates one in Toronto in Canada
The benefits of Canadian Art School are twofold, their tuitions are lower AND
instead of this in your morning newsfeed:
The Art Renewal Center has their list of "approved ateliers". I think this site often promotes some of the most ossified of contemporary realists ( those Fred Ross buys) but here it is.
This is just a sliver of options for the intrepid artist, going abroad (and I mean really abroad) is another option. I think among the worst things that can happen to an artist is crippling debt from the getgo. Let go of that I gotta go here or there or I am never going to "make it"then define for yourself what is "making it" and go from there.
A don't go to art school plea with some excellent alternatives.
An alternative art career-in art restoration at the University of Delaware.
Naropa offers courses in studio art and art therapy ( probably a growth industry under Trump). I have attended Naropa in the past. It is not a bargain per se but it is not the most outrageously expensive either- and Boulder Colorado is fabulous.
The financial bottom line: this is perhaps not a great time for taking on HUUGE debt in the arts. Here is another cautionary tale: http://ripr.org/post/risd-graduate-faces-hundreds-thousands-student-loans
Great areas to live and work as an artist. One of them is San Juan Puerto Rico, home of their bargain art school:
Although amazing as it seems,with little in the way of standards in the plastic arts, many young people ( and some older- sad!) overrate their abilities, I probably did. A cautionary tale!
Knowing all this, would I choose again become an artist. Oh yes! I belly-flopped my way through an "art career" that was more an experiment in curiosity, or desperation than an organized plan. There were many horrifying years, but in retrospect it has given me great satisfaction but I could afford this artistic floundering as I had no student debt, nada, not a peso not a centime.
One caveat, clients with money, disregarding for now, Uncle Ed's request for a portrait of his dog Bingo, are usually well educated. You must read, everything, history, government, philosophy. Learn a language.
I did have one specific advantage, I went to an excellent private school in Connecticut. Many of my classmates skipped their first year of college. My art school was affiliated with Tufts for our degree program, They had a hard time finding an advanced enough course for me to take in their first year offerings so I took medieval French.
However there is one encouraging area of growth that is promising- protest posters!
More depressing reading:
This is a thoughtful article on Art in The Age of Trump;
an extended riff on Voltaire's,"Il faut cultiver son jardin.".
Something to consider in the future- the cost of health insurance when you are on your own in Trump's America.
people, make their primary
earnings as working artists