Topic: 2. Education and Job Training for Artists and Arts Administrators

College education and people with disabilities

I'm a student with a disability currently attending an arts college. While art has great potential as a career for those with disabilities, the present educational and gallery system makes it very hard for outliers like the disabled to succeed.

 

Different schools may obviously vary tremendously in terms of work ethic and general culture, but in many art and design colleges a culture of overwork and subjective grading dominates. This puts disabled students (and other outliers, such as minorities) at an extreme disadvantage. Many art colleges do not have formal accommodations in place for issues such as absences, particularly during critique periods. Some colleges only allow 3 absences before automatically failing students (even if the student is otherwise performing well). Very often students are left to negotiate disability-related issues with their teachers on their own, with no support from the school. Essentially, student are left at the mercy of their instructors—sometimes this works, and sometimes the professor just doesn't care. In my experience, academic colleges are actually far more accommodating, particularly because the work is generally less subjective and also because academic work tends to be less physically demanding, allowing students with disabilities to more easily catch up and stay on top of a heavy course load.

 

Art and design colleges need to stop patting themselves on the back for forcing students to "produce and iterate" and instead focus on meaningful, quality work that is produced in a healthy manner. The present system encourages young people (both able-bodied and not) to abuse themselves in the hopes of becoming a star. All-nighters are NOT a badge of honor, and the emphasis on unhealthy behaviors and overwork often inherently excludes disabled people. Numerous peer-reviewed studies have shown that the quality of work (in general) declines in the sleep deprived, so I'm not sure why the present system of sleep deprivation and extreme overwork is so valued at certain colleges.

 

Aspects of this problem continue after graduation, with residences and galleries always looking for that tortured, overworked artist—which often precludes persons with disabilities who don't have the luxury of abusing an already fragile body.

 

The art world needs to change the perceptions of health and healthy work habits throughout the field. Simple fixes like a reasonable course and production load would allow for a more diverse and equitable body of artists graduating and working successfully in the future, and would likely initiate better health and life-balance outcomes for the vast majority of artists in general.

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Idea No. 110