Actually the debate does not continue, at least according to the mood of the panel on Los Angeles Art Schools. The panelists were not only predominately either against or had reservations, but actually the most any of them would go in favor of an artist PhD was Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe’s “I prefer to keep an open mind.” Rolfe added that he worried that the thesis work of a Phd would impede studio practices for artists. Russell Ferguson from UCLA warned that if the creditional became a criteria for employment for artists, it would be dangerous indeed, and observed that UCLA, his own top tier program, does not require an MFA to be a faculty member. Artist Roy Dowell, teacher at Otis, thought that the money for the new programs would be better spent on existant, underfunded programs.
This was a great panel, and I was ashamed to arrive so late. Apparently, I missed quite a bit of history and hopes for the future. I particularly enjoyed Dowell’s comment (when asked about technology’s impact on art schools) that his students “want to make things with their hands.” I like that.