May 28, 2013

SAIC Professor Questions PhDs for Artists

On May 24 Inside Higher Education writer Daniel Grant referenced SAIC professor James Elkins (Art History, Theory, and Criticism) in an article outlining the growing number of fine artists seeking PhDs. “The Master of Fine Arts has long been touted as a ‘terminal’ degree, the furthest point one may go in one’s formal art education,” explains Grant. “But at colleges and universities where Ph.D.s are the union card in one discipline after another, the M.F.A. has been seen as an anomaly, not quite as rigorous or as trustworthy.” Elkins, however, maintains a highly skeptical view of this new trend in fine arts education. In his book Artists with PhDs, he lists “Fourteen Reasons to Mistrust the PhD in Studio Art,” including “it is not clear what kinds of art, exactly, are improved by serious research,”  “the new degree exacerbates the academization of art,” and “no one knows how to assess the PhD.”