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To: BAILA – The Otis Meeting, What it seems to take to get into one of those Teaching Chairs….
By Steven J. Brooks
It seems to me that the steps it takes to get into a Full Time, Tenured Teaching Position at a Public Art College are these…
0- Be born, live, get “Experience”.
1- Get a High School Diploma, or some more “Experience” and a GED.
2- Get some more “Experience” and / or go to College until you get your Bachelors Degree.
3- If you have “Some” “Experience” you can go on directly to you Masters Degree. If you have “Very Little” “Experience”, get some more “Experience”.
4- Get your Masters Degree, probably in Art or Art History, while getting some more “Experience”, if necessary.
5- At this point, if you have “A Whole Lot” of “Experience”, start shopping yourself out for that full time position, while getting more “Experience”. If you only have “Some” “Experience”, get some more “Experience”.
6- When you have “A Good Amount” of “Experience”, if you haven’t started shopping yourself out, it’s time to.
7- Land that position.
8- Hang on to that position, and don’t do anything to upset the administration, until you get Tenure. Or, switch to another College, and repeat 8.
If you were “Really Really Really AWSOME”, you could skip steps 1 through 8, just on the greatness of your upbringing, until you went on your own at 15, and became the Greatest Artist the world has seen in the last 200 years!
And after burning the Creative Art Candle of your Genius at both ends for 50 years, at age 65, you decided to settle down at the worlds Greatest Art School (or just about any College where you’d want to hang out). That Institution (no matter the rules) would probably give you a full time tenured teaching position immediately, with 3 full time assistants, if you requested.
That is called “EXPERIENCE!”…
Sorry, you are not that person.
So, I’m going to set approximate, “optimistic” ages (because at BAILA, we are always Rushing to have more Black Teachers), for each stage listed above, for someone who really has their heart set on being an Art Professor at a Public College.
1- Finish at Age 18, and the route is the High School Diploma.
2- Finish at Age 22, getting the Bachelors Degree Full Time, preferably in an Art type field, though not necessarily. Maybe 23 to get the Intro Teaching Certificate (if you go that route, requirements vary by location and opportunity).
3- Finish at Age 26, getting “Some” “Experience”! If you went to Art School, hopefully you are practicing something related to what you paid to learn. If you went the Teaching route, start teaching, where ever you can, the more “Official” the better. If you went for something else, hope you are getting good experience in that.
For all, if you aren’t fortunate enough to be able to get to go to for that Bachelors full time, I hope your part time job can be one that counts as “Experience” (i.e. Teachers, a job at Community Center Teaching Art (or Programing) is preferable to Retail.)
By the way, you are also probably making Art, on your own, that would be helpful. Especially since they are going to want to see a portfolio as you apply to start your Masters Degree in Art. You could apply for an Art History Masters, if your Bachelors is in an “Art”, or unless you want to teach Art History, but not Art so much.
4- Finish at Age 28, You have that Masters Sheepskin in Hand, hopefully as an Art Degree.
5- Is almost impossible in this “Optimistic” scenario. But, if you’re that “Brilliant”, finished at Age 29, because you’ve been shopping yourself around as you finished up your Masters.
6- Finish at Age 32, after 4 years that is most likely comprised of teaching part time at institutions around your area. You are also making “Work”, that more than likely is pushing some boundary of either “Art” and / or “Craft”.
7- Finish at Age 33 (unless your “Brilliant” in #5, then it’s Age 29), because somehow, out of all the candidates for that first full time position that you applied for, it just happened to come your way.
Maybe you were the only one who had “Art” and “Programming” “Experience”, and the department is phasing out that Pottery position for one more relevant (and cheaper). Or maybe you were the Youngest Qualified Applicant who could actually Throw a Pot, and they are trying to make the school into a center Preserving the Ceramic Arts, and you are an investment in their future as that.
8- Finish at Age 40, usually. The sooner the better, and I’ll bet you can’t wait for that day.
So, to get into one of those Full Time Public University System Teaching Positions, it takes at least until you’re 33 years old. And you’d have to “Play Nice” with the Administration until you were Age 40, and Tenure kicks in. Basically, you are on Probation for the first 7 years of Full Time Teaching, in a sense.
And all of these Age Calculations are if EVERYTHING were IDEAL. This is if you never had any money woes, you never got sick or injured, or had any family problems. You always got the job or college admission you needed right away, without ever having to apply twice. And no disasters (i.e. flood, tornado, etc…), or any other things that could distract from this timeline for more than a couple of months. NO ONE HAS THAT LIFE, we all wish we did!
And I don’t think when any of us were in Kindergarten, or even the High School Guidance Counselors office, that we said, “Gee, of all the jobs there are out there, I think I want to Teach Art to College Students.” Teaching art to elementary school would even be much more likely an answer in the H.S. Guidance Counselors Office than that.
Now, we all know, “If you’re Really Great, they will BREAK ALL the RULES!”, but sorry, you aren’t that great! Very very few are able to skip Steps 1 – 8 on this path.
On The OTHER HAND…
Many Private Learning Institutions are much more willing to count “Experience” as far as feeling you are “Qualified”. (Refer to my other Essay, about Teacher Qualifications if you have issue with the Masters Degree Requirements of Public Institutions).
The truth of these institutions, whether they are Ivy League, or Trade School, or anything in-between, is that they can decide what “Experience” qualifies.
Many Private Institutions seem to like this mix of “Experience”…
A- A Bachelors Degree (shows some extra formal education).
B- Real Professional Experience in what you are Hired to Teach (Sometimes related fields, but the further you stray from your “Experience” the harder a sell you become).
C- An Aptitude for Teaching People (Students “Get” what you are conveying and can apply it).
D- An Aptitude for Managing your Teaching (Class Syllabus, Keep class on Schedule, Paperwork, etc…)
The first 2 are obvious to attain. The last 2, the best way to prove these is to do it part time, to show your future employers that you know how to do these things. There are teaching avenues everywhere, and any experience is better than none. The more you get, the better you’ll get.
BUT… How do you get Hired at that Art College (almost any College) as a Full Time Professor?
Well, the secret is a really simple one, so simple that every Department Head at Otis bemoaned it in the BAILA meeting…
The secret is… Art Colleges tend to Hire the Friends of the Current Professors as the New Professors…
Let me Repeat…
ART COLLEGES TEND TO HIRE THE FRIENDS OF THE CURRENT PROFESSORS AS THE NEW PROFESSORS!!!
So, if you want there to be more Black Art Professors, you need to have more Black People (who are willing to be Art Professors) hang out with Current Art Professors. (Yes, you have to become friends with with a bunch of Art Professors, who are mostly White).
This isn’t that hard to do. If you attend the college, you pall around with your professors. The more you are their friend, the more you will get known around the school. This will eventually lead to you meeting the academics at other schools in your area, and you become their palls too.
If you don’t go to a school, you have to do this anyway. Otis has a Gallery, You show up for the opening of every show! So do most of the other Art Colleges in Greater Los Angeles, you would be wise to show up for all their openings as well.
Nothing will get you remembered better by a Department Head at an Art College than walking up to them at the “Faculty Show” and making an insightful comment about their Work. If you, in happening to talk to them about it, could work in how your Work “Compliments” the Work of their Faculty, and at the same time, adds a new “Dimension to the Discussion” that the Faculty Artistically has going on, THEY WILL REALLY REMEMBER YOU. As long as you hand them a business card that leads them to a clear and concise website of your work, so they can follow up! (You, follow up too!!!)…
Joining Chat Rooms, participating in Discussion Boards, showing up for Live Art Discussions, and getting yourself out in the Academic Art World is a good way to make friends who teach art. And the more you show up to events and openings and shows by Art Faculty and Students in your area, the more well you will be known. Just be smart with your words, as well as your art. You do realize you probably need to keep making art during this time!
And, read the nerdy, boring College Art Professor web sites. The places where they actually list the few jobs advertised out there. If you don’t read those web sites, how can you call yourself an up to date Art Professor? That’s one of the reasons some job postings only end up in these obscure places.
The more friendly contact you have, the better position you will be in when that next open Job pops up. And, the bigger a network you have, the more people to know when and where that a position is actually available. Yes, you need to tell everyone in your network you are looking, everytime you have contact with them.
And you know, If you were to actually pound a few beers (sorry this is art, “Sip Some Wine”) with them, in the non work setting of just being social, that would really help. Get to be a good friend, invite them over to your big Holiday Party. They are just one more to you, but they feel special for being included. Remember, you want them to be your FRIEND!!! Remember, the Super Bowl is a Holiday!
And Remember! The biggest Holiday of All is an “Art Opening”, so you showing up to theirs (or their students) is important. It’s almost as important as you going out of your way to invite them to Your Opening! The ultimate judgment in this should be the Art, shouldn’t it?
No, not Really… Being a Professor at a College is really about the ability to Train Others, keep your Class on Schedule, have all the Paperwork done, and Mesh with your Coworkers!
And this is why there are may Great Black Artist, who are well qualified to Teach, but won’t, because Teaching is something different than making Art! (I’m not saying they can’t coexist in a person, they should in an “Art Professor”, but not mandatory for an Artist.)
In closing, I’ve taught at Colleges a couple of times, and at a few other places, and the only reason I ever even knew of the job most of the time, much less got it, was because I knew someone, and more often than not it was at the last minute.
Yes being “Available” at the last minute, and ready to jump into action (You can whip up a lesson plan in less than 24 hours), is sometimes the best opportunity. That Lightning only Strikes if you are already plugged into that circuit.
So BAILA-ites, Being a College Art Professor is much more attainable, much more quickly, than Museum Curatorships, and the path really isn’t that hard.
For many in BAILA, the hardest part is “Paling Around” with current College Art Professors! If you don’t like to do that, in a business that is as People oriented as College Teaching, then why would you want this job?
To: BAILA – Before I write about Otis, A Teacher Qualification Essay… From My Life Experience (more or less)…
Two Candidates, Two Teaching Positions, Who is the most qualified for each??? Read and Guess…
CANDIDATE A – High School Diploma, 17 Years Professional Photography Experience, Acclaim in both his “Bread and Butter” field of Photo Journalism, and as a “Fine Art Photographer”, and an “A+++” portfolio.
CANDIDATE B – High School Diploma, BFA Photography, 6 years Pro Photo Experience, MFA Fine Art, 5 years as a “Fine Art” photographer, and a “C-” portfolio.
POSITION A – A Photography Professor at Roxbury Community College, a public institution that grants up to Associate Degrees, teaching only First year students.
POSITION B – Photography Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, a private institution that grants up to Masters Degrees, teaching at all levels, from First though Sixth year students.
So, match the candidates to the positions… Go on, do it…
The answer is, Position A goes to Candidate B, Candidate A is wholly unqualified because s/he does not have a Masters Degree, and Position A is at a Public College in a State where the minimum requirement to teach in a Public College is a MASTERS DEGREE!!!
This is true to teach Public Elementary school, not just Public College in Massachusetts at this point!
You can teach in these public collegiate institutions, BUT ONLY UNACREDITED CLASSES (this is me, with my BFA 15 years ago), like College Prep for High School Students or Adult and Continuing Ed. But, NOT ANY CLASSES FOR CREDIT!!!
And as for Position B, well that was my first photo instructor at RIT, Candidate A! As a private institution, they can hire whoever they feel is qualified. And his portfolio in every way made him “RIT Qualified”! And the institution can have them teach whatever they feel that individual is qualified to teach, FOR CREDIT at WHATEVER LEVEL!
They have to justify it to the Accreditation Board, but as these boards tend to look at overall performance of the students and the quality of the education they receive, not at each and every single teachers every credential. It’s the private institutions reputation, and accreditation on the line, nothing more.
As for many State / Public Schools, there is too much temptation from nepotism, graft, politics, etc… for them to not have some sort of baseline standard of education for a Professor. In Massachusetts that was a Masters Degree. From what I understand, that is a California standard for state schools too.
You probably wouldn’t want your child in a High School math class with a teacher that never took Math in College?
Candidate B didn’t get into college without a High School Diploma or GED, and didn’t get into the Masters program without that BFA.
And Candidate A didn’t get his/her first job as a full time stringer for the local Newspaper without showing s/he earned a high school diploma either.
Moral of the story, and why I submit this to you BAILA-ites, before I write about the Otis Meeting, is this…
There are some places where a Masters Degree is a MINIMUM BASELINE STANDARD, like it was a High School Diploma!
If you feel a need to have credit given for your life experience to be considered for the position at places where this is the minimum baseline standard, then GO TO A UNIVERSITY THAT ACCEPTS LIFE EXPERIENCE AS CREDIT and EARN YOUR MASTERD DEGREE, just like you would tell that high school dropout who applies to work at the newspaper or go to college, “GET YOUR GED, FIRST!”!!!
Thanks, Lili! Beautiful site and a great service on top of all your other endeavors, personal, artistic and for the community. June
I truly, appreciate what BAILA stands for, and I am honored to be apart of it. There are many groups through out the U.S. taking on similar causes. The art world is very large and complicated. I caution us not to be too simplistic or narrow in our search for answers to our problems.
Thank you, Lili for visioning and executing the BAILA concept. I am excited to be included in this community of fine artists and art advocates, as I continue to illuminate and promote the legacy of the Joseph Beckles Collection.
I was impressed by the scope and energy of the BAILA exhibition at Watts Towers Art Center in 2012. I appreciate the commitment to exploring a range of cultural perspective in Los Angeles with a meaningful understanding of the Black/African-American community here.
I’ve made new acquaintances and connections in the art community through BAILA. It has helped to bring the black artist community a renewed energy and cohesiveness.
I’m loving this new site and all the volunteer passion that’s gone into it!
Amazing artists, great discussions, great people! Hope to be involved more soon.
I want to thank BAILA for allowing me the opportunities to meet other artists of a variety of talents, learn, and receive information! THANK YOU!
I am excited to be a participant in BAILA. The Black community has a lot to learn and do to get the representation in the history and the dialogue of art that it deserves. This is true on all vertical and many horizontal parts of the Art Market.
I wholeheartedly agree. It’s about time the Encyclopedic Museums’ coverage of Black folks doesn’t end at the fall of Egypt!
BAILA has been an enriching creative experience for me. I became a part of BAILA when searching for a way to become involved in my art community. It has not only connected me with other progressive artists…but educated me on the BUSINESS of art….(critical for the independent artist) I give praise to Lili Bernard for her creative vision and most important: her stamina to see her projects through to fruition….Bravo!
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