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The 3 R's

During the 1988 presidential campaign, then Vice-President George H.W. Bush announced that he would be the “education president.”

In early 1992, on a trade mission to another country, President Bush proclaimed he was the “jobs president.” With the 1992 presidential campaign in full swing, he once again announced he was the “education president.” According to a Washington Post story, a photo opportunity was planned at a high school in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Books were piled in front of the lectern, and “art teacher Barbara Wehr was busy making a 2 by 2 foot papier-mâché apple the White House wanted to place beside Bush when he gave his speech.” The heading read “Critics skeptical as Bush returns to school.”1

With the recent downturn in the economy, long-held cultural truisms have lost the ring of truth. “Get a good education” has been the prerequisite to “get a good job.” The implication was that by fulfilling steps one and two, step three would follow: “have a good life.” We have believed in guarantees that don’t really exist. The faltering economy has shaken those beliefs by exposing the lack of substance beneath them. Education and jobs are interchangeable pawns in campaign speeches, the props changing with each photo opportunity. As the political and educational systems fail and unemployment rises, cynical skepticism has replaced tentative faith.

For artists, the relationship between art, education and the job market has always been tenuous. They look for a way to effect a balance between their jobs (paychecks) and their work (art). Some wend their way through art school degrees; others find schooling to be a hindrance. To teach, to design, to market, to consult or to choose a completely separate field are ongoing and difficult considerations for most artists.

The Binnewater Tides
Women’s Studio Workshop Press
Volume 9, No. 2, Summer, 1992