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Paradox and potential: Fine Art employability and enterprise perspectives

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This article explores the Fine Art curriculum in relation to the increasing focus on employability and enterprise within art and design institutions in the United Kingdom. The connection between the curriculum and enterprise and employability in the art school is under pressure from different fronts. On the one hand, the introduction of higher tuition fees in the United Kingdom has focused the student (but also staff and institutions) on the necessity to make a living after completing studies, and preferably enter into a career. The art school could be seen to have an ethical responsibility for their students here. On the other hand, within contemporary art practice there is an increased resistance towards current models of labour within neo-liberal capitalism; in particular, the idea of the ever-flexible portfolio worker, resilient and ideally adapted to an uncertain future (i.e., an artist), is increasingly being rejected as unsustainable and exploitative. The UK Fine Art curriculum is in flux, and questions have been asked about what exactly artists need to know and learn to prepare for their future. As a subject, Fine Art has not been consistently considered through a lens of employability and enterprise in the way more industryorientated design-based subjects have, but in the United Kingdom this is changing. This article asks: can art schools both prepare Fine Art graduates for a successful career in the arts to make them entrepreneurial and employable, and provide them with the critical tools to fundamentally question their place within this system (which some regard as a financially and environmentally unsustainable order)? It also considers whether this is a useful question and asks whether courses should perhaps make a choice and declare their position to potential students.

Keywords: Fine Art; curriculum; employability; enterprise; ethics; knowledge; skill

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of the Arts London

Publication date: November 1, 2015

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  • What are the challenges of learning and teaching in art, design and communication? The peer-reviewed journal of Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education aims to inform, stimulate and promote the development of research in the field by providing a forum for debate arising from findings as well as theory and methodologies.
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