The University of the Arts is NO MORE

We entered the month of June with the shocking news that the University of the Arts has lost its accreditation and will be closing its doors on June 7th. The announcement was made rather sloppily by the local news media much to the horror of the students attending the school and the people who worked there. UArts was forced to make a ham-fisted announcement after the story broke that they were indeed closing and that the employees were out of a job and students were going to have to make other arrangements. It’s terrible to comprehend. Students and staff woke up Friday morning thinking it was just another day and were going about their lives. By dinner time they were handed a piece of painfully vague information by a third party leaving them scrambling for straight answers as to what their futures may be. I can’t imagine the panic.

The story is still developing, and no one has all of the specifics. The local press is reporting it as if it were a house fire or an accident and they are interviewing shellshocked victims outside of the scene. Rumors are running rampant online, and a number of people are claiming to detect the fishy odor of financial chicanery. The original Philadelphia Inquirer piece that broke the news is fairly flimsy so I won’t bother linking to it, but this archived article from The Philadelphia Business Journal has a little more substance and is worth a look.

Tina and I graduated from The Philadelphia College of Art back before it merged with the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts and became The University of the Arts. It was always PCA to us and we stubbornly stick to calling it that.

PCA was far from a perfect school, but they always managed to maintain an illusion of prestige to people who didn’t go there. It’s a shock to the region, but I always suspected that reality would intercede and a reckoning was in order particularly since a number of other art schools have bitten the dust. The tuition rivaled what was being charged at Ivy League schools and little was offered in return for that hefty investment. A school is only as good as the people in it, and, with a few exceptions, the people weren’t that good. Sure the big buildings on Broad Street that comprised the campus in the center of a teeming city were impressive from the outside, but most of the teachers seemed to be “fine artists” who couldn’t give their work away. They were happy having a steady gig and the occasional faculty show. Tina and I were studying illustration which is commercial art, and most of the teachers didn’t have any practical experience in the field. It was the blind leading the gullible.

Upon graduation, there was also very little support for alumni. Every service or nicety I have seen former students enjoy from other schools had a fee attached at PCA. Use of the facilities, alumni ID cards, job boards — all had a cost, and if you were willing to pay the cost, there was always some confusion as to whether payment was to be made with cash or check. We were the esteemed alumni during fund raising campaigns otherwise we were persona non grata.

Despite my antipathy, it’s still shocking. I always expected that they would one day close their doors. The writing was on the wall. It’s like that old line about going broke — “slowly then all at once.”

In a way, it may be a good thing, but it’s a very bitter pill. Art schools are crap shoots at best. Only God can hand out talent. Adopting an attitude that technique and aesthetics are all relative in order to saddle deluded dreamers with insurmountable debt is evil. It is painful and I don’t envy the anxiety that these people are going through, but perhaps some of them dodged a bullet. It may give people a time to reflect and decide whether this is something they really want to do.

How bad do you want it?

Watch some videos online, and go buy some art supplies. It just doesn’t make sense throwing your money away on art school.

Sorry if I sound like a Debbie Downer throughout this article, but PCA wasn’t all bad. It wasn’t great, but Tina and I had some great experiences during our college years and met some wonderful people. We learned things from the likes of Tony Visco, Nancy Davenport, Martha Earlbacher, Al Gold and Ray Spiller that we weren’t going to learn from anywhere else at the time. For good or bad, PCA shaped our lives and it is who we are. I like to imagine alternative histories and imagine “what if,” but I can’t imagine what I would be without those four years at The Philadelphia College of Art.

This entry was posted in News, Philadelphia and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The University of the Arts is NO MORE

  1. JWMS says:

    This is a test comment.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.