LOS ANGELES — The arts have a long tradition of apprenticeship and mentorship. Even Leonardo da Vinci was known to have apprenticed with the greats in Italy, and the pioneering photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson studied painting under cubist André Lhote. Somewhere along the way, the expected career path of a professional artist turned into days in the classroom studying art theory and private time in a cramped studio, followed by huge student loan debts.
Perhaps I’m romanticizing a bit, but it’s easy to wonder what happened to apprenticeships, the act of studying at the foot of a master and learning directly from a professional artist you admire.
In comes the New York Arts Practicum, an eight-week summer program devised by artist and art professor Michael Mandiberg. Set in New York City, the program give committed art students the opportunity to “experientially learn artmaking and participate in intellectual culture outside of the art school.” They do this through an internship in an artist’s studio, a studio-based seminar, and site visits to New York art spaces. At the same time, students develop their own work through their studio practice.
Mandiberg told me a little bit about his inspiration for the project:
Over the past six years I have worked extensively with interns. I mentor them through a balance of instruction and autonomy. We work together to set goals and discuss approaches; in the process the interns learned both the micro and macro aspects of making: they learn or polish some aspect of making (e.g. photo editing, research, code, drawing) but they also learn a bigger picture approach to making decisions about what to make, and how to go about making it.
With words like “student,” “intern” and “seminar,” the language for the program is decidedly academic. But focus is on helping art students step away from the academic experience and into the real world of a professional art practice. Based on their express goals, participants can expect to be matched with accomplished artists like Eva and Franco Mattes and Mark Tribe, and they will attend lectures with guests like The Yes Men and Penelope Umbrico.
The $2,900 tuition is steep but on par with or better than other summer programs I’m familiar with (Mandiberg says some financial aid is available), and students must secure their own housing for the eight weeks, which is a skill in itself that many working artists have to master. But no program I know offers the most valuable aspect of the Practicum: seeing up front the real world grind of a professional artist studio.
“The main shift is that the learning is experiential,” Mandiberg told me. “Rather than sitting in a critique or seminar room to learn something, you do so in the studio of a practicing artist, a museum, gallery or public lecture.”
Applications for the New York Arts Practicum open April 2nd and close April 16th.