[The Seven by Nine Squares home page] [YAWN 27] [Art Strike 1990-1993]

Student Art Strike

On May 1, 1991, students at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History held a one-hour rally, which they called an "Art Strike." Their purpose in doing this was to protest funding cuts that would reduce the number of teaching assistantships available, and therefore reduce the number of sections available to students in a number of courses. These cuts would also affect the material quality of some of the courses offered by forestalling indefinitely the purchase of new equipment, as well as reducing the overall resources available to teaching.

YAWN staged an infiltration of the event by passing out copies of the leaflet reproduced here. Although YAWN is not opposed to the activists tactics of the students who proposed this "Art Strike," it is felt that something more is needed. We feel that the art academy is already morally and ideologically impoverished through its de facto support of the mechanisms of power that the arts buttress. The academy's role as a manufacturer of roles that art students learn to play, as well as propagator of belief systems that encourage "artists" to be mouthpieces for dominant cultural attitudes, lead us at YAWN to think that the material impoverishment of art schools-and all similar institutions-is in all our best interests.

When art students are no longer nurtured by the sheltering womb of academia and are forced to confront the real, challenging issues at play in contemporary culture, they can begin to realize a really meaningful mode of production. When art students are cast aside by the institutions that have so long mined them as a resource for constructing the illusion of their own legitimacy, serving in the end only that institution's entrenched agenda of producing widespread alienation and endemic boredom, these students are finally free to chart their own course. When art students refuse their role as the interior decorators of social conscience, distracting our gaze from important problems facing all of us, then we can begin to build. It's about time for this to happen, long after the rest of us have stood up, collected our coats and gone home.