Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Noah Kupferman

Second Advisor

Judith Prowda


Master’s of Fine Arts (MFAs) in visual arts have seen significant growth in their tuition and number of degrees conferred over recent decades. As the popularity of the MFA expanded during this period, the breadth, power, and influence of the global art market has as well. The commercial art market’s structure and competitiveness creates serious barriers to entry for art students attempting to navigate its complexities and strengthen their creative careers. Despite the
market’s growth, many art schools’ attitudes and curricular offerings have not adjusted to its expanded importance. According to a range of statistical studies and anecdotal accounts, many graduates who have earned arts degrees feel unprepared to operate within the commercial art market. Evidence implies that art students are not receiving sufficient curricular instruction on the nature of today’s art market, personal entrepreneurship, career administration, and professional practices. Moreover, there is evidence of widespread attitudes of market-aversion
within many MFA fine arts programs, as well as significant formal and informal barriers hindering the implementation of more effective pedagogical instruction in artistic professional practices.
This thesis will focus on American MFA programs in fine arts and examine these issues by analyzing the modern history of art schools, the roots of academic market aversion, various formal and informal barriers obstructing the incorporation of career-oriented curriculum into graduate arts programs, market-related challenges faced by arts graduates, as well as statistical and anecdotal studies highlighting these issues. It will also use a comparative case study on emerging professional practices curriculum in certain acting MFA programs as a potential model for fine arts MFA programs to follow. Lastly, recommendations will be made for improving professional practices curriculum in art schools and addressing academic tendencies towards market aversion and attitudes on career-based training for art students. Ideally, this thesis will contribute to pre-existing dialogue on this topic and highlight the cruciality of providing art students with skill-sets and knowledge that will allow them to effectively navigate the art market and their potential places within it.