In February 2004, the Harvard Business Review published an article by Daniel H. Pink entitled, “The MFA Is the New MBA,” documenting a growing trend in the corporate business world: recruiting professional artists instead of hiring people with business degrees.
Not only are artists entering top corporate positions, but top graduate programs in visual art at schools such as the Rhode Island School of Design, Cranbrook Academy, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago are now more difficult to get into than Harvard Law School. Why? According to Pink, “businesses are realizing that the only way to differentiate their goods and services in today's overstocked, materially abundant marketplace is to make their offerings transcendent—physically beautiful and emotionally compelling.” Now, everyone from Microsoft to General Motors is relying on visual artists for the success of their businesses in an increasingly visual culture.
Art, then, has been pushed to the forefront of our culture and economy. While art has been shaping our world for hundreds of years, much of its influence has been indirect—invisible to a public with little knowledge or interest in fine art.
But now, that is changing. In fact, the last time artists had such powerful influence over culture was very likely during the Renaissance, when artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti were looked on as leading minds in the western world, on par with the top scientists and theologians of the day.
“There is definitely a cultural shift taking place,” noted Joe Smith ’92, chair and professor of art.
As the influence of artistic discourse in culture grows, it is becoming more important for Christian artists to rise to the challenge and become strong voices within fine art. And Northwestern students and alumni are prepared to do just that.
Over the past decade, Northwestern alumni have been admitted to the top graduate schools in the nation, including the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, School of the Art Institute of Chicago and California Institute of the Arts.
“As more students take on the professional goal of being culture-makers Northwestern’s art department makes sure each student is equipped to face the cultural landscape,” said Smith, “and not just navigate it, but effect change within it.”
In the last year enrollment in NWC’s department of art and graphic design has surged almost 50 percent over the past year. Smith offers an explanation on the increase, “As Christians, we have a unique vantage point. With a solid base of knowledge of contemporary culture and a strong spiritual foundation, we should be able to fearlessly enter into the artistic and philosophical conversations that change culture.”
by Luke Aleckson '03