Hooray! The State of Vermont Board of Education just approved The Center for Cartoon Studies for degree-granting authority. It will now be offering a two-year MFA.
“This is a landmark decision from the State,” says CCS board member and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Vermont Arts Council, Peggy Kannenstine. “What NYU’s Film School is for film or Iowa’s Writing Workshop is for writing, The Center for Cartoon Studies is for comics. Beyond its educational impact, CCS is a fine example of the creative economy at work: helping revitalize a depressed downtown with the economic lift from students, faculty, and tourism. Its contributions to the State and Industry are impressive and quantifiable. It’s appropriate and important to recognize CCS’s quality and the high level of instruction with the terminal degree and certificates.”
James Sturm and the gang at CCS have been working on this for a while, and it’s really great news for the program, which, from everything I’ve read, seems like a really incredible place. (Read Patrick McDonnell’s speech to the 2007 graduating class, and check out Joe Lambert’s blog, and the I Know Joe Kimpel! blog for examples of student work. Also, a documentary called “Cartoon College” is coming out soon, chronicling a year in the life of CCS…)
The next step, of course, will be funding. There are all kinds of arguments about MFA programs, whether they’re good for writing or not, blah blah blah, but in the end, I believe that an MFA program is, or should be, nothing more than time to hone your craft, free from financial responsibilities. The best MFA programs in creative writing offer full tuition, a hefty stipend, and health insurance. (My buddy Brandon has a package like this at the University of Washington.) At this point, CCS is $15,000/year just for tuition.
I’m really not trying to de-value anyone who is paying for an MFA, or any kind of creative education, but the bottom line is, an MFA lets you teach at a university IF you get lucky enough to publish one or two successful books. With all the racket going on with student loans and student debt these days, I think it’s important for an artist plotting the path of his or her creative life be smart about finances. Going $30,000 into debt for an MFA from “cartoon college” is just not a move that I could justify for Meg and me.
I mean, why not just move to Chicago and stalk Chris Ware and the gang?
Tonight is a night were the money-grubbing pragmatist in me has clubbed the dreamy artist over the head. It probably has something to do with the job search.
Regardless, this is a step in the right direction, and I’m really happy for CCS and all involved. Now let’s wait and see if somebody drops a multi-million dollar endowment on them!