Artists in Offices: An Ethnography of an Academic Art Science

Front Cover
Transaction Publishers, 1979 - Art - 165 pages
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Universities have become important sources of patronage and professional artistic preparation. With the growing academization of art instruction, young artists are increasingly socialized in bureaucratic settings, and mature artists find themselves working as organizational employees in an academic setting. As these artists lose the social marginality and independence associated with an earlier, more individual aesthetic production, much cultural mythology about work in the arts becomes obsolete.

This classic ethnography, based on fieldwork and interviews carried out at the California Institute of the Arts in the 1980s, analyzes the day-to-day life of an organization devoted to work in the arts. It charts the rise and demise of a particular academic art "scene," an occupational utopian community that recruited its members by promising them an ideal work setting. Now available in paperback, it offers insight into the worlds of art and education, and how they interact in particular settings. The nature of career experience in the arts, in particular its temporal structure, makes these occupations particularly receptive to utopian thought. The occupational utopia that served as a recruitment myth for the particular organization under scrutiny is examined for what it reveals about the otherwise unexpressed impulses of the work world.

"One of those rare works that so strikingly captures enduring social truths that its appeal will be as great for the general reader as the specialist."--Michael Useem, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

"[A] signal contribution to the relatively recent but growing field of the sociology of art. It will be widely discussed for a very long time as a work of extraordinary and extraordinarily attractive talent."--Kurt H. Wolff, Brandeis University

"A major original work both in sociology of the arts and in sociology of education. Her analysis goes far beyond any similar interpretations of art education or of the art world. It is a lasting contribution to sociology and should become a classic."--Maurice R. Stein, Jacob S. Potofsky, Brandeis University

Judith Adler is professor of sociology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. She holds a Ph.D. from Brandeis University, and she has been published in Society, Social Research, Issues in Criminology, Theory and Society, and The American Journal of Sociology.


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The author has made some good points about the art school system as it pertains to creativity and autonomy versus the stereotypical 9 to 5 and how these two aspects sometimes combine inadvertently. However, her writing style is absolutely terrible. So many of her points could have been simplified. I could not follow her writing, simply because of the excruciatingly long sentences and overly elevated diction. It was very pretentious. 


Artists in Offices
Revolutionary Art and The Art of Revolution
Founding Fathers and Seed Money
Alluring the Artists The Construction of an Art Scene
Artists Cockaigne
Laymen Among Artists
Teaching the Unteachable
Conclusion End of Utopia
Subject Index
Name Index

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