Bruce High Quality Foundation University vs. School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Very much unlike SAIC, BHQFU is tuition-free. But it’s also taught on a volunteer basis, and classrooms are appropriated out of apartments, non-profits, alternative spaces, and even city parks. The Foundation has occasionally fundraised to cover the cost of classes, and when it’s been necessary, the Bruces have simply paid out of pocket to cover the materials or lesson plans that weren’t financed by Creative Time, a New York City-based organization that commissions art projects and programs, including BHQFU.
“It is unfortunate that we can’t all just have everything we want for free — that power and money are aligned in ways that are often detrimental to the public good,” the Bruces told me. “Nonetheless, the rent has to get paid. There is no clean money. So like anyone working a job or buying a sandwich, we try to measure the possible good against the possible ill. It’s especially complicated if you don’t think art is necessarily a moral activity. But that’s another matter. So we try to think of fundraising as another component of the materialist process of making art. You don’t just make an image. You make it out of something. Like paint or print, funding and its politics are among those somethings.”
Similar to SAIC, BHQFU doesn’t use a grading system, and moreover, “critique is the heart of what BHQFU does.” The Bruces take on a self-motivated philosophy that many students at SAIC would agree with: “Participants get out what they put in. To our mind, measuring the success of BHQFU participants is personal to the participants. This isn’t primary school. We aren’t preparing anyone for the world. They are preparing themselves.”
Where SAIC and BHQFU majorly diverge, however, is that while most students at SAIC create two or four years of challenging and mentally-demanding critical work in order to receive a BFA or MFA, BHQFU offer no sort of degree or certificate. “Perhaps the most important thing to avoid is a belief that a degree makes you an artist,” the Bruces told F. “It doesn’t. You don’t need an MFA to paint. Hell, you may not even need paint to paint.”