What? Is? Art? - Lindsey White & Anonymous


7.25 x 10 in.

Lay-Flat binding

Full color digital press

First printing of 200


What? Is? Art? is a collection of photographs made on the pandemic-empty campus of the San Francisco Art Institute, where I taught for over a decade as an Adjunct, Assistant, and finally Associate Professor and Photography Department Chair. The final class of SFAI art students graduated in the summer of 2022 and the institution promptly closed. SFAI was one of the last exclusively fine arts schools in the United States, and its closure reflects not only the transitional moment such schools face, but also their fight for survival.

Alongside the images, What? Is? Art? includes writings by nine professors who teach in private art schools or public art departments across the country. I invited them to share recent feelings and experiences in higher arts education. Their names are anonymous to ensure freedom to express themselves without guilt or fear.

I’ve come to realize that it’s essential for teaching artists and scholars to build a collective support system in which to discuss situations in the classroom, advocate for ourselves and others, review contract negotiations, and much more. We often discuss how to balance our love of teaching with making time for art, writing, and conducting research; with how best to honor the respect we have for our students with the respect that is often lacking from administrations or the academic community.

There aren’t many public conversations about the experience that educators face in art academia. While this book is highly personal, I’ve surrounded myself with other voices I admire, and who share, amplify, and build on so many of my concerns. It is my hope that these texts and images memorialize and contemplate the complexity of arts education in this protracted moment of instability. - Lindsey White