Emerging Artists: An Ethnography of High Art in Higher Education

Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2012

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation tells the story of how aspiring artists train to be artists in the university. It is part of a broader attempt to understand art and what it means to become an artist in their own terms. The students I met were not looking for employment or a job in the traditional sense. They were, however, deeply involved in exploring self-creation and transformation. A key part of training to be an artist means learning to speak the language of art. Increasingly, artists acquire this language during their time in graduate school. Contemporary artwork necessarily involves language. Art is not just working on material production but also working on the self. This involves the crafting of stories, which are in part about objects and their making, but also about emerging understandings of self as an artist. A key ethnographic goal is to observe and understand how people come to craft these "emerging artist stories." There is a dialectic between emerging artists' self-making and the changing constraints and conditions of becoming credentialed and consecrated as an artist in the university.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

John Bowen

Committee Members

Wayne Fields, Bret Gustafson, Rebecca Lester, Keith Sawyer, James Wertsch


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7JS9NCB

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