Something is Strange About This

Abc_card_retro_1Warning: This is nothing but a rant.

Every so often I decide to just do a Modern Postcard mailing and remind people I’m here. Such was the case in November when I sent out about 100-150 postcards. Many were to university art departments, although they aren’t a big target for me. Abc_card_retro_backI sent one to the University of Utah Art & Art History Department, which I’m fairly certain I’d never before contacted. It’s not like I’ve been bombarding them with mail. The postcard didn’t have any writing or soliciting on it. It just talks about the free things I give away on the Web site. (Admittedly, my hope for a relationship with people on their faculty was transparent.)

Anyway, I just got an envelope from them with my postcard inside. On top of it was written, "Please remove us from your mailing list." Sure, no problem. I’m just thinking . . . why in the  world did you spend $.37 to send back my postcard that cost me $.23 to mail (of course, those rates go up tomorrow!)? Strange? Apparently the state of Utah has money to burn and their employees have time on their hands.

Ah, the joys and surprises of marketing!

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9 comments to Something is Strange About This

  • well, as a U of U alumni (not in art, however) I can tell you that the art department is VERY snobby….and apparently doesn’t know how to use e-mail. :-)

  • First I’d like to say, I’m sorry for you & I know how it feels…What this is really about is you put yourself out there, and instead of congratulating you for your entrepreneurship, they slammed you…For some reason this hurts every time…Usually, I have found, the hurt that is inflicted is due to a lack in the perpetrator…Universities are havens for overgrown children, taught to spend money not earn it…Even the business departments- because the real business people are out there- not in the classroom…I guess I understand this because I spent a lot of time in university…It has been a number of years though & I have gained some perspective…The truth is, is you are better than them…and they know it…Recently we ran into an English professor from the University of Toronto…His wife is an art professor…He told us that her course of study basically ends around the 1950s…It takes about 50 years to accrue enough knowledge about an art movement, for example, to teach it …He teaches Shakespeare…In 50 years we will find out how great abstract expressionism was to democracy etc. Students will learn about Alyson Stanfield, and how their university asked to be removed from her mailing list…They will say this with wide eyes, like when we speak today of how Picasso was rejected from salons…Those narrow minded hurtful academicians will grow old & withered & will look like shrivelled apple dolls…Ok, just a thought…but really, remember, the worst thing is a failed artist- beware of the failed artist ! ( I suspect your postcard met with one of these creatures)…

  • I realize that a lot of people are fed up with junk mail and spam, and some schools have a strict policy about what is advertising/what to condone, but I agree that that’s a pretty ridiculous action. Especially since they directed their efforts at your non-solicitory & first-time mailing. I guess they were sick of passively tossing “junk” mail in general in the “round-file” and felt the need to get your attention – but in probably not the best of ways. However, this brings up an interesting question to philosophize about – if you had sent a nice long letter or more personal invitation instead, or had even called or shown up in person, (I’m not taking into consideration what a drain on your resources that would be, vs. a postcard mailing, of course – just dreaming here) would they have rejected you outright as well? In a world where advertising postcards are dominating the junk-mail landscape, are people in general looking for more of a personal, customer-centric experience when it comes to a first contact by a service professional? Or are postcards still an effective means of drumming up new business?

  • Sari, How funny! I’m actually neither hurt nor offended, but puzzled by the return. I think Cassondra poses a fascinating question. I think I’ll post it separately to call attention to it. What a cool thought . . . people might be studying me one day! (Yikes! I’d better get my house in order.)

  • Maybe they just felt slighted that the postcard has an older picture than the website? :) Although seriously – I love universities and while the inhabitants tend to live in the ivory tower I think they are a very very important part of a thriving and successful civilization. Research for the pure sake of research is of vital importance in all areas: art, science, humanities, business, etc. And that is what universities do best in their own unique ways. They get a pretty bad reputation for “wasting money” and “being snobs” which in some cases is well deserved. But they also are extremely misunderstood by many and trashed for ridiculous reasons because their goals (research for the pure sake of research) aren’t really valued by many.

  • Well said, Lisa! As a former University museum staff person, lecturer, and as a proud recipient of a master’s degree, I couldn’t agree more. Whatever the foils and foibles of universities are, the people there recognize their roles as educators. They’re there because they love to teach. Someone has to do it! I am one of those who believes that one can never have enough education. I also know that most universities never have enough money–especially university art departments!

  • Tony Arduino, Photographer

    I would just add that the highest paid professions in the civilized world are in the arts. They always have been, and always will be. The most obvious in modern times would be movies, music, imaging (this would include everything from painting to print to all forms of photography and graphic arts). The only people who make more than these artists are the companies that market their art!

  • In response to [edited out] comments. I agree and I disagree. It would be nice to walk out of college prepared for the real world. But is that the purpose or goal of a university? Or is that the purpose of a trade school? I come from a computer science background, 4 years undergrad, 4 years grad (didn’t quit finish that phd as I ran out of energy to jump through other people’s hoops). I went to 2 very top notch universities that believed in teaching computer science fundamentals and not teaching “how to get a job and survive your job” type of computer science. I got an incredible education but when it came to the real world and writing huge commercial software systems I was clueless. Although I could do an NP-completeness proof in minutes. It was frustrating at first when I was working in the real world because I really wasn’t prepared for the craziness that is corporate American. They didn’t come close to teaching me how to survive in that world. But looking back I don’t think that was their place. My ex is a computer science professor and the choice between teaching “real world” hands on “how to” type classes vs. teaching theory and good solid fundamentals of computer science is an on going battle. And I think it is what distinguishes the top universities (fundamentals and theory) from trade schools. I was out of the tech field for 10 years and my incredible education landed me a job months after 9/11 during hiring freezes and the dot com crash without having to interview. I wouldn’t trade my good solid theoretical education for all the practical hand holding for anything. What I learned in the 1980’s about computer science is still absolutely relevant today, because they taught me the theory, not the practical (and quickly outdated) how to survive type information. I’m sure there are a lot of parallels to art school education. I can’t imagine the art departments aren’t aware of the situation. It’s a question of what the professors feel constitutes a quality art (or computer science) education.

  • In response to Lisa Call’s comments. I attend two art programs and received a wonderful art education. I am very thankful for the emphasis placed on art history and theory in both programs. I wouldn’t trade that knowledge for anything. I am also extremely grateful for the chair of my thesis committee, who along with these things, placed emphasis on artist’s statements, resumes, practicing slide presentations, etc. Discussing art theory gets the creative juices flowing but the art business stuff allows us to make a living doing what we love. Encouraging art students to consider a business/marketing minor is one solution. (Five years ago I wouldn’t have believed I would ever say that but I’ve seen too many people spend 50K or more on art school education and end up working at coffee shops). We all have to keep our books and promote our work, in one way or another. You’d be amazed at how many of us graduate from school unprepared to do those things. Most art students don’t graduate with the intention of applying for 9-5 jobs. They intend to be entrepreneurs, creating and selling art. As artists we have to balance our studio lives with our business selves. Why not teach that skill to students? I don’t think it has to an either/or proposition.