Imagine. What if you were living in one of the most expensive cities in the United States with:
- over $100,000 worth of inescapable debt
- with no job
- no marketable skill set
- and no immediate prospects?
During my last live Mini-Marketing Makeover Seminar here in San Francisco, three young aspiring illustrators enrolled.
As did an older wealthy businessman, recently turned aspiring artist.
A striking contrast of circumstances sat before me.
These three young ladies had amassed an average of over $100,000 in student loan debt by attending the San Francisco Academy of Art.
One had not even yet received her BFA from the San Francisco Academy of Art.
These young art students where attending my class because they realize that there are no fine art illustration jobs awaiting them to cover their monthly student loan load.
The San Francisco Academy of Art is noted, not so much for its academic excellence, graduation rates, and stunning success of alumni, as it is for being the largest landlord in all of San Francisco.
The student loan debt of these three young artists, over $300,000, will service the San Francisco Academy of Art’s real estate portfolio quite nicely.
And their student loan debt, that can never be discharged by bankruptcy, will severely compromise their futures in ways they have yet to imagine.
The only possible way out for these artists is to master two essential practical skills.
These vital life skills are not taught in art school or in business school. (Trust me. I have worked with several artists who majored in marketing and even those with an MBA.)
And it’s for good reason. Trying to master sales and marketing in an academic environment, is like going to a seminar to learn how to ride a bike.
The harsh reality that is awaiting these young ladies is that they will need to take whatever job they can get to pay their debt and to cover their basic living expenses, leaving little time and energy for making art.
So it is highly likely that they will abandon their art, just like I did for over seven years.
The wealthy successful businessman, on the other hand, has no concern of debt.
He is searching for more meaning.
He wanted to pursue art when he was young but he did what a real man does with a young family, he pursued a more profitable career to support them.
This is admirable.
He describes himself as an “abstract painter.”
Although not always, this is often code for “I’ve received little to no formal art training and I can’t draw.”
The wealthy man was excited and curious about the idea of being an “artist” as he recently had a couple of paintings “accepted” by a “prominent gallerist.”
What this man did not realize was that the reason his inexperience art was most likely “accepted” by this “prominent gallerist” was because of his wealthy personal network, one that will likely attend art openings and buy art.
It’s business. All business. The San Francisco Art Academy is a genius real estate play and the art gallery is an astute collector of collectors.
So. You can play their game and pay their price or you can play your game.
It’s your choice. I prefer not to be played.
I prefer to create value above and beyond my art that is of service to a target market, an in a way that I can be proud of.
The wealthy businessman urged the young aspiring artists to apply for my mentoring program.
As an astute business man, well versed in the upside and downside of risk, he could see the extraordinary cost of their inescapable debt and the likely negative rate of return on their current education investment.
I know that and he knows that.
But they won’t know that until the harsh reality of their debt repayment hits them.
And it is for this reason that I founded and that I maintain Artists Who THRIVE.