It’s the era of Wikipedia. “Expertise” is collective, democratic, imperfect, and ever-changing. I like this. It’s problematic, but it’s honest. Universities are nervously exploring what this means for their futures, and surely they must adapt or dwindle as relics of a time when information was disseminated from a single point at a specified time by a pre-ordained expert.
In the meantime, some exciting educative alternatives are popping up in the professional arts sector. CLASSCLASSCLASS is one. Decidedly grassroots, CLASSCLASSCLASS has a dual purpose: 1. to engage and develop a new generation of teachers from the professional, contemporary performance community; and 2. to provide affordable, professional-level classes to students of contemporary performance. Often the artists teaching one class are students in another. I like this too: “teacher” is not a fixed status, and neither is “student.”
Another interesting alternative is Trade School, a collaborative project of Our Goods (an organization which facilitates bartering of goods and services among artists) and Grand Opening (an organization that creates interactive public art experiences akin to “stores”). At Trade School, you can attend classes from book-making to butter-making. You can participate in a discussion on art, labor, and economics, or attend an “Idea Party.” Your ticket to any of these activities is predicated not on your ability to cough up 20 bucks, but on your ability to fulfill one of the “barter needs” of Trade School’s instructors.
The proliferation and importance of structures for collective expertise might just be the silver lining of our stormy economy. When no one has anything, it’s easier to share.