On History: Art Instruction School RIP?

By | Tuesday, June 06, 2017 4 comments
Last night, I stumbled across this notice on the Art Instruction School website...
Art Instruction Schools’ mission is simple: provide quality artistic training to aspiring artists in the comfort of their own homes. While Art Instruction Schools has helped many students develop their artistic talents, the School has determined that it is no longer feasible to continue offering the Fundamentals of Art program and serving its student population after December 31, 2018. Art Instruction Schools remains committed to enabling students who are currently enrolled to complete the program. Effective immediately the School will no longer accept new enrollments.

Currently, enrolled students who desire to complete the Fundamentals of Art program prior to December 31, 2018 are encouraged to call Art Instruction Schools to speak with a representative about your progress in the program. While Art Instruction Schools is prepared to provide students with academic guidance, it is the students’ responsibility to complete all program requirements by December 31, 2018. Art Instruction Schools will assist students by providing an academic map to help students stay on track and will send quarterly progress reports. Art Instruction Schools wants to assure that the investment you made in your education produces the intended result.

Thank you for allowing us to help you realize your artistic aspirations for the past 102 years!
To me, this reads like the school will be closing. But over on an FAQ, they state, "Art Instruction Schools will remain open. We are no longer offering the Fundamentals of Art program for new enrollment." However, as they don't have any other courses or programs available, I'm not sure what they plan on doing beyond next year.

Now, why is this relevant to comics? Beyond the obvious, "well, they teach drawing" connection.

While they don't do this type of advertising any more, their ads used to grace the interiors of magazines and comic books trying to sell people on a career in art...
That approach worked, and some of the cartoonists who went through mail order program include Morrie Turner and Charles Schulz. In fact, Schulz later became an instructor there and that's where his original ideas for Peanuts came from. (Several of the characters, including the "little red-haired girl" were based on his co-workers!) Decades later, Schulz noted, "Art Instruction Inc., it was a wonderful place to get started because the atmosphere was not unlike that of a newspaper office. All the instructors were very bright people; they were all ambitious, each of them had his or her desire whether it was to be a fashion artist, or a cartoonist, or a painter."

But you probably already know the Art Instruction School, even if you don't think you do. While they did run ads like the one shown above back in the day, their more well-known ad campaign looked more like this...
Yes, the "Draw Tippy" people, after more than a century of trying to convince people to become cartoonists, seems to finally be petering out. It's kind of amazing that they've lasted this long into the 21st century without appreciably changing their business model, but I suspect it's holding on to that same basic model that's ultimately killing them.

Whether they come back in some other form after 2018 is beyond me, but I think their long history and somewhat tangential association with comics is worth taking a few moments to note here.
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Matt K said...

This is seriously amazing. "They were still in business?"

And technically still are for another year and a half!

Wms1 said...

I'm sorry to hear that Art Instruction schools are closing down teaching part of the facility as an alumi!
I started at art instructions school in 1970 and enjoyed my studies in cartooning.Wherever the company goes I wish them well It was a great school then and is still a great school now.

James Keary Jackson said...

This is terrible for me to read that the art instruction school I knew and was a student of is closing the program of home study. What would charles Schultz think? Some one there in charge is not thinking of the greatness of the tradition they started. Due to hardships in my family I couldn't finish my lessons, although I did complete many. I later went on to get a BFA in drawing and painting, then an MFA in Sculpture. I still would go back now and complete the assignments at least to get a completion.