> Except in art.
It’s possible to achieve a lot without formal study. But the thing is that maybe 1 in 20 million are actually successful at doing it that way. Doesn’t matter what field.
On the other hand, the lecture circuit for all kinds of get rich/successful quick schemes is endless. People pander to the cult of success without work because a) lots of people think they can achieve something without doing the work and lots of people make good $$ by promoting that fantasy.
> Ever wonder why people with PhD's in art or in "art appreciation" aren't all world-famous artists?
No. First, not all want to be. There are a wide range of reasons to earn a degree in art or any other field. Second, I don’t think any university offers a PhD program for ”art appreciation.” "Art appreciation" is typically an intro or continuing ed class taught by a grad student, someone with MA/MS, or some octogenarian who does it for kicks.
I'm guessing you mean Art History. You would do yourself some good to read a little about what it takes to earn an under grad, grad, or PhD degree in that field. If your comment didn’t miss the target by a wide margin it would come across as an empty disparagement. In any event, it’s a red herring.
But more to the point, you will find that higher education employs a lot of successful artists that also practice the art of helping others to learn. Historically the vast majority of successful artists worked their way through guild/apprenticeship systems. The U system is a functional replacement of that.
> What, exactly, does a degree in "art" mean? I know it means you can hit the lecture circuit, "curate," judge art shows or write reviews about them, etc., but how many people with degrees in art really are top-notch artists?
Call any state university that has a school or art. Ask to talk or correspond by email with the dean of the department or their assistant. When you do, ask him or her how many nationally ranked artists teach at their U. You may be surprised. Here is an faculty roster from a local U: http://art.washington.edu/index.php?id=200
If you were to do this kind of research at one of the nicer private schools you may be amazed. Then take a look at the degree requirements. Once you do that you’ll have an idea of what a degree in “art” means. At this point, by your own word, you don’t know. Were you to look, you’ll probably find that there are a heck of a lot more top notch artists with a degree than without.
Now lets try to be direct.
What do you think the odds of success are with a formal education?
What are the odds of success without it?
That’s what I'm sayin.