I am nearly 70,000 in debt from grad school and slowly paying it off on the 30 year payment plan. On one hand, the lower payments have given me the opportunity to develop a practice in NYC that isn't market oriented. But I will be paying about 150,000 in total and so far almost all my payments over the years have gone to interest. Trump's deregulations might make this worse. As I get older and now that I have a child, holding a lot of personal debt simply makes the project of moving into a stable position in life look much less possible. The only good thing is that its helped to wake me up and politicize the work.
I have able to focus on art and activism in NYC by being extremely careful with my spending, by the goodwill of a landlord, and by being married to someone who has a stable job. I make money through adjunct teaching and odd jobs, a small rental business, and occasional artist fees. My life would not be possible if I had to worry about supporting my parents. I've come to realize that my ability to make art and to focus energies on a political art practice that does not generate income is based to a great extent on privilege and this is one reason that I bring activism ever more deeply into my artwork.
Art as I was been taught to think about it in grad school was an aspirational endeaver where success was measured by proximity to the 1%- the Collector Class. In school we did not fully understand how powerfully debt was pushing us into this dynamic of dependance on such people (and their institutions) as potential saviors. Realizing after the 2008 crash and especially recognizing the structural economic injustice that ties me to millions of people has in a way been a gift received from being indebted. It has created no choice but to develop artistic tools as a practice of co-liberation.