Why This Artist Created a Painting for Each of His 120 Student Loan Payments

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Every borrower deals with the burden of education debt in their own way. Some channel their frustrations by creating a student loan debt blog, challenging elected officials on social media, or commiserating with similarly indebted classmates or coworkers.

Paul Fentress handles it with paint and canvas.

Though not quite a starving artist, thanks to his day job with a real-estate startup, Fentress carries three times as much in student loans as the average graduate. He left college in 2016 with $91,480.80 worth of federal loans, including Parent PLUS loans for which he assumes responsibility, resulting in a mammoth monthly payment of $762.34.

To cope, he created 120 12-inch-by-12-inch paintings over the course of 2018, one work for each payment he’s slated to make in the decade ahead.

“For months, I was overwhelmed trying to figure out how I would ever manage to focus paying this off for 10 years while trying to pursue creative interests, but I kept painting and creating more work,” he said. “I was hoping that eventually selling the art I made would help offset the cost of some of my student loans.”

If his e-commerce site StudentLoanArt.com seems like it was created sardonically, it’s because Fentress considers it a piece of art in and of itself. Fittingly, he named the collection “Forbearance” after the payment-postponement tactic available from all federal loan servicers (and some private lenders).

To date, Fentress has made about $23,000 in payments, but has only decreased his balance to about $89,000 because of accruing interest.

To check out a slideshow of Fentress’ student loan art, click and drag (or swipe) to slide through the photos below or click on the left and right arrows.

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