I was mainly thinking of it as a way for fen to get more comfortable with the appearances of people with different races, and also how to draw them. --How do you draw a nose on a dark black face and still get across that the character has dark skin? what color are people, really? If I want to make an Asian character who is not just generically asian but rather Korean or Japanese or vietnamese, what are the differences? What do the people of the West Indies look like?
Basically that sort of thing.
Re: Art directors: YES. But just because the system sucks and caters to major book buyers and not to readers doesn't mean we just have to throw up our hands and give up. Book buyers and art directors are people too. :)