The economy in the U.S. and Canada is beginning to pull out of the big ole tank, but jobs are still both hard to come by and easy to lose. Which makes it…the BEST time to stop telling your kid to get a degree in accounting, and instead help her/him become an artist!!! I now pause for you to get your knickers out of that painful twist while I clarify. Being a full time artist is very doable. It is also very different from saying “I want to be a Broadway/Movie Star.” It’s similar to the difference between, “I want to go into innovative technology” and “I want to be Steve Jobs” Those highly visible, highly specific goals are certainly within a realm of possibility, but they come as the result of hard work, initiative, discipline, and commitment to the practice/career itself. Wanting to be an artist as a vocation is not only fabulously feasible, it is also rewarding, practical, and in today’s world, surprisingly stable.
Here’s the story, morning glory:
- Training — multiple entry points, multiple outcomes
Entry Points: one can become a full-time artist via college/university training OR via workshops, diligent dedication to/with an artistic institution, mentorship, and project-based training.
Outcomes: Training in the arts is also training in observation, expression, commitment, and a sense of excellence. Training in the performing arts adds improvisational problem-solving, the ability to work constructively and efficiently with others, presentational skills, ability to create “mile-markers” for a project, the ability to work with a hard deadline, delayed gratification, the holding of the team’s project above all other things including petty intra-office differences, critical thinking kills, and the ability to give input to others in a positive way. Turns out most businesses LOVE employees with these skills. Tom Vander Well says it like this: 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me forSuccess
- Job Security: “What?!?!” Yes, people, yes. You might have a full-time job at a museum, theatre, school, university, or college, and that full-time job is as secure (or more so) as any other organization/education job. The John Hopkins Business School released a study in 2012 showing that while other businesses were laying folks off, non-profits actually ADDED jobs… for the past ten years, including 2007-2009. What about education jobs? Well, according The Guardian and Forbes, “The biggest source of employment for graduates was the education sector — where more than a quarter (25.5%) now work.” Read more here.
What if you are a free-range artist, ronin, piecing together a patchwork of employment and creativity? Here’s the best news: I am never completely out of work. There are leaner times and fuller times, certainly, but even when some things fall through, my other over-lapping projects hold.
- Other benefits
This is my life, and I would not trade it for anything, despite the hard, endless work, the constant outreach, and the lack of what I call “getting paid for not working” — you might know it as “sick days, paid holidays, and vacations.”
Why would I not trade? What do I get?
All jobs have pluses and minuses; here’s my pluses.
- Freedom. I love my freedom. I love that if I look carefully and work hard enough, I can find a way to travel for work. I love that if I am happy with a group and their project, I can help it become an annual or regular event, but if I am unhappy with the people or project I am working with, our partnership will have an ending, and that I can still make the project wonderful and the ending graceful. Most of all, I love love love the variety of people, places and types of work. I love that any given day I may be deliriously happy working with fourth graders as they find their own artist-academic selves, recording an audiobook, rehearsing for a stage show, and doing my accounting (in one work day).
- Human Relevance. I spend my time seeking connections…with people, histories, text, struggles, joys, sorrows, injustices, learning, discoveries… the list goes on, in every single working minute. I am also a part of fostering groups connection-seeking, in every project that I do. WOW. I make a living (and do a LOT of volunteer work) serving humanity, everyday. Making art. Striving for grace. As Henry Miller said, “Art teaches nothing… but the meaning of life.” Please do not tell your child who wants to be an artist that they need to have a real job or have ambition — if serving people, fostering human connection, and creating grace are not good enough for you, well, you might want to wonder why. (Photo by Thomas Hoebbel Photography)
Yes, your child will need to think about what to do next. Yes your child will have to have initiative and work hard, and yes, this life is NOT for everyone who imagines that it is.
But neither is being a business major.
P.S. There are also college and university programs for business arts majors!!
(Amazing dance photo by Thomas Hoebbel Photography)