Art Students: Should They Go For Something More Practical?

Can art students have a practical job in their field?

A contributor for, Kelsey Brow, wrote an article entitled, Practical Art Degrees That Challenge the Starving Artist Myth in which she creates a guide that combines the artist’s life with a viable career.

Brow writes, “Many people envision an art graduate as the struggling painter or frustrated sculptor who is living on noodles and crackers. This vision of the “starving artist” is far from the reality of those who choose practical art degrees. Those who want to be able to find a good job and make a living upon graduation can choose degrees that allow their artistic side to shine while giving them a good paycheck and job security. This guide focuses on those degrees that offer aspiring artists the best of all creative worlds.”

In the guide, she describes what makes an art-related degree practical and provides different jobs in the arts field, as well as pros and cons to those jobs. She focuses on visual and fine arts, so for those of you going into that field, you should definitely read the article.

However, for those of you, who are going into theater, writing, film-making, instrumental, or a different art form, there is a project called Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP).

SNAAP is an online database created by the Indiana University Center for Post-secondary Research that surveys arts alumni on their field of study. The project provides research that dispels the “starving artist” myth in that many artists actually have successful careers.

SNAAP works by teaming up with arts high schools and colleges and administering their surveys to graduates.

According to their website, “SNAAP defines “the arts” and “arts alumni” broadly, to include the following fields: performance, design, architecture, creative writing, film, media arts, illustration and fine art.” Here is a chart that displays the results of a survey SNAAP took of arts graduates within the last 5 years. They surveyed 17, 000 graduates.

The survey showed that finding a job was not as hard as people make it out to be. They also provided a survey that showed whether the arts graduates were happy in their jobs.

Thoughts from an art school student

As a student at the Mississippi School of the Arts, and as I prepare to go to college, I have this HUGE fear that I won’t be successful in my career. Writing is such a competitive field to go into, and my whole life I’ve been told: “There’s no money in writing,” “It takes so long to make it big… most writers die before they ever receive fame,” “Have you thought about law school?” or “You’d make a great teacher; there’s no money in that either, but at least you’ll have job security.”

People often fail to realize that the “starving artist” stereotype began in the Romanticism era of the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s 2020, artists are doing more, and there are more opportunities for us to thrive, so it’s time to get rid of that myth.

People also often assume that to be successful in the arts industry, you have to be well-known or famous. That is absolutely not true! There are so many talented artists out there who many have never even heard of, but are not starving, in debt, or struggling financially. However, if fame is what you seek, it is harder to do that nowadays because everyone’s trying to make it big, but if you are pursuing a career in any arts field, as an art student, I would just encourage you to hang on to your passion. That is what drives you even after things fall through or big breaks don’t happen. You really do have to have some tough skin to go into the arts, and be ready to face criticism, but never let that discourage you from doing what you are passionate about; let it push you to be better.

If you want to write, write. If you want to sing, sing. If you want to dance, dance. Do what makes YOU happy. I mean, don’t throw practicality out of the window completely, but don’t be disheartened by the misconceptions.

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