Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The struggles of a Fine Arts graduate

When I finished my Visual Arts degree, I was very unsure of what to do next. If there is one thing I've learned after completing a university education, it is that the focus of university is on academia and knowledge, and what you do with it when you're finished is of no concern to them. This is unfortunate, however, because many students are never taught the skills to get the job, or to even know what job they are qualified for. There is something that I find very frustrating about programs that charge such large sums of money and put teenagers in insurmountable debt despite holding the firm belief that there is no place there to teach usable real life skills in the field.

While I was studying Visual Arts, I spent the entire four years feeling as if I had myself all figured out. "I am soooo lucky that I know what I'm passionate about and what I want to do for the rest of my life straight out of high school", said my brain while dragging my tired ass to class every day.



However, things were very different after I was out of school. I was left with this wandering sense of "now what?". I had to find somewhere to live, money to pay rent, and no one was showing up at my door offering me money to live as an artist.


So what did I do?! Well I did what many artists do at that point in their career! I started working at a call centre. (Other acceptable answers here would have been gas station, restaurant, or retail outlet).

It's a sad truth: since the recession it has become extremely difficult to be an artist. I don't understand how art schools can stay afloat if they do not begin teaching students the skills to survive after art school. You see, no matter how passionate you are about something, you still need to eat and pay rent. No matter how passionate I was about art, I had to work 40 hours a week at a call centre. There have been several points in my life where I've had to work two jobs, up to 60 hours a week, just to afford the cost of living. Finding the time to make art on top of that is difficult. Finding the time to network yourself or to sell your art on top of that is near impossible.

Here is a great Maclean's article about how difficult it is to be a Fine Arts graduate right now, and how schools have to adapt.

Students need to start these processes while still in school. Students need to start gaining the business skills (networking, marketing, financial skills, etc) while still in art school, because they will never find the time to learn these on their own. Instead, they end up in dead end jobs with piles of half-finished and finished canvases in their bedroom that no one will see because they don't know how to get someone to look, while busting their asses to pay off their debts.

Now that I'm enrolled in an MBA, I feel like I am gaining the necessary skills to be a working artist. If that doesn't work out, I have the skills to find a job that will pay me enough that I can at least have the time to get my art out there. However, I was never made aware that applying for an MBA was an option for me as a Visual Arts graduate. It took me four years the figure that out. Nor did I think for a second to enroll in business electives during my undergrad. Why did no one tell me these things?! Why have I suffered this whole time?

I think one of the issues is that the professors teaching these programs never faced the problems that we do. When they finished school there was grant money available, there were teaching jobs, they didn't have to choose between making art and eating. However, I sincerely feel that they should look around them and see what is occurring to students after they walk out of the school doors. They need to adapt, or there will be no room for art school and no room for art in the lives of the upcoming generation.

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