Part of my work as a college professor involves preparing students to graduate. How do you prepare an art major to enter today’s job market? There’s no easy path. Art education has a bit more definition, as does arts management, but art? So what to do?
I teach students how-to:
- Write an artist statement and an artist bio
- Create an artist resume
- Establish an online presence through websites and social media
- Talk about one’s art in formal and informal settings
- Document the work
- Plan/Prepare/Create/Install an exhibit—including making your own shows in unusual places
- Look for residencies, exhibitions, jobs and then how to apply (And the importance of reading the directions!)
I require students to purchase and read the following books–listed in the order that the students rank their usability and relevance:
- I’d Rather be in the Studio
- How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist without Selling your Soul
These nuts and bolts things prepare the student for some aspects of the life of the artist. But the greater thing I try to do is to get students to answer the question Do I feel the need to be an artist deep in my soul? I truly believe that the path of the artist must be a calling or a vocation. The path is laced with many challenges and obstacles. One must really want it to be even remotely successful. And one must be willing to do the hardwork necessary to succeed, even when that hardwork doesn’t seem to relate.
Rilke speaks to this in Letters to a Young Poet, asking the young poet questions to help him clarify if he is ready for the commitment. But there are three questions that can also be asked that can help too. These questions can be used for any soon-to-graduate college student, or anyone looking to make a change in their life.
- What am I good at?
- What do I LOVE to do?
- What does the world need?
Answering these questions may be easy or hard for a student, and listening to the real answers may be even harder. But as the questions are being pondered and answered, it’s super important to go out and try stuff. To get internships, to do stuff for friends, to volunteer, to try as much as possible, and to ask everyone you know about opportunities. You never know who might just know someone who knows someone who gets you that killer opportunity.
Some students are really good at this. They are persistent. They use their creative problem solving skills developed as an artist to find opportunities. And they find stuff. And then when they find something and do it, they are more likely to be chosen for the next opportunity because they have at least a little experience. I try to instill into my students that they must take an opportunity when it comes. They cannot wait for the next one, because the next one might not come. We each create our own luck by the hard work we put into our lives. Some students get this. Some don’t.
These three questions come from Theologian Michael Himes of Boston College, (This is a really good link, it’s a transcript of a lecture he gave about the three questions–if you are wanting to make changes in your life, click the link.) He adds this in regards to discernment:
One vocation embraces all our other vocations: to be a human being. We are called to be as intelligent, as responsible, as free, as courageous, as imaginative, and as loving as we possibly can be. All of my other vocations, all of the many ways in which I live my life, must contribute to that one all-embracing demand, that one constant vocation to be fully, totally, absolutely as human as I can possibly be.
And this leads us back to the questions, sitting with the answers, ready to act—
I invite you to ask the questions of yourself, to see if the work you are doing right now is what you are good at, what you love and what the world needs. If not, what would happen if you changed something to get just a little bit closer to what those answers reveal?