Art Careers: Putting Art Degrees to Work

Jesse Bakey. Clarke 2012 BFA with a studio emphasis in sculpture

Do you remember the last time you saw a listing for artist needed in an on-line jobs board or the Sunday newspaper classified ads?

What can I do with a major in Art or Design?Louise Kames is chair of the Art and Design department at Clarke University. The following is a collection of her valuable insights on putting a degree to use in the professional world.

Follow your passion and pursue a career in art and design. Use your head and expand your preconceptions of how artists and designers impact the world around us. Think about your daily activities from the time the alarm goes off to your arrival at school or work. Does an app on your iPhone or Android phone awaken you? Someone designed the phone, the case, and the app. Is your bedding or your pajamas graced with a repetitive pattern? The composition of t-shirts, blue jeans, skirts and sweaters all pass through the hands of designers, as do the webpages, catalogs, direct mail marketing pieces that alerted you to these articles of clothing. Did a clothing store layout or point of purchase display attract you? Even before you dressed you encountered a decorative shower curtain or bathroom tile, lighting, fixtures and so forth. All designed by someone.

“Follow your passion and pursue a career in art and design. Use your head and expand your preconceptions of how artists and designers impact the world around us.”

The breakfast table offers numerous examples of packaging design. Did you check the morning news on screen or on the printed page? Again, all designed. Consider your transit to school or work: vehicle design, interior design, bus pass, bill boards, wayfinding or signage and the multitude of images and interactivity you peruse using the digital interface on your phone.

These examples culled from our ever-increasing visual world came from the talents of easily identified positions such as graphic designer, motion designer, game designer, web designer, animator, production artist, industrial designer, interior designer, or fashion designer. But the design world is becoming more expansive. Jobs will emerge in the tech and design field that simply don’t exist today. You can increase marketability by adding allied skills in writing, coding or fabrication techniques. Adding an academic minor in theatre, communication or business broadens your expertise as well as professional contacts.

While the list of potential careers is wide open in the design field, a studio art graduate will not find the same easily identified creative jobs. Teaching art is an obvious choice if you want to see immediate job listings, but there is strong likelihood you may need to relocate to areas that need teachers. Certification or an advanced degree are required to teach in the traditional venues of K-12, community college or university settings. However, alternative teaching opportunities exist at art museums, community centers, senior centers, artist non-profit studios, with Americorp, or as a curriculum planner or sales advocate for art material manufacturers.

“While there is little likelihood that you can earn a living as an independent studio artist right out of college, you do possess many marketable and desired skills for today’s workplace.”

I’m going to highlight the career path of four BFA degree graduates from the Clarke University Art and Design Program. Each chose an emphasis in studio art, not graphic design. Each has forged a strong career path. While there is little likelihood that you can earn a living as an independent studio artist right out of college, you do possess many marketable and desired skills for today’s workplace.

Jesse Bakey. Clarke 2012 BFA with a studio emphasis in sculpture
Jesse Bakey. Clarke 2012 BFA with a studio emphasis in sculpture

Jesse Bakey, (Clarke 2012 BFA with a studio emphasis in sculpture) initially took the traditional route and landed a middle school teaching position with Clinton (IA) Community Schools, only to loose the position after the first year due to district cutbacks. It did not take long for McCullough Creative, the leading Marketing firm in Dubuque, to recognize Bakey’s unique talents. He was hired as Production Artist at McCullough in summer 2015. In this position he fabricates trade show and museum exhibits, signage, props and displays of all kinds. Bakey’s undergraduate degree emphasis in sculpture provided him with the technical and creative tools to find a home in the fabrication shop. In a recent McCullough blog, Bakey shared,

“I wake up and it’s not like I’m going to work—I’m going to make art. It’s not necessarily the stuff that I would choose otherwise, but it’s still building something, it’s still working with my hands, and I’m still learning from it. To me it really feels like the college studio art classes. That is what I really like about it. It feels like you are constantly learning, trying new things, and just pushing yourself to find what else you can do.”

Bakey’s position at McCullough Creative is an example of innovative careers that merge disciplines of studio art and design. Fine art sculpture skills meet design.

Clarke 2009 BFA degree with a studio emphasis in ceramic sculpture
Clarke 2009 BFA degree with a studio emphasis in ceramic sculpture

Marianne Bennett, (Clarke 2009 BFA degree with a studio emphasis in ceramic sculpture) secured a competitive, two-year Resident/Internship at Terra Incognito, an urban ceramics arts center, located in Oak Park, IL. In exchange for maintaining studios, mixing glazes, firing kilns and assisting with center classes, Bennett enjoyed use of the ceramics facility and was mentored by professional studio artists. While at Terra Incognito Bennett’s interest in the tattoo industry began to take shape. Tattoo art, like production ceramics is a utilitarian art form, the artist’s creative talent is put to a functional use. Developing a unique visual language helps your work stand out from generic or stereotypical images.  While Bennett’s academic work focused on ceramic sculpture she continued to take advanced classes in drawing and art history. These help to ground her expanded repertoire of imagery. Following an internship, she creates tattoos out of the studio Animal Farm Tattoo, in Chicago, IL. Her complete portfolio can be viewed on Instagram @mariannebennetttattoo.

“Jobs will emerge in the tech and design field that simply don’t exist today. You can increase marketability by adding allied skills in writing, coding or fabrication techniques. Adding an academic minor in theatre, communication or business broadens your expertise as well as professional contacts.”

Illustration by Sarah Ehlinger, graduated from Clarke University in 1998 with a BFA degree in studio art.
Illustration by Sarah Ehlinger, graduated from Clarke University in 1998 with a BFA degree in studio art.

Sarah Ehlinger graduated from Clarke University in 1998 with a BFA degree in studio art. In addition to her art interests Ehlinger worked behind the scenes in Clarke’s theatre productions. This allied interest has been critical to here career path. Her artistic talent as well as the theatre experience led to an internship at a repertory theatre in Arrow Rock, MO following graduation. Soon thereafter, Ehlinger moved to the Minneapolis, MN and secured a position creating props with the prestigious Guthrie Theatre. This led to work as a visual stylist, creating displays and backdrops for trade shows, department stores and commercial interiors. Her varied artistic sensibilities and experiences, including painting, sculpture, and an aptitude for all manner of design were integral to securing a job with a large design agency where she was soon promoted to a position of art director. Each of these workplaces expanded her skill set and network of professional contacts. Ehlinger’s career is now centered on illustration and surface pattern design. She resides in Los Angeles, CA, works in a home studio and has an active professional presence on social media. She is a self-professed, slashie or illustrator/designer/art director/creative strategist. Her playful watercolor illustrations and surface patterns have been featured on Martha Stewart Living, Apartment Therapy, DIY Studio and Print and Pattern websites and can be found printed on greeting cards, journals, table linens, wallpaper, ceramic tiles, and rugs. Ehlinger’s Instagram page touts nearly 10,000 followers. You can view the work at VerySarie.com.

Social media sites offer today’s emerging artists a low cost option for self-promotion. On-line venues such as Etsy, Instragram and Facebook disrupt the traditional visual artist trajectory of having to secure a gallery to promote one’s work. Today artists can work anywhere and do not necessarily need to move to an art mecca like New York. This is particularly strategic for young artists who will spend less on studio rent in a more rural or regional home base.

“Art and Design college graduates leave school with multifaceted perspectives drawn from a liberal arts education with wide ranging coursework in the sciences, literature and art history, often with a global outlook… They are researchers, strategic thinkers, risk takers and engaged in local communities. These are skills and attributes applicable in a private studio, business or industrial workforce.”

Art and Design college graduates leave school with multifaceted perspectives drawn from a liberal arts education with wide ranging coursework in the sciences, literature and art history, often with a global outlook. They possess creative problem skills along with strong communication and collaborative skills. These emerging creatives are well versed in speaking about and critiquing their own and others work. Wide ranging ideas drawn from multiple disciplines are realized in physical or virtual form. They are researchers, strategic thinkers, risk takers and engaged in local communities. These are skills and attributes applicable in a private studio, business or industrial workforce.


About the Author:

louise Kames
louise Kames

Louise Kames holds an MFA degree in drawing and printmaking from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a professor of art and chair of the Art + Design Department at Clarke University. Her drawings, prints and installation-based work are exhibited across Iowa and the Midwest. She participates in regional, national and international juried exhibitions. Kames enjoys the creative and cultural exchanges prevalent at international artist residencies, including: Schloss Plüschow, Frans Masereel Centrum, The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Banff Centre for the Arts and as many locations in the United States.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


UA-82868159-1