UW News

January 20, 2005

What can you do with an art degree? Sessions offer answers

UW News

Myth or reality? There are no good jobs out there for people with undergraduate degrees in the visual arts.

It’s a myth, say staffers in the School of Art’s academic advising office. And they intend to prove that with “Careers in the Arts,” a four-day series of workshops, panel discussions and lectures for students running Tuesday, Jan. 25, through Friday, Jan. 28.

Advisor Laura Todd said the informative series was prompted in large part by “students sitting in our office asking questions like, ‘Can I take a course on how to develop my portfolio?’ or ‘How do I make connections with arts and artists in the community?’”

Such questions and more will be addressed in the series of sessions, which start at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday with a 90-minute program titled “Jobs in the Arts: A Working Guide.” That will be followed Wednesday by “Working Artists,” a panel discussion among several people making a living with their creative skills. “Working in the Arts: Internships, Careers and Volunteer Opportunities Fair” will be held Thursday in Mary Gates Hall, followed Friday by sessions on graduate education and how to photograph art works for use in a portfolio.

The sessions are part of the UW’s sixth annual Career Discovery Week, a campuswide exploration of vocational options for students. The School of Art’s academic advisors — Todd, Advising Director Judi Clark as well as Kate Bagley and Lori Moskal — were the creative force behind the sessions..

Clark said people tend to think too narrowly when considering vocational opportunities related to the arts. The sessions, she said, will help students consider the various skills they are learning with their arts degrees.

“One would definitely be problem-solving, and in the arts it is not about a single answer — it’s about recognizing there is more than one answer to every problem, and more than one solution,” Clark said. Arts majors, she added, “are trained to think creatively and expansively.” And while arts-related jobs may not be immediately evident, they are often there just the same. “Even places like Crate and Barrel have a merchandizing intern option for students,” she said, “and they hire designers and work with them.”

Visual literacy plays a huge role in everyday life, Clark said, and good visuals can communicate well across gender, cultural, geographical and other barriers. “Having the ability to be visually literate is enormous,” she said. “Our students in the visual arts and probably in the arts in general understand the presentation of visual image and how important that is in shaping communications.”

Ceramics Professor Jamie Walker, one of those featured in the “Working Artist” session — along with Seattle artists Dan Webb and Claire Cowie — had ample praise for the advisors responsible for the information sessions.

“We’ve really got great staff in the advising department, and they have all sorts of extra offerings they provide,” Walker said.

Walker said specific programs within the School of Art curriculum offer professional practices seminars and other ways of learning vocational applications for the arts. But the school’s staff have made sure that the information offered in the sessions is not necessarily program-specific, and could be of use to almost any student studying the arts.

“Most students get theory and technique and practice, then get a degree and go out there, and it’s not like coming out with a business degree, where you can go out and apply for a job. Everyone who has survived in the arts has figured out their own way of doing it.”

Clark admitted that she herself used to downplay the potential for employment with arts degrees. “But then I began to think about the real possibilities,” she said. “Art majors learn to create visual images and understand visual literacy. In a world powered by visual communication and visual stimulation, there should be thousands of companies waiting to hire individuals with these special skills.”

To learn more: Call 206-543-0646 or e-mail uaskart@u.washington.edu. For information and schedules for UW Career Discovery Week, visit online at: http://depts.washington.edu/careerwk/.