Tag Archives: careers in the arts

Tracy Graziani Arts Entrepreneur

Careers in the Arts: Entrepreneurs

by Tracy Graziani

I used to read this design magazine (remember those?) called ReadyMade. It was a quirky diversion from typical magazines because it focused on things we don’t tend to associate with the design industry such as sustainability and DIY projects that discourage consumerism in favor of reuse and repurposing of castaway items. As a lifelong lover of making things with old junk (ask my poor mother about raising me) it was probably my favorite magazine of all time.

They had a regular column titled “How did you get that f@#$%^& awesome job?” I read it religiously. It featured creative people doing sometimes remarkable, and occasionally off the wall things. Who knew someone could make a living with a skeleton shop? And yes, that is a real thing. While I was fascinated by these people I hadn’t yet considered that I could be one of them.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Aside from a period in third grade when I planned to be a princess/cheerleader, as far back as I can remember I planned to be an artist. I didn’t really know exactly what that would look like, and nobody really questioned the idea until I didn’t outgrow the crazy notion. Eventually my parents pushed me to explore some “real jobs.”

I wasn’t super keen on the idea, but it made everyone else feel better about my aspirations when I chose to major in art education in undergraduate school. Turns out I loved teaching, but long story short, I hated working for a school district. I worked on a masters degree, this time in psychology, and I studied creativity theory. I got the offer of a lifetime and at a very young age became an executive in one of the largest museums in the country. There wasn’t a day that I worked at the Detroit Institute of Arts that I didn’t feel honored just to be there.

Life happened though, as it is want to do, and I ended up having to leave the museum due to a divorce-related comedy of errors that is another story unto itself. I found myself in Ohio again, trying to find work in museums or art centers, and working a string of unrewarding jobs along the way. I met my husband, moved to Mansfield, had one last stint in an arts organization, and when that fell apart so did I.

How did I get this f@#$%^& awesome job?

Up to this point I held this limiting belief that the only way I’d make a living as an artist would be to work for some arts institution. With only one employer in my field in Mansfield, now a former employer, my future looked pretty bleak.

Sometimes adversity is opportunity if you choose to see it that way. You’ll never hear me say, “Everything happens for a reason,” because I simply don’t believe that. Life is messy, horrible things happen, and it’s perfectly acceptable to experience the low times for exactly what they are–miserable. BUT–we can’t dwell there.

“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.”

Elizabeth Taylor

I took Elizabeth Taylor’s advice and continued to show up at meetings and events, and volunteered more for the causes I cared about.

A friend messaged me and planted a very important seed. She said, “Maybe now is the time to start something of your own.” This began an interesting journey to find my footing and really flesh out an idea that had legs.

Somewhere in the universe you can find this perfect overlap of what you know, what you’re good at, who you are, what you’re passionate about, and what people will pay for. It takes time, reflection, openness, confidence, risk taking, and a bunch of other things that don’t cost a penny, but will tax your soul.

In time I launched Tog Loft. We’re a unique organization that helps photographers of all types to grow in the way that works best for them. Whether you want to take better snapshots of your kids, or plan to transition to becoming a full-time photographer, we help you achieve those goals. It’s incredibly fulfilling work and I’m very proud of our members and what we do in our community.

I also had this side hustle doing public relations, freelance writing, and marketing. I’d never taken it particularly seriously, but at some point I realized that I had a “real business” and maybe I should treat it as such. We took our formerly part-time business full-time and Graziani Multimedia became an agency. We help businesses to grow, and that is such a wonderful privilege.

Yes, you can make a living in the arts

None of it happened overnight, and looking back it’s interesting to see how my career has evolved, and no doubt will continue to do so. As a kid I never would have dreamed that I’d own a digital marketing agency, in part because the internet didn’t really exist then, but also because I lacked exposure to the vast array of cool careers that exist. And I certainly didn’t think about creating something that didn’t exist, like Tog Loft.

As it turns out a combination of education in the arts and psychology is the perfect blend of art and science that makes my mind wired wonderfully for marketing, especially in a digital age. The most important lesson I’ve learned along the way is that sometimes the perfect job will never be posted on a job board. Occasionally it is up to us to make our own luck, and that has made all the difference for me.

All jobs are real jobs

I’d also like to point out that there are many paths that artists take, and sometimes a person’s day job is a means to support their work, but not their creative work. Many a gifted artist have worked non-arts jobs in the post office, as did William Faulkner, as theater managers like Bram Stoker, or even as a stockbroker, like Paul Gauguin. Sometimes art as a job takes the joy out of the work and another job is a better service to the artist.

Whenever I hear someone snark that a foolish college kid is going to end up working in a coffee shop or bartending forever because they chose to pursue the arts I cringe. Many great artists have done just that, and were all the happier for it. I know I am.

Steven Au

Careers in the Arts: Graphic Design

by Colleen Cook

A performing arts center has a high need for great graphic design. Our product, shows, is constantly changing as we move through the year and a great deal of our marketing is visual. That makes it important to work with a skilled designer who understands the message and the performing arts. At the Renaissance, we’ve been lucky to work with tremendously talented graphic designers both on our staff and contracted out over the years to tell our visual story and promote our shows.

Our Assistant Marketing Director and Graphic Designer on staff is Steven Au. Steven is very good at what he does (and I’m his boss, so I know better than most how true that is!) and is uniquely qualified for his position because he grew up as a musician in our Youth Strings and Youth Orchestra programs.

Nearly every visual thing you see from the Renaissance has come from Steven’s desk, and we’re better for it. I sat down with Steven to learn more about his path to the graphic design field. Here’s our interview:

Colleen Cook: What inspired you to become a graphic designer?

Steven Au:  Part of it was my older brother, he was actually involved in graphic design and got the same degree in school that I ended up pursuing. Also, in high school I gained an interest in graphic design from taking graphic arts and photoshop classes. I had a light up tracing table and did a lot of tracing as a kid, and played around with design in Powerpoint too.

CC: You mentioned that you took some graphic design courses in high school. Tell us about your collegiate training.

SA: I graduated from a 2-year program at North Central State College, an Associate’s in Visual Communications and Media Technology. My main track was based on graphic design but also involved some video production, animation, and web design. I also interned at the Renaissance as part of the program, which is how I landed my job.

CC: Do you see graphic design as an artistic expression? 

SA: I think it definitely can be. I can be a little obsessive about getting details right. I like the ability to look at the current design trends and use that as inspiration for the Ren’s marketing materials.

CC: What do you enjoy most about your job, and what do you enjoy least or find challenging?

SA: I like being able to design things that I see in places, like on a billboard, that I never would have seen something I created before. I don’t enjoy doing direct mail, and I also find it a little tedious to rework a design for multiple formats. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship with retooling a design. Sometimes it’s really easy to do that, and it can be nice to not have to create something from scratch every time.

CC: How do you engage with the arts outside of your day job?

SA: I am very involved with music outside of work. I also do a limited amount of graphic design for our church. I’m a violinist and I sub with the Mansfield Symphony, and enjoy recording and making videos for my YouTube channel, and I sing with a choral group at church and I also arrange music for our choir, as well as accompany.


If you’d like to learn more about our internship opportunities, keep an eye on our employment page where we frequently post internship opportunities.

Shenandoah Performing Arts Leadership Students in Greece

Careers in the Arts: Arts Administration, part 2

by David Edelman

Attending the recent Social Theory, Politics and the Arts conference in Minneapolis reminded me just how rich and diverse is the field of arts management and cultural policy.   I met with teachers, researchers and graduate students from all over the globe who came together under the conference theme “Creative Disruption in the Arts.” There were presentations on cultural entrepreneurship, cultural planning, museum management and policy, the professionalization of careers in the arts, international cultural relations, and on and on.   It’s an exciting and intellectually nourishing time to be engaged with this field. And it is wide open for emerging professionals and leaders in the arts. As a relatively young field (in the US, the proliferation of non-profit, professional arts organizations only dates back to the mid-1960s) it has taken us a while to build up a critical mass of professional employment opportunities as arts makers, producers, researchers, and educators.   But now, well into the 21st century, the field is exploding.   We can see this surge in the increasing desire of arts organizations to hire only trained management professionals and in the degree to which independent artists and small arts groups are required to be skilled in marketing, social media, finance, fundraising, legal issues, and strategic planning. We also see it in the extraordinary growth of international cultural exchange, international professional touring, and cross-cultural arts projects, much of which has been facilitated by the concurrent rise in connectivity, social media, migration and immigration, and global arts networking.

Showbusiness ain’t what it used to be.

And one of the great drivers of this explosive change in the cultural landscape is disruption. In the area of jobs, this disruption can be looked at through the lens of competitiveness.   As the arts landscape has evolved over the past twenty years or so, the demand for an increasing skilled professional workforce has evolved alongside.   This demand has, in turn, driven a significant increase in both arts management/cultural policy higher education degree programs and professional development opportunities for those already in the workforce. And thus, the supply of a skilled workforce has grown.   It’s the classic supply and demand relationship, except we don’t quite know where the equilibrium lies because the pace of change is so rapid in our field. For the foreseeable future, we can reasonably expect that the demand for skilled, professional arts managers will rise.   A large number of senior level arts managers – my pioneering generation who entered the field in the 1970s and 80s — are aging out.   This is opening up new employment and advancement opportunities. The rise of entrepreneurial risk taking in the production of art by individuals and ensembles, requiring sophisticated professional skills, is a new strand in the employment fabric. So too is the need for professionals whose skills facilitate global arts connectivity and creation.

Am I optimistic about the opportunities for skilled, professional arts managers? You bet. The pre-requisite for success, however, is training and education (shameless plug: visit su.edu/conservatory for more information about my graduate Performing Arts Leadership and Management Program).   I’m particularly keen on the need for artists to get the training and experience they need in order to move their projects forward in this complex world.   Artists can no longer simply wait for the next audition. Opportunity must be a self-creation.

Several years ago, one of my graduate students, a young woman from Saudi Arabia, proposed a culminating project for her master’s degree that described the creation of a program to foster the work of Saudi women-crafters.   I thought it was a lovely idea and encouraged her to write it up.   She returned from winter break at home in Riyadh with approval from the government to create a foundation, seed money, a board of directors, and the first cohort of craftspeople that she wanted to support. I wasn’t so much astounded by her capacity to do all this. It was the fact that she did it in 30 days that blew me away.

Creativity + training + gumption is an awesome combination.

David Edelman is Associate Professor of Performing Arts Leadership and Management at Shenandoah University. He is also co-editor of The American Journal of Arts Management.

 

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Careers in the Arts: Arts Administration

by Colleen Cook

Arts Administration (also called “arts management”) is a diverse field of employment in the arts, with a broad range of jobs and workplaces. An arts administrator is a business-minded leader of an arts and cultural organization/festival/institution. Degree programs in the field of Arts Administration have been available in higher education since the 1970s, and focus on elements of business administration, non-profit administration, advocacy, fund development, marketing, arts law, along with other elements of the arts and cultural industry.

At the Renaissance, we employee arts administrators in the departments of fund development, marketing, executive leadership, bookings, box office, finance, and direction. Many of our staff have experience in both the arts and business, and some of our staff members hold degrees specific to arts management. Successful arts administrators possess a dual understanding of what it takes to make great art, alongside what is required to run a viable business.

I’ve had the opportunity to work in roles in both marketing and development at the Renaissance, as well as some positions and internships at institutions of higher education and non-profit arts advocacy. Before entering the field of arts administration, I studied music education and worked as a voice teacher and vocal music teacher in the public schools. In my experience, it has been especially helpful to be familiar with the composers, artists, shows, and elements that come together to perform a show so that I can communicate that story with our patrons, donors, and community at large.

An arts administrator needs to be organized, a self-starter, hard-working, and passionate about the arts to be successful, in my opinion. While the field is broad, many arts administrators are responsible for multiple job roles, particularly at smaller organizations. There’s always more that you can do to support a performance or exhibit, and being on top of your workload is key. In my specific roles in marketing and fund development, great communication skills are essential as well.

If you boil down my job as Director of Marketing to just one phrase, it would be “communicate with the audience about the organization and its programs.” In my previous role as Director of Development, that phrase would be, “communicate with donors and potential donors about the organization’s programs and opportunities to give.” We communicate through dozens of channels, in an effort to reach each individual in a meaningful way that is comfortable for them.

All of our arts administrators have to be great communicators, but often for different reasons. Our executive leaders (for us, that’s our President and CEO, Artistic Director and our Executive Director) need to be effective communicators with the staff, board, volunteers, and artists to ensure that the organization runs well, that the performances are successful, and that everyone stays on the same page.

Our Box Office and Front of House team need to be great customer service representatives, helping to communicate with the audience directly at the point of purchase and at our events, or when a problem arises. Our Bookings Manager must be able to negotiate and communicate with agents and with our artistic and technical staff to land on contracts that are reasonable for our team, profitable for our organization, and bookings that are attractive to our audience. Our Finance team needs to be detail-oriented and communicative with the staff and board about the financial position of the organization so that we are sustainable in the achievement of our vision and mission.

Interestingly, great communication skills make a great arts administrator, as well as a great artist. In my opinion, it’s one of the things that makes working in this field so much fun, and the people who work in it so fantastic.

Careers in the Arts - Renaissance Performing Arts photo by Jeff Sprang

Spotlight on Careers in the Arts

by Colleen Cook

High schoolers are often expected to determine their career path at the ripe old age of 16, planning out colleges, programs of study, and future careers they’d like to take up in their adult life. In some cases, students have a broad exposure to a wide field of employment, but students are human beings who tend to follow the paths that are familiar. When choosing their future careers, they consider those of their family members, mentors, and idols. They think about what they enjoy doing as a teenager and translate that into a profession.

When I was a high school student, I loved to sing. I enjoyed the camaraderie of being in a musical or an ensemble, and I had been mentored by my music teachers, so naturally the career path I chose was music education. I might have chosen music performance, but music education seemed like the more viable career option of what I thought were two choices in the music field.

Years later, I discovered the field of arts administration, along with many other careers, and I’ve often wondered: if I was aware of these career paths when I was in high school, would I have pursued something different?

Arts and culture as an industry contributes $704 billion to the economy in annual revenue.  There’s a wide range of careers and jobs in the arts, and many creative local economies are beginning to shift to an arts and culture-based model from an industrial economy.

In an effort to build awareness about careers in the arts, we’ll be doing a multi-week series of blog posts about the various career paths one can take in the arts in the coming weeks. You’ll hear from people working in the field as entrepreneurs, administrators, artists, and more. We can’t wait to share with you the depth and breadth of this fulfilling field.