Pursuing a Career in the Arts

Arts

Want to find out what it means to head on into the Arts industry? EduConnect Ambassador and recent Dramatic Arts graduate Francesca prepares you for choosing a career in the arts.  ‘So what exactly is it that you’re going to do with your life?’ A question which can easily, yet so uncomfortably, creep its way into any conversation at family gatherings. In the past I would have been at a complete loss for words. Surely I would do exactly what I was studying towards?

‘So will you get paid?’

The artist in me would immediately begin defending my craft and everything I have sworn I would pursue. I try to calm myself and remind myself that this reaction would only prove them ‘right’ about passionate and overly emotional artists. Four months into life as a qualified artist and I think I’m doing quite alright. I’ve established a fixed income, I’m doing something I love. I’m writing and I’m still able to work as the eager theatre-maker that I am. An ideal which I certainly did not anticipate to happen so quickly. The truth is, I went through what most fourth year art students go through. After a wild, yet still poetic rollercoaster, you’re so close to having that qualification to your name, holding that dear piece of paper – which in the end may not even guarantee any job stability. An achievement that is a great triumph, but won’t necessarily sustain you throughout a long month where 2 minute noodles just don’t seem appetizing anymore. Has your life really amounted to this? Did you really go against all odds and decide to spend four years dancing around, painting pretty pictures or banging on a set of drums? Relax, don’t be a negative Nancy, you’re an artist for goodness sake. Who better to go with their hearts desire than us? The honest truth is that pursuing a career in the arts, especially in South Africa, won’t be as easy as we would like it to be. I recently told someone that if I thought I was exhausted as a varsity student, these last four months has definitely proved me wrong. The hard work only continues, yet the gratitude certainly increases. Being an artist requires hard work, determination and above all – passion. Only true passion and love for your craft will drag you to rehearsals at 6am in the morning, for a production that you’re funding from your own pocket (true story). I can say that a life in the arts – whether it be music, theatre or fine art – is not for everyone. The world of 2am idea scribbles, painful creative blocks, late night rehearsals or studio sessions chooses you. A true artist will always have a desire to create. Some may say it’s an offer you cannot decline, but are you really ready to accept this calling and pursue a career in the arts?

Questions to Ask Yourself

Does my craft burn a fire in my chest and am I itching to make a piece of art? Do I value my sleep? Am I willing to sacrifice some moments of shut eye for work? How important is money to me? Can I imagine myself doing anything else? Money may not be a priority for you but it’s true that you can’t survive on passion alone. Another fact that one should come to terms with, you can’t be guaranteed to be the next YouTube sensation. Nothing is impossible and success is within your reach. Just bear in mind that pursuing a career for the fame and glamour which is portrayed in media, is never a good idea. South Africa has an abundant amount of opportunities for both performers and musicians, as well as various platforms to showcase your work as an artist such as theatre, film and festivals. Having the desire to showcase my work as an artist has made me realise that it is important to make your own opportunities. Waiting for an agent to find work for you, or waiting to be discovered and get your big break is not wrong at all. But taking initiative and putting yourself out there is just as valuable.

Tips From a Fellow Young Artist

  • If you’ve chosen to study a degree in the arts, use your time at varsity to hone your craft. University is a safe environment for you to experiment with your art form as well as make art that you love. (You won’t always have the opportunity to make what you love when you leave varsity, especially if your work is dependent on someone else).
  • Network! Network! Network! Many say that your success is determined by who you know, not what you know. I don’t necessarily agree with this, although having connections in your field can make this scary industry friendlier and easier.
  • Create good working connections (follow up from the previous tip). Your peers at varsity will most likely be the people you end up working with. Forging good, creative working relationships isn’t as easy as it seems. Challenges can arise in any working relationship. Treasure the gems that you find and continue working together, a common passion can go a long way.
  • Save! Save! Save! One thing about this industry that you have to be aware of, is that it isn’t as reliable as other industries. Regardless of whether you have a frequent income or not, saving is important. Investing in a retirement fund is something to seriously consider.
  • Don’t sell yourself short. People will try to take advantage of your skills. Firstly, because you’re an artist. Secondly because you’re young. After declining a job offer which I thought was not worth the value of my degree, I was told that I should think carefully about refusing the job because I would struggle to find any other job. You may come across individuals that will convince you that you can’t do better, just keep reminding yourself why you pursued your passion in the first place. Everyone does need to start somewhere, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for something that you’re not comfortable with.
  • Try to grow and learn from every experience and give your best in everything you commit yourself to.
  • If you feel like giving up always go back to why you began – your craft. Why do I love this so much?
  • Don’t feel limited to institutions and conventional spaces to show your work. If you rely on a space such as a theatre or a gallery to showcase your work, you’ll always be reliant on these institutions. If this is what you want to do, you will find a way. You should go beyond the boundaries of these spaces and find alternative platforms to showcase your art.
  • The arts can become very lonely, disappointing, scary and frustrating. A good support system with your family, friends and fellow artists are important to have.
  • Lastly, love what you do. Love the heck out of it.

Just because this is really cool, take a look at how art can be used in therapy to make people happier: 

EduConnect 2cents

The arts are important and have always been a platform to do more than just entertain. It also holds a mirror up to society and acts as a catalyst for social change. The arts is also a good way for an individual to experience an emotional release. Thus a career in the arts is so valuable to both the artists and the greater community. Prepare yourself for some serious hard work though, and enjoy the gratifying moments.

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