As I mentioned in my very first post, about the time I was nearing the end of my junior year of college, I felt like I was becoming lost in my studies and that my career was going to be over before I even started. In my efforts to understand what I was doing and regain direction in my life, I began reading. A lot. As I got more involved in different topics and reading, it became crystal clear to me what the issue was. Schools and the industry I was entering are very much holding to what worked in the past instead of looking to future of the business and adapting to the rapidly changing world around us.
I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned from my time in school and observing a lot of the current state of the arts scene is that old methods don't work anymore. What worked in the past isn't necessarily going to continue working in the future and students really need to get hip to that from the beginning of their careers. Schools are preparing students for careers and a world that have been become virtually non-existent and many students aren't even aware of it. For the sake of future generations, steps need to be taken immediately for a shift in how students are educated.
With that being said, I think it's important to point out how difficult change can be. Especially in large organizations with tremendous bureaucratic obstacles to overcome. While difficult, this shift in thinking is very possible and already happening in many places. It's no one's fault that it got this way, but it certainly is in everyone's best interest to embrace the inevitable changes that need to take place in the arts.
Some (not all, but this is a good starting point) skills that I think every student should be equipped with as they take on the new world are:
-Entrepreneurship ---- This is a big one. Everyone should have some basic understanding of what it takes to launch your own projects and create your own opportunities.
-Networking--- Knowing how to effectively utilize your connections and resources is something many people don't have a very thorough understanding of. It's amazing how far you can reach for advice, potential collaborations, or even a job by just knowing how to use your network.
-Fundraising--- It's amazing to think that most people in the arts probably have no idea where their paychecks come from. Whether you're concert master of the Boston Symphony or a Teaching Artist for the local orchestra it's important to know where that money came from and how your organization got a hold of it. Getting paid to do what we love is pretty awesome, but should all know where the funding comes from and how to get it for ourselves if we need to.
Marketing---Being amazing at what you do is great. But unfortunately if no one knows your exist, you'll never get any attention from it. We should all know how to effectively market ourselves and understand what it takes to get people in the doors of your concert, gallery, or wherever it is that your audience needs to be to experience what you've got to offer. This includes knowing how to use social media, the internet, and anything else that can get the word out.
Click here for a short book list I recently made of some amazing books that introduced me to these ideas.
These are just the basics of what I think every artist needs to have in their arsenal of skills. Some schools and institutions do a great job of teaching their students what else it takes to make it in the world as an artist. Unfortunately everyone isn't there yet, but I think it's finally catching on. The best thing we can do is to create a demand for these educational opportunities. If everyone in your school wrote a letter to the department heads and deans they would hear the crowd and be much more likely to begin making the shift.
The arts community faces many challenges in the coming years and we need to reevaluate the approach we're taking. Don't waste any time and start taking action to create a sustainable future for yourself and the entire arts industry. We need your help leading the movement for change!
What are your thoughts?