Is majoring in the arts too risky? Should I double major just in case I don't have what it takes?


Lisa Hiton, poet, filmmaker, professor, writer

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As a model, I'd say that if risks sound too scary, life as artist is probably not going to suit you in the long run! With that said, there are plenty of vocations which are arts and arts education based which might suit your need for both stability and a life filled with the beauty and glory that is art itself.

I encourage you to rethink the idea of school for a minute, even if it's just a thought experiment. Despite our current climate, let's say that the premise of an education is the education itself. That a vocational degree is a newfangled idea. That the only limitation in life is you. If the point of education is to give power and time to the thing you most want to study, what is that thing? What habits of mind and heart will that help you explore deeply? You will not regret your education if you pursue an arts degree--you will have given power and time to that deeply beloved mode of existing. Further, the thing you will have the hardest time getting back in life is time. When you go on to any vocation, you will not have as much time to carve out of to play music, write, paint, etc. Just another way to think about the purpose of getting a degree at all!

Jennifer Oleniczak, Founder and Artistic Director of The Engaging Educator

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It really depends on you end goal and expectations - when you say "don't have what it takes" are you looking to be an artist proper? Are you open to other avenues as well, and open to using your degree in multiple ways?

My undergrad is in Theatre/Dance, my MA is in Art History, and I'm currently getting another MA in Autism Education. My company - that I started - teaches improv to non actors for communication skills, presentation skills, social skills and a plethora of other things that are not acting related. If someone asked me when I was in school for Theatre/Dance "Hey want to run a business" I would laugh at them, and say absolutely not. But now, it's been such a fun way to combine what I love and the need to actually make money.

I've worked as a teacher. It's really not a good fallback career - I love teaching, so the exhausting hours were worth it, but in the end the work that goes in with little financial pay off? Not worth it unless you love it.

That being said, let's talk about expectations. If you expect to be 'famous', whatever that means anymore, then you probably shouldn't major in it at all, unless you are going to a specialized school. Often times, art majors (I include the performing arts type in this) want fame, and school is all about a well rounded'd be better off taking the money and taking specialized classes in your art form vs a college degree. If you want to be doing what you love for a living, talk to people who are doing what you want to be doing, and see what they did to get that job. I'm constantly talking to improvisers who want to make money off of improv - but don't want to do this business/teaching side of things. Sometimes what you want evolves with need as well as necessity.

In the end, fallbacks aren't good in my opinion - but making yourself well-rounded to accomplish your goal IS a good idea. Talk to people, see what they did, and figure out your path!

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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I have known several artists who added an education certification to their program as a fallback. That being said, teaching should be a calling, and just doing it to pay the bills isn't a good idea for anyone. Perhaps considering a minor in business or writing so that you can learn the skills to promote your work would be helpful to you. It is a good idea for ANYONE to broaden one's degrees, so you are thinking in the right direction. Also, be sure to attend an accredited school that will support you in your artistic endeavors and teach you about the art market.

Barbara Spalding, Parent Resource & Coach for Education

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While I wasn't an art major, I married one with the hopes of opening a gallery, working for a publisher or having a studio and yes it is VERY difficult to break into the field. It also depends on factors such as the type of art you are interested in, how disciplined you are and what your intentions with your craft might be. I will say this, being an artist is being an entrepreneur, and that means having a sense of business and management is key to success. It's terrific to be passionate about and talented with ceramics or painting but understanding your market, competitive pricing, and business strategy can make or break an artist. Good luck with your studies and decision.

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