How do you make a career in the arts? For most of us, the path is unpaved. On Getty Voices this week, social media coordinator and recent college grad Sarah Waldorf explores how an interest in art can lead (often through a variety of twists and turns) to a meaningful career, and quite possibly one that’s unexpected. We want your questions: ask them here or on the Getty’s Facebook and Twitter.
I used to be a frequent player of Hasbro’s Game of Life, which transformed the terrifying, unknown future into a colorful, simplistic board game. The highlight for me was career selection. Following the mandatory completion of college, I always crossed my fingers and hoped for the artist career card. If I could be an artist and make $100,000 per spin, I was set!
I did follow that path in real life, nabbing myself a bachelor’s degree in art. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t draw the magical 100-grand salary card after graduation. I did find, however, that an “art career” was scarily undefined. I loved making art, studying contemporary practice and art history, but did that mean I was ready for a career in the arts? What other jobs existed besides artist and curator? And in contemporary practice, did such defined lines even exist?
At first—like many people starting out—I didn’t realize there was a lot more to explore than the two poles of “art making” and “art study.” If I’m honest (to perhaps an embarrassing degree), I didn’t even realize there were more jobs in art, and specifically in museums and cultural institutions, than curator and communications until just the past year. And I certainly wasn’t aware of the education, professional development, and more that it took to achieve such positions—and moreover, what those positions even meant!
I’ve found quite a challenging and interesting position in the niche of museum social media that, until joining the Getty’s web team last summer via the Multicultural Undergraduate Internship Program, I didn’t even know existed. But importantly, I’ve noticed that many of the things I liked about art school—critical questioning, creative problem solving, learning about historical perspectives, and more—were skills that help me succeed in social media today.
As the coordinator for the Getty Voices project, I feel like an art interpreter, using my education and interests to guide how we open up and share the scholarly work that takes place here. Curiosity about art and museums, combined with skills I built studying art and communications at college, are my core toolset.
So here I am, celebrating my one-year anniversary of college graduation, using Getty Voices as a platform to consider what an “art career” means today. This week I hope to explore the many options for art careers, facilitate conversation between students and professionals, and share some interviews with some particularly interesting (and generous and candid) museum professionals I’ve met recently. Whether you’re a student, a recent grad like me, or a more seasoned art lover who’s interested in career opportunities in the field, I’d like to know who you would like to hear from. I am lucky to be surrounded by a diverse range of professionals here at the Getty, from librarians to conservators to designers, and would love to use my network here to find answers that will useful to you.
- Did you ever wonder how to become a museum security manager? (And what is that, anyway?)
- Do you want to hear how a mosaic conservator became one, and what her job entails?
- Ever wonder what “public engagement” is, and how you do it?
- What credentials does it take to become a museum director?
- How do you become an art librarian, and what does he do all day?
This week is for questioning and sharing! Please reach out to me here or on Facebook and Twitter and let me know if you are a student or professional and whether you’d like to ask a specific question, hear a career story, or to share your own journey through the arts. Let’s talk!
Connect with more “I like art. Now what?” content from this week’s Getty Voices:
- What does it take to become a security guard at a museum?
- Tierney Sneeringer, project specialist at the Smithsonian American Art Museum shares her experience with getting started with art early.
- Jack Ludden, web group manager, describes how complex and interesting the museum field actually is.
- Emily Lytle-Painter knows we can’t force students to know about arts administration, but she proposes that rethinking how art school is organized might be a starting point.
- Leslie Friedman is an example of how a mid-career switch in interests isn’t a bad thing!