One of the best ways to build skills for your own art is to find employment, if possible, within the art field – in virtually any position. You will learn operational mechanics, almost like getting paid (rather than having to pay) for your education. You will further your network. And, you will stay closer to your core genius, which generates career momentum. Opposed to switching to and from what artists sometimes refer to as a “straight gig,” which may not necessarily advance you to your creative goals.
And that’s NOT to say that having a straight gig, a.k.a. day job, is a bad thing. Truth be told, and I’ve said this before, there simply aren’t enough positions at art institutions to support artists. It’s mathematically upside down. Just a fact. Plus, straight gigs typically come with better pay, benefits and health insurance. It is critical that you eat – and eat well. Starving artistry is for the birds. So, to quote Katt Williams, “By all means, make your paper, boo boo.”
Having said that, it does help a lot artistically to stay as close to the action as possible. This might mean volunteering to usher for a theater show, or working coat check at a museum, or having an administrative job in an arts-related organization – all of which I have done. And I wouldn’t be the first to think and act in this way. I know rappers who have also been sound technicians, instrumentalists who worked retail gigs at music stores, and actors who were teachers. When I worked at an arts center in San Francisco, virtually EVERY person in the building – from installation crew all the way up to curator – was some kind of artist, singer, or dancer. Not a coincidence. Who better to tend the field than the people who love it the most?
While the titles in my work history may seem to zigzag haphazardly, there is a focus – they all have art in common. Even now, my role as a trainer and consultant continues to inform my journey. And I can say undoubtedly that each chapter has given me valuable lessons that I would never trade in. So, no matter where you are in your trajectory, if you have the chance to do anything near your area of interest, even if it’s only remotely related, I’d say go for it! Until you get paid to make art, the next best thing may well be to get paid to mind art.
I’ve recently installed a new Art Of Hustle job board to help you along. The key word is automatically set to “artist” but you may change it to meet any of your search needs, no matter what city in the nation you live in. I hope it helps! Check it out now!