5 Careers in the Visual Arts

5 Jobs for Visual Arts Graduates

  • Animator
  • Art Educator
  • Gallery Curator
  • Art Therapist
  • Architect

When people think about a career in the visual arts, the image that comes to mind is usually of an artist, photographer or crafter selling their creations to support themselves. There are other careers that use this type of art, however, that may not readily come to mind. Many art professions blend talent, knowledge, and skills with other disciplines that give the artist a practical goal. Here are five “other” careers in art.

1. Animator

Careers in the Visual Arts

Animators may work for film companies or entertainment corporations like Disney, or they could work for game developers. Animation requires an ability to draw motion. Animators must understand how people, animals and even machines move and capture those images onto paper or film. For this, they make extensive studies of people and other animals in their habitats, use models, and other methods of capturing verisimilitude.

Traditional animation, the kind seen in the stunning Walt Disney features, is a labor-intensive process of drawing many pictures that are slightly different and then storing the images on film so that they can be “played’ to represent motion. This type of animation is almost obsolete, although there is still a market for the skillset and aptitudes it requires. Digital animation completes the frames automatically and in shorter time. The animations can appear extremely lifelike or stylized, as in Japanese features.
This type of animation is used in game design as well. Artists who opt to take this path with typically specialize in a field—motion pictures, anime, commercial products and representations—and also further specialize in the types of figures they draw. They may draw figures of humans or animals, do still scenery exclusively, or focus on backgrounds. Because they work with computers primarily, they may be part of a team that includes graphic designers, user experience (UX) or user interface (UI) architects, and pure artists who work with other media.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, animators earn a median salary around $64,000 depending upon what type of animation they do and experience. They must function as a part of a team, be able to give and receive constructive feedback, execute the design of the head animator, communicate their needs or the goals of their work effectively, have extensive self-study in the field of animation in the form of character studies or expressive capabilities, and much more. Being an animator is one of the most rewarding creative careers, but it does take a great deal of personal development on the part of the artist.

2. Art Education

Another job in the visual arts is teaching. Art teachers don’t have to be adept at all kinds of art, but they must be knowledgeable about most of them. In elementary and secondary schools, teachers work to give children an overview of art and allow them to experiment in creating several kinds. In post-secondary education, artists usually specialize in a medium.

The field of art education is broad and offers artists a host of different opportunities. As mentioned below, primary and secondary school levels. While they usually have a degree in education as well, the requirement for this varies from school system to school system, and may offer latitude for obtaining the required degree as one goes.

In general, art teachers must plan lessons to ensure they are offering students a breadth of different disciplines and skills. They must craft their lessons to include ideas such as color theory, art history, and techniques employed. But this wonderful career also fuels an artist’s love of creation, and they may find inspiration in a number of different ways.

However, the most important part of this profession is to offer resources to young people. It isn’t about whether they are talented or not, but about offering a counterbalance to the world in which they are living. The act of making art is the important part of the equation, and learning that they can continue to make art even if they do not feel they are talented. To feed their young minds and fill them full of art, not just from Europe, but from everywhere is also a service one is doing for the future world.

High school offers artists more latitude to teach advanced concepts to their students. They may also work with individuals on special projects for their portfolios, a necessary aspect of college-level art programs and seeking admittance. While elementary and middle school art classes tend to be basic and broad spectrum–in order to expose students to a large amount of different types of styles, media, and theory—high school programs can delve a bit deeper into the subject matter, with some schools differentiating media or styles in different course offerings.

But art teachers don’t just work in public or private schools. They may also offer community classes to groups of many ages through the community center or a variety of retirement resources. If they meet the criteria, they may also work at the collegiate level. In this instance, they are able to work with talented students more closely to develop existing skills and uncover novel or unusual perspectives that can offer much to the world.

People thinking about this profession must have a degree in art education, as well as courses and experience in several kinds of art. They must also hold a valid teaching license in the state where they want to work. The BLS doesn’t separate teachers by subject, but art teachers in elementary schools earn a median salary of $55,490, and those in post-secondary institutions earn $75,430.

3. Gallery Owner or Curator

Visual Arts Careers

Artists who sell their work often do so through galleries, but the “showrooms” also serve as a place to display paintings, sculptures and photography. Sometimes, the facilities loan out artwork. Many people who work in art field are curators or own their own galleries. This requires a knowledge of art history and techniques, as well as keeping abreast of names of new artists and new types of art. Gallery owners must understand what makes art valuable and have a business background. Curators also catalog and label art, and interpret artwork for the public. That means this job entails having people skills and the ability to communicate well.

A gallerist must have a range of aptitudes, including people skills and an understanding of how art is valued. While they may bring a number of different styles into the showroom in order to expose buyers to a number of different types, they may also work exclusively with a specific period, genre, or medium of art. Often, they may consult with curators, who are specially trained to understand the needs of the art—from the light and humidity of the surrounding air to the ultimate positioning of the pieces.

This means that curators also must know how to best display and care for art. A curator can also work in a museum because of their special suite of skills. Although art is the primary realm of these curators, understanding how to display culturally sensitive materials, fragile artifacts, and other items can lend a bit of flexibility to their careers. Museum studies degrees, which are often divided into either art or cultural concentrations now have a broader approach because the definition of what one culture calls art, another may denote as cultural in another way. Understanding how these fields intersect is another aspect that curators can explore.

People who work in larger galleries may only deal in one kind of art or in one area, such as acquisitions. BLS statistics on gallery curators say they earn a median salary of $45,446, but that depends upon whether they work for someone or manage their own galleries.

4. Art Therapist

This is one of the art professions that pairs art skill and knowledge with training in another discipline. Art therapists have degrees in psychology and use their artistic skills to help people overcome emotional, physical or mental problems through creativity. Art is used in assessment, in research, in treatment and in rehabilitation. It’s also used to express feelings of patients, and therapists must be familiar with the types of imbalances or disorders that art is used to express. While it’s often used to treat patients with severe mental and behavioral disorders, therapists should also be open to working with individuals who simply want to be more creative or express a certain feeling through art.

People in this profession must be skilled listeners and pick up on visual cues, understanding symbols that people often use to represent feelings. Art therapy is useful for treating individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), individuals with stress disorders or anxiety, couples trying to resolve emotional differences, people who would like greater self-esteem, and individuals with serious antisocial personality disorder, brain injury, cancer, depression or other conditions. While it is an unusual tangent to take with a visual art career, it is also one of the most beneficial.

While many art therapists work in more typical surroundings, such as hospitals, assisted living facilities, psychiatric care centers, schools, rehabilitation care facilities, and senior communities, they may be found elsewhere. Less commonly, they may work in forensic institutions, detention centers, crisis response units, and wellness centers. Essentially, anywhere in which individuals may need their lateral approaches to distressing events with which they cannot cope, you will find these professionals.

They also offer a service that is therapeutic for individuals who have lost the power of language, either to speak it or to organize it in their minds. Individuals with dementia or the aftermath damage of strokes often benefit from art therapy because it permits them to express emotion in a non-verbal sense, which can help them to relax and heal.

Some therapists working in a rehabilitation program or agency have only undergraduate degrees but work under the guidance of a supervisor with an advanced degree. Because of this, art therapists earn a median salary of $55,900. Professionals with advanced degrees earn significantly more.

5. Architects

Careers in the Visual Arts

Architects are artists with training in engineering as well as art. A US News and World Report article says they create “aesthetically pleasing and safe buildings and their masterpieces are the shops and libraries we see every day. They are artists grounded in reality.” Architects who design buildings must understand stresses and materials, as well as having a command of design principles.

Moreover, architects understand cultural aesthetics and how or where to apply them. A church built like an office building would jar against the sensibilities of the worshipers, and individuals going to work in a bank that looked more like a mosque might experience an undue dislocation. This is because the architecture must fit the needs and roles of the purpose for which it is built. Each type of building project has certain predisposed ideas that go into it, concepts that may seem ephemeral until one dissects and understands them.

Beyond this, they also must be business minded. They run small businesses and manage their employees or help market their firms and attract new business interests. Communication is also key, both between teams and with clients, which becomes increasingly important as the details become more painstaking.

While they translate concepts into schematics, they’re also busy incorporating practical aspects, like plumbing, electrical, and mechanical considerations. They manage a team, which can include outside subcontractors, and satisfy all zoning and permit requirements. Moreover, they complete paperwork for zoning and protect future occupants of a building by seeing that code is followed in every respect. Architects earn a median salary of $75,930.

Another type of architect works in landscaping, using natural materials like flowers and trees as well as structural components like walkways and shelters. While a landscape architect does spend most of their time in an office meeting with clients or developing new designs, they also work with nature to create enchanting built environments. Using elements that evoke well-being, such as open fields, mature trees, and flowering plants throughout the year, the create public spaces, parks, private landscaping, school campuses, and much more. They also plan for future development, leaving room in their schematics for expansion or change. As of 2019, their median pay was 69,360, according to the BLS.

People are creative by nature. Using that creativity to earn a living with a visual art career is combining the best of both worlds, spiritual and financial. People wanting a career in visual art are inventive people who see potential beyond being “just an artist.”

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