On Saturday, March 16th, I attended the symposium ArtWORK, curated and organized by the students from the Education & Outreach Committee, a sub-group of the Hart House Art Committee at the University of Toronto.
The event took place at the Hart House and lasted four hours, including time for a Q&A session. A distinguished panel of experts were selected to talk about their career paths, with a selection of nine leading arts professionals who were each allotted 12 minutes to explain how they started their careers, and how they got to where they are now. Their stories were reflective, educational and encouraging.
The panel consisted of David Silcox (President of Sotheby’s Canada), Barbara Edwards (Barbara Edwards Contemporary), Sophie Hackett (Assistant Curator of Photography, AGO), Kathleen McLean (Assistant to Education Programming &
Outreach, AGO), Francesco Corsaro (Co-Founder & VP of Festival X Ottawa Photography Festival), Robyn McCallum (Art Coordinator at TD Bank Group), Susan Maltby (Conservation Consultant) and Pamila Matharu (Interdisciplinary Artist).
ArtWORK was created to raise awareness amongst fine art students of the vast professional possibilities available withinToronto’s artistic community and beyond. This was the first time the Hart House Art Committee has taken up an event of such as scale, and the event was timely as much needed information on art careers is long overdue. Art students increasingly struggle to find a job in their field of studies, and so this event was significant, drawing more than 100 students from across three campuses.
The panel shed some light on what to do with a Fine Arts degree, the initial response being that ‘one can do anything.’ However, it depends on what you want to do with your degree and how willing you are to take chances and remain open to possibilities. Considering not only working in the museums but also outside the scope of arts institutions, such as banks (i.e. that often have community relations departments that manage arts support), freelancing, etc. Some common themes and advice on managing an art career were given as follows:
- Network is invaluable
- Get to know other artists and collaborate
- Volunteer in the arts, be helpful to others, and they will remember you
- Be curious, be willing to learn, and be engaged
- Remain open to opportunities, flexible to take on different tasks
- Build a special skill, for instance, if you would like to be an art installer, you may need to know how put up drywall.
- Have a patient but committed determination to building up your art career
Likewise, artist Matharu shared her mantra: “Take the time to understand, learn, support and reflect.” Mr. Silcox from Sothebys added something to that effect: “Ideas don’t die because of lack of money, they die because you don’t take action…. you need to be obsessed with the possibilities” and lastly, “keep in touch…you should know who to call.”
It was an informative and well developed event, demonstrating that the Hart House Educational Art Committee is doing a terrific job in supporting the artists within Toronto. For more information on the Hart House Art Committee, please go to: http://harthouse.ca/art-committee/
If you have any other thoughts on employment and the arts, please feel free to comment; I would love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading!