Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D             [ Back ]    [ Home  [ Next

"Careers in the Art Field"

Everyone wants to be or thinks they are an artist, and for some, this will happen, but for others, it'll remain no more than a dream.  Artists and those working in the art field live rugged lives, where survival is almost Darwinian in nature.  Although the profession is broken down into many categories, for brevity's sake, this article will divide it into artists and workers of art.

There are several different kinds of artists but the most recognized ones are performing artists (dancers, actors, musicians, and the like), literary artists (writers, poets, playwrights, and so on), and visual artists (painters, sculptors).  There are some categories of artists that are difficult to classify, such as architects, photographers, film/videographers, and even those who make use of computers to create high-tech art, as well as those who make hand-made objects or crafts. 

Additionally, artists use a variety of media to invent their form.  Such media might be oil, acrylic, or watercolor paints; chalk, pastels, charcoal, ink, pencil; clay, steel (of all kinds), wood, lucite, plaster, porcelain, marble, and so on.  The final form could result in any number of types: Collages, iconographs, paper, murals, pottery, structures, lyrics, books, computerized images, and so on.  Artists are always looking for a new medium to create in that results in a new form or end product.  Too, each artist has his or her own style which might be abstract, surrealistic, impressionistic, or realism, or any variation of these.  Their style might be do to their schooling, the movement of the time (Dadaism, Cubism, Pop, etc.), or the influence of mentors and masters.  In any case, artists, then, are people who create--hands-on--something new out of something old or something old out of something new, or something different out of what hasn't existed before. 

Unlike hands-on artists, there are other equally well versed workers in the field who--though they may also be artists in their own right--concentrate on the business end.  Three examples of such opportunities include:

Art Consultant: sells art, and advises artists, art dealers, gallery owners, collectors on art.  Though a college degree isn't required, it is highly encouraged.  A thorough knowledge of art, art trends, emerging artists is needed, along with the ability to discern what will sell in the field.  Consultants make anywhere from a few thousand dollars per year to six figures.

Museum or Gallery Executive Director: manages the entire business--from setting policy, developing programs, to handling staff, as well as providing advertising, financial, artistic, and social direction, along with supervising all personnel and projects, and administering company plans, benefits, and perks.  This position also designs and implements fund-raisers, and serves as a leader in the community on art matters.  Much writing is also involved in this job, and a variety of personnel report to this position, such as fine arts consultants, curators, conservators, PR directors, and so on.  An advanced college degree is needed, and salary begins around $50,000, depending on the size of the museum or gallery. 

Curator: is responsible for creating art collections and interpreting them to the public, as well as installing or laying-out these collections within the physical constraints of a building's rooms.  They also set up temporary exhibits with specific themes or motifs, and handle the rental of artworks, and the educating of the public about the collections.  Curators earn anywhere from the high-twenties to over a hundred-thousand dollars annually.  An advanced degree in art (with a degree or experience in business) is needed.

Other art careers include art agent, art writers, preparators, museum registrar, museum conservator, archivist, art dealer, gallery owner, and others.  The field is wide open, and opportunities continue to grow.

Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D. is a former 
executive director of a high end art gallery.

Copyright 2002 Nan Hayes