Don’t be disheartened by what you read in the news, the benefits of an arts degree are endless.
We hear about it every single day. Britain is in a recession and across the country students are scrambling for jobs and struggling to find employment, competing against each other in an attempt to secure themselves a place on the career ladder. Creative subjects in particular such as Art and Design are facing a crisis as the government gradually decrease the funding allocated to them.
However, despite the lack of jobs it’s not all doom and gloom as former Art and Design students from Salford University are proving by continuing to stay productive after graduation. For many, the period just after graduation is a time to relax before the job hunt and career planning begins. Yet a number of graduates believe that in order to achieve success, maintaining the momentum built up throughout their time at University is essential and as a result have managed to find themselves employment or at least some interesting projects to keep themselves busy and boost their CVs.
Ben Murphy from Ilkley, West Yorkshire studied BA Graphic Design at Salford before pursuing a Masters in Fine Art. During his time at University, Ben developed his own personal style and way of working, using electrical tape to draw large scale illustrations on walls. After filling a number of walls around the School of Art in such drawings, he plucked up the courage to ask Font Bar on Oxford Road whether they would let him do a piece for them. They were impressed by his work and so asked him to do another drawing at their Fallowfield bar also. Since then Ben’s success and popularity has continued, making tape drawings for Foot Asylum, Lowry Outlet Mall and Boardmasters festival, to name a few. Ben now lives in London where he tends to use his electrical tape drawings as a form of street art. Despite making more money working in an art gallery than he does from making art in London, he is happy to focus on getting his work up in public spaces and enjoys the fact that more people than ever are talking about his tape drawings which are quickly becoming hidden treasures throughout the city.
Natalie Pownall graduated from Salford University in July and juggles working part time in a shop with her own practice as an artist. While she continues to make art, she has admitted that the lack of facilities since leaving University has been a burden but refuses to give up completely on being creative. “I am trying to adapt by working with paper more and drawing with dry materials but it just can’t replace the invaluable studio space I shared in Uni and the excellent print studio/ 3D workshop facilities. I miss being part of an exciting community and sharing my ideas with other artists.”
Perhaps one thing we can draw from Ben and Natalie’s experiences is that despite the fact that jobs are difficult to come by at the moment, a creative flair and a willingness to persevere and keep working are beneficial traits to have, not necessarily in terms of landing a job but rather to boost morale after university, remain productive despite changes in your surroundings and to get your work noticed.
Teaching is a popular option amongst many art graduates and PGCE courses are getting increasingly difficult to get onto. Yet those who do make it onto these courses don’t necessarily dream of being a primary school teacher. Demi Longworth has recently started studying for a PGDE at Bolton University and her dream is to work in prisons, teaching and encouraging young offenders to channel their energy into making art. When asked about her motivations Demi said ‘Although those people deserve to be in prison, everyone deserves a chance and if I could change one person’s life it would make me feel like I have finally achieved something amazing and that’s what I’m setting out to do.’
Despite the myths that studying art at University either leads to unemployment, freelancing or a job teaching art to the next generation of teachers, months after graduating Gabrielle Anderson manages the online store for Contemporary Six Gallery in the Royal Exchange Arcade. “I love it. It’s great being able to work from home too. My boss is really showing me the ropes to curate and he gives me a lot of freedom in the gallery.” Despite having landed this dream job, Gabrielle still manages to devote time towards continuing her artistic practice. During her degree she focussed a lot of her time on performance and installation pieces, but having finished university she’s found herself doing a lot more writing and illustration, which she has always had a passion for. “As for the installations, at the minute, they’re staying in the planning stages, I’ve got them as diagrams and should I get the opportunity to show them in a larger space that would accommodate them, I’ll assemble them then. I’ve changed my approach to working I guess.” Leaving art school can come as quite a shock to the system for many students as they are forced to come to terms with the fact that continuing their practice outside of the studio might not necessarily be viable in the early stages and so a willingness to adapt and embrace the changes are essential in order to continue the path to becoming an artist. It’s always a good idea to jot down ideas and draw diagrams of any things you wish to try in the future. You never know when the materials or location might just fall into place.
Lisa De Cunha is also a former BA Visual Arts student and has found herself an internship working for a theatre company at Salford Quays. Her role involves transforming an old warehouse into a set and when asked what her job involves she said ‘My theatre job is everything. I have to create this new world in the building. It’s like falling down a rabbit hole and stepping into this other world. So it involves painting a lot of rooms and making a lot of props and altering a lot of furniture. Even though every day is hard work, the directors and producers are open to a lot of suggestions and give us a lot of freedom.’
With this year’s rise in tuition fees, arts degrees are becoming increasingly discredited, not only by the government but often by those who originally wished to pursue one in the first place. Many A Level students are hesitant to ‘waste’ money on a course that may not lead to a full time job. But new and potential art students shouldn’t be disheartened by what they read in the news, nor should they waste their time fretting over future career prospects. No one does an arts degree with the intention of becoming a dentist or an engineer. Besides, there are plenty of graduates out there with degrees in Maths and Science struggling to find employment too. If you’re creative, enthusiastic and love art then you will benefit so much from studying the subject to degree level. You’re most likely to discover that the majority of employers who aren’t looking for art graduates own companies which you wouldn’t particularly want to work for anyway. Until you find that perfect fit then experiment, develop your own personal style and do everything you can to stand out from the crowd and get your skills seen by those who matter.