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The Art Student

IMG_0131[dropcap]M[/dropcap]any people are interested in art. Fewer people are good at it. Even less go on to art school to later pursue a career in the arts. According to statistics, the highest paying job for an art school graduate would be an art director with their yearly salary adding up to about 90,000 dollars a year. So, what’s life like for a person of this major?

Student Michaela Courtney, class of ‘14, says art school is exactly what she expected. She is currently a freshman attending Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine.

“(My) art teachers prepared me for the intensity of the work for which I am so grateful for.”

Courtney took many art classes throughout high school, including honors visual arts, an upper level and challenging course. Art teacher Jennifer Merry said that is  exactly what colleges are looking for. Top art schools want someone who took a variety of art classes; diverse and challenging. These could range from photography to painting. Each one will build a portfolio.

“The more you have in your back pocket, such as knowledge, will help you to become a more sellable artist.”

Courtney said the courses she is taking this fall are all very rigorous and she has to constantly push herself to her limits in order to succeed. So what about succeeding? When asked about any concerns she might have about finding a job after school, Courtney happily told of an amazing program at MECA called “Artists at Work.” It’s a system devised to help MECA students find jobs as soon as they leave art school. Through the program, they are able to make connections, find internships, and create a path that will help them reach their employment goals. Courtney said she does think it could be hard to find work, but there are opportunities and people to help students after graduation. With the help, it could become a lot easier to find a career.

“In the end, it all comes down to how hard you work and how passionate you are about art. That’s what employers are looking for so ultimately if that’s the kind of artist you are, then it shouldn’t be hard.”

Merry said, “Even if you don’t necessarily have the money to take classes at MECA or other art classes, you just have to want it. And that will show in your work.”

Speaking of passion for art and the program, “Artists at Work,” MECA just recently sent students over to WCYY and challenged them to design a new logo for the radio station. This gave them real world experience and career opportunity. Even a task like this builds their portfolio and expands their career chances. This is a first hand account of the program, with students being able to put their skills to the test. This could mimic a real world job offer, and therefore prepares the artists for the type of work they may encounter after college. The result of the WCYY logo contest is one of the student’s work being displayed for all to see, which is quite an accomplishment. It was a great occasion to create a job for the MECA students.

Courtney said her hardest class would be two dimensional design, with English being her easiest. Yes, there are English classes in art school! Two dimensional design is all about composition and color theory. (Composition is the arrangement of your art and how it works/does not work for the piece as a whole.) The work for the class is very involved and the curriculum is intensive. Courtney said that this is good because the content is important. On the other side of the spectrum, English is the easiest class because it’s not as dense as other courses. They do in fact do a lot of work, but they’re not tested on the ability to remember and analyze the readings. Rather, they discuss the impact of the topic on the world of art and consider how they could apply the themes and imagery to their own art. Art is everywhere! It comes in every shape and size, major and minor.

Many would say getting into art will be the toughest road you’ll traveled. Others would say it’s downright stupid given the challenges of our present economy and the cost of post secondary education.

Merry said,[quote] “I’m very impressed by people who live to make their art…You have to be willing to put time aside to make a good product.”[/quote]

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2012 median pay for craft and fine artists is 44,380 dollars a year and 21.34 dollars per hour. It also states that the number of jobs available in 2012 for that career choice was 51,400. The career choices for artists are also going up. With the number of career choices on the rise and programs providing a safety net for artists, things are looking up. Courtney looks very optimistic for her future and seems extremely happy to be in art school.

There are so many things breaking the stereotype of starving artist. Choosing a career as one isn’t a death sentence anymore. If your love and chosen profession is art, there’ll be many things on your journey that are tough, which both Merry and Courtney pointed out, but the outcome is going to be worth it. Each day more and more people are beginning to appreciate art, therefore expanding the horizons of it. The adoration of art will always be strong, therefore there will be a constant calling for all types of skills.

When walking through Maine College of Art’s shining glass doors, you know it’s a school filled with vast amounts of talent and gleaming with opportunity. According to statistics from the 2012 national arts alumni project, 67% of MECA graduates go on to become professional artists, 35% work as fine artists, 25% become art teachers, 24% work as graphic designers, illustrators, or art directors, 23% work for a nonprofit, and 21% are crafts artists. How is this work distributed? 61% of MECA alumni are self employed, independent, or freelance artists. 19% of students that left MECA went on to pursue an MFA after graduation. And of course since they are artists, 91% make art in their free time.

Courtney is ready for what being an artist throws at her. The road will be filled with amazing experiences. Experiences only a select few get to have. As the sun peaks through the window, Courtney is pleased. She leaves to go back to her home in Saco and work on her latest project. The air is eager and cheerful.

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