- 2 months ago
Hey bees! This is gonna be pretty long but I’m just trying to work through my thoughts to make a more informed decision. If you read through the whole thing and have some advice to offer, great! I would absolutely love to hear it, especially if you have experience as a teacher/art teacher or full-time artist. If you think it’s too long, please, don’t take the time to write ” TLDR.” I’m aware it’s long and that’s just not helpful. Thanks! 🙂
So I’m a senior at a public university, currently studying art education and finishing up my courses before my year of student teaching (which doesn’t start until fall 2019). Basically, I have this current fall semester and this upcoming spring semester to finish up, then summer, then I start my student teaching. Here’s the dilemma: I’m thinking about something that has crossed my mind every now and then since I started my studies, which is studying studio arts primarily with the goal of making a career as an artist…something I’ve just been too scared to dive into, but always drawn to.
A little background info: During my freshman year, right out of high school, I started off as a biology major (I have an interest in environmental science) which lasted about a week before I quickly realized that it just wasn’t for me and that I should be studying studio arts. I’ve been interested in the visual arts for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories involve drawing, painting, you name it…as I got older and developed my skills, people always told me to never stop making art. So I chose to follow that. However, I didn’t want to become the stereotypical image of a “starving artist” and I didn’t think my art was good enough to make a career from it. I also didn’t think that I would be good at marketing myself or finding a place in the art scene. So, I began studying art education, assuming that the job prospects would be better. It seemed like a “safer” option- a steady job that I’d enjoy, even if it didn’t pay well. I’ve been working towards my bachelors degree in art education for the last 2 1/2 years (with a minor in outdoor recreation leadership, to compliment my teaching and explore my interests in the outdoors/nature).
Now I’m having second thoughts about whether or not I want to teach art…Don’t get me wrong, I love working with kids. I’ve really enjoyed the fieldwork experiences I’ve had and I’m passionate about facilitating positive creative experiences. But, I’m also concerned about the status of education in the U.S. right now and how the career field is being treated as a whole- it’s severely underfunded and mishandled, IMO. And that doesn’t even consider the arts programs side of it, which is even more underfunded. Sure, I can look past that. I don’t need to make a lot of money in life, I understand that teachers don’t do their work for the pay, and with my soon-to-be fiance’s decent job salary combined with what I’m guessing I’d be making, we’d be fine. I can work around the lack of fair wages and program funding. What concerns me perhaps even more is the loss of my identity as an artist. Something I’ve noticed in my studies time and time again is that teachers- at least, the good ones- give A LOT of their time and resources. They dedicate their lives to their career, to improving the wellbeing and experiences of their students. I’m under the impression that art teachers rarely have time for their own work, to study their own creative interests, because they’re too busy helping others explore their own creative interests. I’ve seen it firsthand with nearly all of the art professors I’ve had, from high school to university. It’s just very difficult to foster your career as a successful visual artist and an art educator. Impossible? Certainly not. But I don’t want to have to choose between the two. Or, at least I don’t think I want to. If I’m going to be a teacher, I want to give it my all. I want to be that teacher who cares about the success of their students. And I know that’s exactly what I would do. I’m a very empathetic person, I couldn’t help but care- perhaps too much- about my influence as a teacher. I feel that losing my identity as an artist would be inevitable if I took the route of teaching. I see it happening already; with so much focus on my art education studies and classes, I’ve had very little time to make my own art or market myself.
Here’s the thing: if I decided to switch from getting a BFA in art education to a BFA in studio art, it would be very easy. I’d actually graduate sooner because I wouldn’t have to complete an entire year of an *unpaid* student teaching internship. Because the degrees are so closely tied and I’d have the same concentration in painting and drawing, I’ve already completed most of the studio art classes. I’d only have to take an extra 2 or 3 studio classes in the spring, and then I would graduate a year ahead of time. I could find a job in a local gallery to supplement my earnings as an artist, or work part-time in a childcare facility. I just don’t want to do a year of unpaid student teaching if I’m not sure it’s what I want to do.
I’m an artist. I always have been, and as I’ve developed through my studies I’ve realized that I want to make a career of it. And I do think I have what it takes; I’m still working through confidence and anxiety issues in regards to showing my art, but everyone tells me I could make a lot of money if I applied myself in the market. During my freshman year I had a design teacher- someone who is incredibly successful and has a lot of experience- tell me that I should be looking for work in the design field, not teaching. He insisted on it. But I didn’t think I could do it, so I never listened. I’ve missed so many opportunities to become a professional artist, and I think it’s about time I stopped ignoring them, set aside my fears and embarked on what I think I was always meant to do.
Side note: I absolutely despise how young people are pushed to choose a LIFELONG CAREER as soon as they’re out of high school, most of the time before they even know who they are or what their interests are. You cannot just ask an 18 year old to choose a career, which they are then suppose to funnel thousands of dollars of tuition money into while taking out student loans and collecting debt. It’s insane.