An Artsy Post-UCSC Prospect

Art degrees offer competitive skills

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Critical thinking and flexibility are two important skills to have in the job market. These skills, ingrained into art majors throughout their course work at UC Santa Cruz, give a foundation for later in their careers. This time of year also brings job hunting for art majors who may graduate into a climate skeptical of degrees in the arts.

“As our economy changes and the social climate for the appreciation of the arts and humanities wanes, there’s a certain skepticism about pursuing a major in the arts and humanities,” said HAVC professor Stacy Kamehiro. “[But] we need the arts and humanities more than ever, especially just to understand our human relationships to each other, […] we are a community and we’re not just a bunch of individual actors who are pursuing our own individual goals.”

Graduating fifth-year, Jorge Gomez-Gonzalez, is getting a job at a non-profit that organizes in his home city of Oakland, buildOn, which he volunteered with for seven years. While finding a post graduate job can be difficult, he said it is important to start networking early in college.

“Don’t just focus on your studies, focus on other things as well because those connections are the most important,” Gomez-Gonzalez said. “Now that I’m getting closer to graduation I’m not completely freaking out […] most times people just get so focused on just getting their 4.0’s.”

Majors in the arts can leverage their flexibility and critical thinking skills in the job market, as many employers are looking for creative problem solvers. Art graduates can become creative directors, creative project-directors and can go into many occupations they weren’t specifically trained for, and many find success looking for jobs outside of Santa Cruz.

Of those who have graduated from UCSC’s HAVC program, 47 percent reported planning to work outside Santa Cruz and the San Francisco Bay Area. Shelby Graham, curator of the Sesnon Gallery, advises students, including Gomez-Gonzalez, on the practical skills they need to pursue a career in the arts. She also encourages students to look to big cities to find jobs in the arts.

“I tell students as long as they’re willing to move, you can really go anywhere with the arts, […] in any large city, there’s tons of opportunity,” Graham said. “I encourage people to go to L.A., San Francisco, New York and really look for all of those opportunities.”

Art and HAVC majors may also pursue new and up and coming fields, such as art law, art ethics and art therapy, HAVC professor Stacy Kamehiro said. As digital culture is proliferating and issues arise around intellectual property, art law is becoming especially relevant and several jobs in legal counsel and patent law are available in the Bay Area.

Beyond entering the workforce, many chose to pursue postsecondary education. According to the UCSC first destination survey conducted by the Career Center, 70 percent of art and HAVC majors continue their formal education beyond UC Santa Cruz, pursuing graduate programs in topics such as visual and performing arts, the humanities and education. The same survey by the Career Center found similar proportions of art graduates planning to pursue graduate education, mostly in visual and performing arts and education.

Rachel Maryam Smith, an alumna and former undergraduate member of the Irwin Scholars program, is one of those students who chose to pursue graduate school after graduation.

“It’s so amazing being supported when you’re associated with a university so I wanted to extend that support,” Smith said.

Smith works primarily with beads, crafting boats and commenting on the Syrian refugee crisis with tiny, intricately laced glass spheres and hopes to go into art education teaching with beads, sculpture and metal.

HAVC professor Stacy Kamehiro also had tips for students pursuing graduate education, a topic especially relevant for arts majors as such strong majorities of them plan to pursue graduate education in fields including visual and performing arts, library science and various social sciences.

“I also tell [students] to do as much preparation ahead of time as possible so they’re not doing a lot of catch-up in the [graduate school] program,” Kamehiro said. Students in graduate programs are expected to obtain reading proficiency in one to two reading languages. “So I’d say spend a little time doing that now so you’re not doing language study while you’re paying for expensive grad school.”

Whether students chose to pursue graduate education, or to graduate straight into the workforce, the arts give them the tools they need to be flexible, critical thinkers throughout their careers, and UCSC alumnus Erick Medel argues the arts offer opportunities for engagement and community.

“There are a lot of opportunities [in art] and a lot more people are trying to have a dialogue that is not being had anywhere else,” Medel said. “The arts is a place where people can get together and have a dialogue.”