I met a guy at a bar. No, this isn’t one of those stories. It was a sushi bar, and he was getting takeout while I was getting something to eat on the way home. A few minutes of chatting revealed that J was an “arts worker.” He earned a BS (that’s bachelors of science, not the other kind) in Art from UW-Madison, where, coincidentally, I had been on the faculty for umpteen years. After studying sculpture and painting as an undergrad, he moved into digital art and now writes, storyboards, and sometimes directs visualization and training films for public and private clients, the largest of which is the US Army. He said he really enjoyed his work, and was sincerely happy to share his story.
The story of J is a good example of a person who uses his talents, skill and training in the arts to build a career, albeit not one he would have envisioned as an art student. Students enter study in the arts with many dreams and aspirations. When I was a student, I had a clear and very narrowly focused professional goal in mind that, in hindsight, blinded me to other opportunities. Today, I advise students to work toward their most ambitious goals, but to do so with their eyes open to the many alternative ways in which their talents and training can be used to support a fulfilling work life. If J had kept his head down, looking only toward the world of studios and gallery shows, he might not have seen the opportunities that have led to what became an enjoyable and sustainable career.