I'm An Artist! ...Now What?

Teaching Art Careers to Middle School Students: A Guide

Content Area: Visual Art

Standard: 7.CX.2.1 Analyze careers in art and a variety of other careers in terms of the art skills needed to be successful.

Grade: 7

Theme: Careers in art, and what the artist will need for them.

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Let me Paint a Mental Portrait...

Ah, 7th Grade. Middle school is a time where the future is close, and personal choice and interest begins to guide young learners. Sometimes, those interest lead to art class, and career options begin to make themselves known to students. As art educators, we want our students to continue to grow in their craft, but so many of them come in with the mentality of "there is no job in art that I can be successful in." So many times, students give up before they ever begin, too afraid of the uncertainty and the "starving artist" mentality that has been enforced time and time again by society. The question is: How do we, as educators, get past the preconceived notions of artistic careers and show students just what they can do with these skills they have?

One way is with readings! That's right, we are breaking out the books (...or computers) in art class and showing these students just what kind of opportunities there are in art! Below are four different resources for art educators to use when exploring and analyzing art careers and what skills can carry over into the job field.

Below is a short video with a few possible careers!

visual arts career school

And Now, the Resources!

The Beginning - A Picture Book: "Matthew's Dream" by Leo Leonni

Before you protest, hear me out. Yes, this is a picture book. But picture books are not just for elementary school children anymore. This story is a beautiful interpretation of a young artist finding inspiration, and where better to find a young artist than in a middles school class where personal interests are really starting to make themselves known?

In this book, Matthew, who had no ambition, found his inspiration after visiting an art museum with his class. The theme here - following that artistic vision and using it to guide your own future endeavors - is a perfect transition into this standard. The questions that can be derived from this book (What does it mean to be an artist? What can inspire artists? Does all art look the same? How can art change a person's outlook on life?) are a great way to introduce this idea of having an career in art or an artistic field, and can spark some great discussion among both whole group and small group settings. Plus, it is easy to read and follow along with, great for those readers who struggle or who identify English as their second language! (Billman, 2002)

The Introduction - A Visual: "Careers For Art Students" by Student Art Guides

Visuals are a great way to get the big picture all at once (and in art, a visual is always appreciated). This resource landed itself at the introduction because that is exactly what it is: an introduction into the possibilities of a career in art. Organized in a quick and easy format, this is a great way to show just how many options there are! And seeing as it is structured in a way that breaks these jobs down into different medias/artistic tools, a student can find a job that could interest them based on their own skill sets. Students use the same interpretation skills for visuals as they do for texts, and with this combination of the two, we can once again lead into our discussions (Osborn, 2001). How do these careers connect to one another? How are they different? What patterns do you see in the groups that are created? All of these questions can be the springboard for further exploration!

The Enhancement - A Website: "Explore An Art Career Database" hosted by The Art Career Project

This is the meat of our resources. The ham on the sandwich. This database is a great source for looking into different art careers, as the careers are sorted by media and when clicked upon (underneath a quick definition), lead to a more detailed description of each job, what it pays in salary, what skills one needs to become one, and what programs are available for those who wish to pursue the career. But by far the best part of this option is the autonomy it provides the students, which is known to be vital to middle school students (as cited in Costello & Kolodziej, 2006). The database option is easy to use, easy to navigate, and allows the students the freedom of choice in their search. Students can pick which area of art they like the most, pick different jobs within their discipline, and this allows these students a bit of independence that most readings would not provide them. This could even be a great platform for individual or group projects, where students would get the opportunity to become the "expert" of their chosen career to later present to the class.

The Conclusion - Nonfiction: "10 Artistic Careers With the Brightest Futures: NEA and BLS" hosted by Huffington Post

Last but not least, we have the nonfiction article. This article from the Huffington Post was chosen for the hopeful message it holds for artists everywhere: there are jobs, and they are thriving. Once again, this is easy to read, and the visual references add to the ease of comprehension with the slides at the end, giving more detail for each occupation named. Like the database, this resource lists more than one art career, and with the variety comes more chances, more opportunities to peak a student's interest towards a career in art. Because of the predictions this article makes, this post makes a great conclusion piece in the standard, setting the students up with a look at was is expected to be in demand, and giving them a challenge of sorts. Look at what is out there. We dare you to choose art.
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The Possibilities Are Endless

Art is not dead, and it is not a useless career choice. It sparks creativity, encourages collaboration, promotes self-discipline, and allows students to think with the other side of their brain for a little while. As art educators, we strive to instill the passion we have for our art in others, and to cultivate the students' own creative niche. Who knows? One day, we may have the next Picasso. Or the next Walt Disney. Or the next Dorothea Lange. But what binds these artist together is that at one point they were just as uncertain on what they should become.

All it takes is a spark. And that spark can come from reading, where students can make their own emotional investments, building their background knowledge, which is an important part of internalizing understanding (Fisher & Frey, 2012). With this new understanding, students can come to view this complex field of art with something they hadn't realized before: potential.



Billman, L. W. (2002). Aren’t these books for little kids? Reading and Writing in the Content Areas, 60(3). 48-51. http://educationalleader.com/subtopicintro/read/ASCD/ASCD_374_1.pdf

Costello, B. & Kolodziej, N. J. (2006). A middle school teacher’s guide for selecting picture books. Middle School Journal. 27-33. https://blackboard.ecu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-7903204-dt-content-rid-35771730_1/courses/READ5317671201580/EJ752877%281%29.pdf

Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2012). Improving adolescent literacy: content area strategies at work (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Osborn, S. (2001). Picture books for young adult readers. The ALAN Review, 28 (3), 24. http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v28n3/osborn.html

Resource References:

Bradford, H. (2011). 10 artistic careers with the brightest futures: nea and bls.Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/09/ten-art-jobs-with-the-brightest-futures_n_893326.html

Explore an art career. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.theartcareerproject.com/art-as-a-career/

Leonni, L. (1995). Matthew’s Dream. Decorah, IA: Dragonfly Books.

Student Art Guide. (2015). [organized lists of different careers in different fields of art]. Careers for art students. Retrieved from http://www.studentartguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/art-careers-list.png