Fine and Performing Arts
Whereas performing artists use their bodies to produce an ephemeral artwork, visual artists use their skills to create tangible products. Paint-splattered canvases, sculpted vases, architectural steel mobiles, woven tapestries, crystalline photographs of natural landscapes—all of these are works of visual artists. Visual artists work to transform the everyday into the beautiful.
Like the performing arts, career paths in the visual arts are highly unstructured. Painters, filmmakers, photographers and graphic designers may all pursue specialized training in their craft of choice, but ultimately, each lacks the guarantee of monetary stability in their chosen field. The visual arts field is highly competitive, as talent always outpaces the availability of jobs that provide a steady wage. Furthermore, in order to “make it” in their medium, visual artists must prove their talents over and over through the works which they create. Success in the fine arts especially may depend as much on your ability to network and self-promote as on your demonstrated talent. Very rarely do fine artists gain enough recognition to sustain themselves solely on their works; those who do, however, often sell their works for enormous sums of money.
Alternatively, artists can often find stable employment through the commercial arts, which involves artistic production for clients. Visual artists can also apply their skills in related creative fields, including advertising, education and journalism.
Unless visual artists seek stable employment in a related field, they will not adhere to recruiting timelines. Thus, production of artworks is often constant, as artists seek their “big break”.
- LionSHARE: Search for internships and jobs, including part time jobs to support the working artist. Organizations that have posted in the past include ACA Galleries, Little Monster Films and Julie Meneret Contemporary Art.
- Vault and WetFeet Guides: CCE subscribes to career-focused web services such as Vault and WetFeet, which offer profiles of industries, companies, and careers - the WetFeet Career Overview for the Visual Arts is particularly useful.
- Columbia offers a variety of venues for student visual artists to display their works, including the LeRoy Neiman Gallery and the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies.
- CSArts was created to give CC and SEAS artists a space in which to showcase their artwork and talent on the walls of the Center for Student Advising.
- Extracurricular clubs such as the Columbia Artist Society and the Columbia University Photography Society also provide visual artists a space for self-expression.
- Artists' Resource Center (ARC): Columbia University School of the Arts website offers different resources, professional opportunities and scholarship opportunities in film, visual arts, theater and writing.
The word “performer” generates notions of Hollywood and Broadway, but the performing arts industry is much more than the glitz and glamour associated with celebrity culture. Performing artists are, first and foremost, artists; their success is predicated upon their craft, be it acting, dance or comedy, that they have honed over countless hours of practice. While the potential to achieve stardom attracts countless performers to performing arts careers, only those with the determination to spend years refining their skills, while often enduring difficulties such as rejection, gain self-sustaining careers in the performing arts.
Truly talented performing artists possess a suite of qualities that make them attractive to employers: they are tenacious, willing to endure rejection and financial difficulties for the sake of their craft, charismatic enough to attract an audience, and are quick and creative learners willing to absorb feedback in order to improve their performance.
Performing Arts Career Paths
In contrast to many other fields, career paths in the performing arts are highly unstructured. Because performing arts companies, including professional dance troupes, opera groups, symphonies and theaters, are located in major urban areas, performing artists conglomerate in coastal cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco with the hopes of “making it big.” The high concentration of talent in these areas, however, means that competition is always stiff, as demand for opportunities will always outpace the supply of paid jobs. Performers thus must often audition over and over until they gain a job, simultaneously supporting their lifestyle with part-time work. This cycle repeats until performers gain a job with an income large enough to support themselves without side work.
While many performers possess degrees from specialized arts colleges, they are by no means required to secure employment. That said, at the highest levels of performance, performers are often required to join the union pertaining to their specific craft. The Screen Actors’ Guild and the Actors’ Equity Association are unions pertaining to screen and stage actors, respectively.
Recruiting is highly decentralized and follows no set timeline. Job opportunities arise constantly, so performing artists must be proactive in their job search in order to maximize their opportunities for employment.
- LionSHARE: Internships and full time job listings, including those that are part time.
- Vault and WetFeet Guides: CCE subscribes to career-focused web services such as Vault and WetFeet, which offer profiles of industries, companies, and careers.
- Columbia Arts Experience (CAE): One of CCE's domestic and international internship programs to help connect student with employers in a variety of fields, including the Arts.
- See the TV/Radio/Film industry page for more resources.
- Columbia offers a wide variety of performing arts organizations, including the Columbia Ballet Collaborative and The Varsity Show, among other renowned opportunities.
- Artists' Resource Center (ARC): Columbia University School of the Arts website offers different resources, professional opportunities and scholarship opportunities on film, visual arts, theater and writing.
- Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is primarily a union, but it also offers many of the benefits of a professional association, such as educational events and a quarterly publication, Screen Actor.
- Entertainment Industry Associations, Guilds and Unions - Thorough list compiled by the California Film Commission.
- American Federation of Musicians
- Associated Musicians of Greater New York
- American Guild of Musical Artists
While the word “music” may conjure images of Jimi Hendrix playing the Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock, or Ella Fitzgerald crooning blues tunes on stage, the music industry extends far beyond the performers who tug at our ears and heartstrings. Musicians are supported by an extensive network of individuals who ensure that their talent is discovered and appreciated, from music publishers to producers to publicists. Given the seemingly endless variety of music being produced today, there are multiple ways to become involved in the music industry. Its various branches include:
- Recording: The multiplicity of careers in this path are all geared towards recording, producing, and promoting music. A&R coordinators, also known as talent scouts, are employed by record labels to seek out the most compelling artists and sign them to the label via recording contracts. Those employed in promotion and publicity control the public’s perception of the label and its artists, coordinating press kits and events designed to develop and maintain positive reputations. In the studio, arrangers, producers and sound engineers ensure that the music which artists produce is of top quality.
- Business: This facet of the industry maintains artists’ finances and legal rights. Managers oversee all aspects of performers’ careers, from bookings to earnings, while entertainment lawyers ensure that their intellectual property rights remain protected.
- Performers and Writers: Of all careers in music, these require perhaps the most creative vision. Artists record tracks for sale on albums and often perform live in a variety of venues, occasionally aided by background singers and other accompanists. Writers can either compose and compile music for soundtracks and commercials, or write lyrics for recording artists to perform.
Timelines to obtain employment vary according to the job one seeks within the music industry. For performing artists especially, “lucky breaks” may propel one to instant stardom, but more often than not musicians face tireless work in order to promote themselves, find a record label and climb the summit to success. Business-oriented careers, in contrast, often require professional training and advanced degrees, such as MBAs or JDs. Recording jobs are often obtained via industry contacts; given the tight connections between record labels, internship experience can offer a way to full-time employment. Internships in the industry are typically posted a semester prior (i.e. spring for summer opportunities), and full time jobs need to be filled "immediately" - so apply 6-8 weeks prior to graduation.
- LionSHARE: Internships and full time job listings. Companies that have posted in the past include Catfish Entertainment and Painkilling Music Group.
- Vault and WetFeet Guides: CCE subscribes to career-focused web services such as Vault and WetFeet, which offer profiles of industries, companies, and careers- the Vault Concerts and Live Venues guide and the Recorded Music guide are particularly relevant.
- Columbia offers a number of students organizations offering opportunities for musical performance in multiple genres. Visit the LionLink webpage for Music Performance to learn more about each organization. WKCR is a great place to gain experience too.
- National Association of Record Industry Professionals
- Association of Independent Music Publishers
- National Music Publishers’ Association
- Music Business Association
Last updated December 2014