Careers in art: Impractical or Undervalued?

Many students feel conflicted about seeking a career in art, because of pressure to go into STEM and a lack of job opportunities in the medium they prefer. However, some feel it is worth the plunge.

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Avery Adelman ’23 created this piece in an exercise of portraying existential dread. | Photo courtesy of Avery Adelman ’23

LM’s art hallway, though now devoid of students, is home to countless renderings and paintings, classrooms full of works-in-progress, and photographs lining the walls. Many students are drawn to the creative outlet that art classes and clubs offer. Art for these students provides a release from everyday stress and can become the highlight of the day. But despite the respite that art is known for, many students feel conflicted about seeking a career in art.

This pressure to avoid art can sometimes be traced to a student’s home environment. Due to a growing career market in technology, parents often push students towards STEM-related classes. Madeleine Fiks ’23 describes that she’s felt some pressure from her family to take STEM courses as opposed to art, and she feels as if “there’s a stigma around other courses like cooking and art that make them seem less valuable.” However, she asserts that STEM courses, and by extension careers in those subjects, do not necessarily discourage creativity. “I know many people who take Computer Science at LM, because you have the ability to be creative while doing math-oriented things,” Fiks says, talking about all the different things one can do with coding. This dual benefit satisfies a need for creativity for many students, but others would still prefer to pursue art if they could.

Many students feel that only certain artistic paths have the ability to profit, and the ones they prefer don’t fall under that category. This blocks them from pursuing an artistic career in their preferred medium, or even in general. Avery Adelman ’23 has been drawing their whole life and painting for over six years. They create everything from butterflies that appear to float off the page, to technicolor people in the streets with despondent expressions. And yet, despite how happy they say art makes them, Adelman cannot see themself doing it for a living. “I would really love to make a career out of my art, seeing as though it makes me really happy, but I don’t think there’s many options to support myself in an art career.” Adelman added they’re not interested in graphic design or advertisement as alternatives: “I want to have creative freedom.”

Similarly, many students do not want to turn art from a method of relaxation into something of stress. To even have the option to sustain oneself off of it, a person would need to commit to a specific project and work efficiently on it. Hadia Ahmad ’23 describes this sentiment, saying “I see art as a stress reliever, so if I saw it as a future career choice that would add some pressure.” Ahmad could see herself “doing something on the side,” if she were up to it, but “because of financial needs I’d say no.”

On the other hand, despite the multitude of risks associated with this career, some LM students are willing to take the plunge. Noah Lipsitz ’21, an avid photographer, uses his art as both a source of income and a hobby. He wants to eventually focus on documentary, adventure, and storytelling, and currently has done client work with the food chain Honeygrow. While this temporary gig earns him profit, his long term goal is to use his art to create stories. Lipsitz understands that art is a challenging field to seek a career in, but believes it’s worth it. “I feel like the way we are raised, art is never really seen as much of a job where you can make real money from. But from what I’ve learned, it is one of the most special career options of them all and that’s because it’s so open ended.” Lipsitz added that if your work is unique enough “then you can one hundred percent make a living out of it.” However, he emphasized that for professional artists, money is not the end goal. “If you talk to any artist, not one will tell you that they do it for the money. Art is something you do for yourself and that’s what’s so amazing about it.”

Art is a field that many students are apprehensive to endeavor into professionally. Students must weigh the risks, but in a subject dedicated to creativity, there’s no easy answer as to if it is possible to make a career out of it! If someone wants to pursue art, they may end up creating a dream job for themselves.