What’s in a ‘Real’ Job?

6 Mar 2020

The Performing Arts Build Important Skills for Any Occupation

By Don Kruszka

Ah, the visual and performing arts. 

Other than sports, this is probably the most fantasized-about set of professions in the world. Who wouldn’t love to have hundreds of people hanging on your every word, completely caught up in your performance, and eagerly anticipating where you were going to go next? There’s an aura about it—a glamour. The successful artists often make it look easy and effortless. 

It’s mystifying to some. And because of this, the arts are often among the most misunderstood areas of study. They are often the first thing to go when schools make budget cuts. Never mind all the studies that show that strong programs in the arts give students a solid foundation for self-expression and can alleviate specific behavioral issues. Administrators and parents can’t always see the tangible value of art and music and drama classes. How can all that drawing and prancing around on a stage possibly prepare a kid for a “real” job?

The answer is plenty.

A person who follows a passion for any art develops valuable skills that can make them productive and successful in nearly any “real” job out there.

What skills? For starters, artists are self-starters. They have to get themselves going every day to create works that often begin only in their imaginations. They are problem-solvers, working through numerous mistakes and false starts to turn those ideas into reality. They have an acute attention to detail, because it is often the little details that draw the audience’s attention and appreciation for the work. People who study acting, dance, and singing often become great communicators and storytellers who can speak well to large groups. They are confident masters of self-expression who are willing to experiment with trying different ideas and pushing boundaries. They think outside the box.

They also learn to work well within a group. Collaboration is vital in a theater production, as is the ability to take criticism and learn from your mistakes. The best ones learn how to study and research characters and techniques. They also have to budget their time, often juggling several productions and jobs at the same time. It helps to have a bit of stamina to keep up with a schedule like that.

Looking for something more “practical?” Technical theater majors learn how to make mechanical things work. They have to deal with wiring, electronics, hydraulics, and carpentry. I once saw a Ringling Brothers show where an entire scene was performed upside down, 60 feet in the air, with the characters walking (WALKING!!) back and forth along with an inverted platform. That’s no easy feat. Technicians have to be good at what they do because if something they build is unstable, someone gets hurt.

Architects don’t just design pretty buildings. They have to take into account what kind of building materials will make their vision work safely. They also have to make the structure flexible enough to sway in the wind to avoid cracking. Their roofs need to prevent water build-up during rainstorms. In California, their designs must be able to hold up in the event of an earthquake.

Successful artists develop a good business sense and a flair for self-promotion. What business can’t use someone like that on their staff?

These are just some of the skills they pick up, and they all have a place in the “real” job market. Artists can be marketers, spokespeople, teachers, agents, customer service reps. They can also be actors, dancers, designers, musicians, animators, writers, and painters.

The possibilities are endless.

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