Navigating careers in the arts

Led by recent alumni in art, dance, media studies, music, and theatre, students and alumni got together in a Career Accelerator session to discuss strategies for the first few years after graduation, including finding internships, building a professional network, making money in the arts, applying to grad school, and more.

Zöe Koenig'18 rehearses for a Beloit College dance trip to Zöe Koenig’18 rehearses for a Beloit College dance trip to Newfoundland. After Beloit, Zöe has continued dancing professionally.
Credit: Jadon Good Photography
Arts alumni and current students gathered on the first day of the Career Accelerator to learn about strategies for pursuing careers in and around the arts in the first years after graduation. Alumni shared their experience in dance performance, theatre production, illustration and animation, publishing, and even science communication through theatre.

One theme that emerged in the free-flowing conversation was the importance of developing your own professional network. Connie Bronson’22, who has established a career in theatre production, specifically mentioned a professional development seminar they took their senior year, taught by professor Gina T’ai. Bronson talked about how valuable the experience was, saying, “During my senior year, Gina taught a class where you have to interview three professionals in your area of study. So I needed to use my resources, learn more about where I might reconnect, [and] what I was getting into.”

Abby Bender’21 agreed about the importance of learning from others, and shared her own techniques for building her professional network. “I love adding people on LinkedIn and asking them, ‘Tell me about what you do!’” This focus on interpersonal communication helped Abby use her biology and theatre majors to land in a master’s program in Science Communication.

In response to a student question about graduate school, several alumni shared their perspectives on their own paths into graduate school–or not. After graduation, Gabe Gonzalez’20 received a Fulbright Fellowship, where he spent two years teaching English and dance performance to children in Taiwan. That experience reinforced his love of teaching and researching and helped him decide to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree, which will allow him to pursue the teaching and research jobs he will find fulfilling. Abby Bender, similarly, talked about how an advanced degree will be required to join the research community that she wants to be a part of. Connie shared that in their field, theater production, advanced degrees are not required for many roles, and people can go very far just being willing to work hard, make mistakes, and try things. Jake Quatt’19, a professional illustrator, shared that it is possible to have corporate or freelance illustration jobs without attending an arts school or earning an MFA, but you should prepare yourself with skills in Adobe and InDesign and be prepared to compete with others who have years of experience.

Finding the right relationship between making money and doing art was a topic of interest in the wide-ranging conversation. Kirby Jayes’16 shared their experience finding a place in the music industry, shifting from being a touring musician to sound producer to music instructor with a recent day job in IT after reaching a state of burn out. “Figuring out the right relationship between your music and making money is a tough thing,” Jayes shared. Additionally, Jayes talked to current students about the importance of finding an arts community to be part of, whether at Beloit College or beyond.

Quatt shared a similar perspective on monetizing skills in arts. “If you’re going to have a job based on one of your artistic interests, prepare yourself to lose some of the joy you have from it,” Jake said. Zöe Koenig’18 entered the workforce with experience at Beloit in creative writing, dance, and the costume shop. She shared that “having my source of income be separated from my freelance dance work was incredibly valuable. It allowed me to be more intentional about the dance communities I was in, instead of having to say yes to everything.”

The range of experiences shared by alumni was amazing. But was it a little overwhelming? Bronson shared some final advice to soothe the nerves of students who may have some anxiety about what’s to come: “Do some reflection. Think about what brings you joy. And make sure you always have those little sprinkles of art in your life.”

Ellenor Anderbyrne’05
January 17, 2023

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