Arts and design
Career opportunities in the arts and design realm are truly what you make them. Unlike more traditional career paths, artists and creatives have the ability to mold their craft into a career. About 60% of artists are self-employed. Those who are not often work in the advertising, computer, film, publishing and software industries. Opportunities for artists will continue to exist in both traditional and freelance structures, with each offering its own positives and negatives.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects continued expansion of opportunities for creatives due to increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, television and on smartphones. As companies continue to increase their digital presence, more art and design workers will be needed to help create visually appealing and effective layouts of websites and other media platforms.
The Vault Guides offer a sample of careers for artists and designers. Each guide gives, among other valuable information, an overview of the job and entry-level requirements. You’ll notice that some jobs may overlap with a variety of majors or industries.
Although your portfolio and reel matter the most, a resume is important too. Your resume is a summary of your background, skills, and qualifications. It is often the first document your audience sees and, like your creative practice, your resume is always in a state of growth and development.
The word resume and curriculum vitae (CV) are often used interchangeably. To add to the confusion, the arts and design field include an artist resume as well.
In general, use a resume when applying for positions outside of academia, and possibly unrelated to your art discipline (administrative positions, other office jobs, etc.). Use an artist resume primarily when applying to positions with commercial galleries, museums, exhibition opportunities, and certain grant applications. Finally, create a CV when considering academic employment in higher education.
Remember, quality content is more important than design.
When it comes to choosing a format, some arts or media organizations may be more tolerant of design-heavy resumes that use color, graphics, or otherwise veer from the traditional one-page resume. Keep in mind that regardless of the audience, the interest is in quality content over a highly-designed document. In fact, some may view overly-designed resumes as a tool for masking a lack of experience. Use work samples and your online portfolio to show your design skills so you can keep your resume content-focused.
Your cover is meant to achieve two goals:
- to demonstrate your genuine interest in the opportunity
- to explain why you are the MOST qualified person for the job.
Use your personality and tell your own story.
- Tell a story that connects to why you are interested in the position, "which is why I am applying to..." what that position is, and what are some of the qualifications that you have for that position
- Why you like that organization
- Reminding them of why you are a great choice and sharing your contact information (email/phone). If the position does not say "no phone calls/no contact), you can outline a plan for following up with them to inquire about the status of your application
- Keep the cover letter short (less than one page) and written in the tone of the organization
The interview is your opportunity to share how your skills and experiences have prepared you to be successful in this role. Interviews take practice. If you’ve never interviewed before, explore our interviewing tips to learn the basics of a successful interview.
Common artist interview questions
- Tell me about yourself.
- Talk a bit about your undergraduate experience.
- What is your artistic medium of choice? Why that medium?
- Why do you want to go into this field? Is art a passion for you?
- Do you enjoy collaboration work? Working in teams?
- What do you expect of others in a team environment?
- Describe for me your more significant leadership experience. How have you effectively worked in a team situation?
- If you could picture yourself 5 or 10 years from now, where would you be and what would you be doing?
- If you were awarded a grant of say… $2000 for a major art project, how would you use the money?
- What do you consider to be some of your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- How would others describe you? Your work ethic/habits? What motivates/inspires your work?
- What else do you think I should know about you?
- Why do you believe that you could handle this position?
You’ll feel more comfortable during your interview with a little practice first. Interview Prep is a web-based video interface that allows you to respond to a series of pre-recorded interview questions from your computer. Afterward, you will be able to review your recording to see how you did.
Have an interview coming up? Practice with one of our career advisors. Schedule a one-hour mock interview and we will show you how to answer likely interview questions and offer tips to help you make an excellent impression. Be sure to bring your resume and a copy of the job description with you to your interview.
Your portfolio speaks for you. It is a visual representation of your work and accomplishments as well as a medium to showcase your attention to detail and degree of professionalism. It is essential in working with clients, applying for a job, applying for graduate school, or requesting a grant, fellowship, or exhibition.
Developing a portfolio is an iterative process that should complete by the time you graduate or when you feel you are ready to go after a job or exhibition.
Your portfolio should include:
- Artist statement
- Work samples
- Work samples description sheet (unless descriptions are listed directly on the samples)
- Written project proposal (when pertinent)
- Project budget (when pertinent)
- Reviews and other related press
- Handout materials such as business cards, exhibition announcements, or extra copies of your artist statement and resume/CV
Whether your portfolio is a hard copy or digital, be sure to proofread before sending it out. It is a good idea to have others review it as well in order to receive their feedback and fix any problems. A trusted professor or mentor is an excellent person to critique your portfolio. Also, check out the resources available under our Communications and Media tab as well.
Most people create a digital portfolio because it is easier to share. If web development isn’t your strong suit, try one of these websites as a coding-free alternative to digital portfolio creation.
More than half of artists are self-employed and therefore must wear both artist and salesperson hats to make a living. Art fairs or selling online are excellent ways for new artists to showcase their work. However, most successful artists are represented by a gallery or agent that displays their work and approaches potential buyers when new works are available. Focus on building a broad portfolio that demonstrates your ability as an artist and seek out ways to promote your work.
For individuals seeking employment with a company or organization, hiring managers consistently hire candidates who demonstrate critical thinking, problem-solving, professionalism, teamwork, and communication skills. In addition, practical skills are an essential part of positioning yourself as a highly-sought-after candidate. VCU has a partnership with LinkedIn Learning, formally Lynda.vcu.edu, to provide free skills training for VCU students. Consider taking some of these recommended courses as a part of your training.
- The Freelancer Playlist
- Customer Service Fundamentals
- Code Clinic
- Creating Your First Website in Dreamweaver
- Also, check out the Learning Paths!
To access LinkedIn Learning, log in with your eID and password.
Watch video testimonials from professionals in the arts and design sector made possible through Candid Career.
Interested in learning more from an interviewee? Click their name to visit their Candid Career page!