Being a student, around 50% of my web browser history consists of people and groups on Facebook, Netflix, cheap and quick meal recipes, events ranging from talks and workshops and poetry reading clubs to movie screenings, pub quizzes and everything-you-can-think-of related parties, etc. However, since I am a History of Art student, the other 50% are “contemporary art exhibitions”, “art news”, “getting experience in the art world”, “art job Glasgow”, “gallery internship”, and many, many more art/job related combinations of words. This summer, my strong searching skills got me a position: I was accepted to volunteer at The Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art. Sounds quite exciting, doesn’t it? Well, you know these people you see in a museum or an art gallery, whose responsibility is to make sure nobody touches anything? Well, most of my time volunteering, that was me, patrolling the area.
Although I might now sound like I am romanticizing what I have gone through during these couple of weeks, I will be egregiously wrong to say that it wasn’t an insightful and rewarding experience; I didn’t regret applying even for a second. I met a vast amount of inspiring people from all over the place and most importantly, discovered how noteworthy and interesting the cultural scene in Riga is, because, to my shame, I was always overlooking it and reaching out to opportunities beyond my native land. And, to be fair, just like Trump’s plausible “he knew what he signed up for” comment goes, I also knew what I signed up for. As a matter of fact, I just didn’t ignore the fact that art world jobs and creativity are not always mutually inclusive, and that getting your foot in the art world, especially at the very start of your career, doesn’t always imply letting your creative energies shine through.
Imagine that the whole art world was operated exclusively by artists. Probably on some otherworldly Utopian planet, a sanctuary of beauty, so to say, populated by approximately thousand people, where the concept of material value of things doesn’t exist because everything is free and where nothing has to be regulated. However, as Andrei Tarkovsky, who is widely considered the most famous Russian filmmaker and writer, once said: “Art would be useless if the world were perfect”. Indeed, it was never perfect and never will be. In modern times, when the art world is so rapidly expanding, evolving and constantly changing its paths in development, it is, more than ever before, dominated by money. That said, along with artists producing art, necessary too are the dealers who would sell it; the gallery directors who manage it’s home and the curators who bring it together into something meaningful. The art world is not just filled with artists. Sales managers, critics, social media marketers, communication associates, web developers, graphic designers, cash operations coordinators, and other job positions you can find on LinkedIn (and there are many - I’ve done quite a thorough research) all play important roles.
Does it mean that there is no room for creativity in these professional fields? Of course not. Whatever kind of work you are performing, it is always possible to have some creative spirit; if you think about, you can be innovative no matter what you’re doing. Think clearly about what you’re looking for from the art world. Do you want to write articles for art magazines? Do you want to provide direction and wayfinding to visitors and facilitate their needs? Do you want to manage exhibitions and create press releases, or manage social media platforms of galleries or museums? The list goes on. There are so many art jobs that aren’t studio based.
There is such a great variety of interesting opportunities available in the art world. It is foolish to stick your nose up at these jobs and immediately discount them. Judging whether a job is worth pursuing based on how creative the position is misguided. Interesting and fulfilling jobs in the art world need not involve the stereotypical overalls and solitary lifestyle. No matter what career plans we have mapped out in our heads, it is wise to channel your creativity into standing out more than others. important to remember too is the fact that we don’t usually start with our dream job – it does take some time to climb career ladder. In my case, it began on a sofa (which was very comfortable, if you ask me) in a former Soviet textile factory, as a safeguard of all kinds of works of art which I spent so much time looking at that I immersed into the environment completely and, well, sincerely enjoyed being a part of it.