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Art School Confidential: Preparing for (Post) Graduation

For undergraduate and graduate art students alike, graduation marks a milestone of achievement and hard work. It also marks the end of a supportive and safe creative cocoon and the beginning of navigating your career to stay focussed on your passion – art. While it can be hard to focus on anything after moving on from university life, the most important aspect of graduation is setting a path to attain and sustain your creative career.

Below are 6 steps that all soon-to-be art school grads should take to get serious about making art a career after graduation.

1. Update your resume and portfolio

First things first: you must update your resume and portfolio. An updated resume is your record of what you’ve done and accomplished and your key to opening doors. No matter your age, your resume should speak to the depth of commitment and experience in your art form, stating exhibitions (even ones held at school), presentations, written work, internships, residencies and studio assistantships.  Taking your practice seriously as an artist means keeping a curated portfolio of high quality images of your best work. Your student work is a great start, but be sure to include new work that you are making to show that you are capable of making work outside of school.

2. Expand your network

Post-graduation is the perfect time to begin to build or expand your network. Anyone you have come in contact with during your studies is fair game: guest artists and speakers, professors, fellow students, alumni, school administrators; connect on social media and send a personal email. Don’t lose touch with your contacts as you move on from school. You have built relationships that can last a lifetime.  Professors can refer you on to peers based on where you live after school. The art world is facilitated through word of mouth, referrals and recommendations. Emailing your professor for a chat or asking your career services center for alumni to contact where you wind up living will jumpstart and fuel your expanded network.

3. Organize your studio

Third, keep a we–organized art studio. Your studio can be small, it can be in a weird part of town, or it can be a funky architectural arrangement. You need an organized place to create, and to focus on making work. Plus, nothing matters more than having a visitor in your studio who can breathe and see the artwork itself. During your studies, it may have been easy to lapse into a chaotic studio environment due to classes, papers, presentations and finals. There is no longer an excuse for a messy studio – and visitors won’t appreciate having to walk over stretched canvases on the floor or fragments of failed sculptures to get a glimpse of your works in progress.

4. Consider teaching

art graduation
Post-graduation: Be Prepared for Future Opportunities

Teaching art at either the primary or secondary, or even the undergraduate, level is a respectable means of earning your keep while also joining a wider network of working professionals who also pursue their own artistic success. As with any network of peers, art teachers can rely on and support one another and better understand the landscape of emerging arts through what interests their students. Aesthetics can vary generation by generation, and by seeing art world trends through several sets of fresh eyes artists will earn their living through sharing knowledge while also encountering new avenues of inspiration will also open up to artists who teach.

5. Develop your studio practice

Post-graduation can be a scary time, especially if you don’t see a clear path for your artistic practice to flourish. Find confidence and trust the process to continue to find your voice and keep making work. Whether you have a separate or home studio, develop a creative practice that is routine and constant. Seek support from other artists and don’t isolate yourself. Work past the self-doubt and make your art. You may have to adapt your art form or scale due to the confines of your space, but don’t stop if this is something you want to do. You’ll always be learning and growing and your artistic practice will always be there for you.

6. Keep a calendar

Research opportunities and maintain a calendar of deadlines that you check regularly and update. Include due dates for grant opportunities residencies, job interviews, and open calls for exhibitions. Break down projects into smaller tasks to stay on track and set reminders. Keep a folder of documents you prepare for opportunities that you apply to and back up your files. If and when you apply for a specific opportunity again, you will have everything on hand to update for the next chance to throw your hat in the ring for the consideration.

7. Organize your art inventory

Begin organizing your existing work! Don’t leave this step for last; while early post-graduation all of the work in your studio may or may not be running off to be exhibited in Biennales internationally, you want a system of tracking what artworks you have available in your studio, what they are worth, where they’ve exhibited and other relevant details. No fancy ArtBase system needed at this point as Excel will do, but as your practice grows, consider the level of exhibitions you want your work to be shown in and aim to present yourself professionally in order to impress curators and organizers at the level you aspire to be.

What was your experience post-graduation from art school like? Any tips that aren’t included above that are important to pass along ? Add your comments below!

About the author

Audra Lambert

Audra Lambert is a curator, arts marketing consultant and editor.

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