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Crafting a Career in the Arts [elan magazine]

By Hope Katz Gibbs
elan magazine
February 2010

Elaina Loveland wanted to be a prima ballerina. The graceful waif of a woman was a dynamic dancer, too. But after attending the dance program at Goucher College to study for a few years, she realized the reality of her choice might not make for an ideal career.

“It became clear that I should have gone straight to New York City to dance instead of going to college to study it,” she admits. “I also realized that my dance career would probably only last as long as my body held out—and that seemed like a bit of a gamble.”

So she opted for Plan B and became a writer—another career she had long dreamed of.

Driven to Succeed

“I bought my first copy of The Writer’s Market when I was 12,” shares the native of upstate New York, who now calls Arlington home. “I guess you could say I’ve always been thinking of what I wanted to be when I grew up.”

This driven woman wasn’t willing to join the ranks of other struggling wannabe writers, though. Rather, she wanted to accomplish what many wordsmiths just dream of: write a book. So she did.

Creative Colleges

A guide for student actors, artists, dancers, musicians and writers, “Creative Colleges” was published in 2005 when Loveland was 27. She followed it up in 2007 with a sequel entitled: Creative Careers: Paths for aspiring actors, artists, dancers, musicians and writers. Both softback trade books were published by SuperCollege LLC, and are chock full of how-to-get-where-you-want-to-go information.

Creative Colleges offers details about types of 200 arts-related college, including suggestions on how to evaluate them, sample resumes and curriculums, and inspiring / realistic profiles of people who are living the dream. And Creative Careers dives deeper into life in a variety of fields, offering real options other than the most obvious and glamorous.

For those who want to be an artist, but might not have the talent to do fine art or illustration, she suggests careers as an art director, art teacher, fashion designer, and conservator. For those interested in acting, for instance, Loveland suggests that alternatives to “actor,” might be a costume or lighting designer, set decorator, voice-over performer, or cinematographer.

Each chapter provides real world details, a job description, training and educational qualifications, job outlook, and a salary scale. Ninety-five question-and-answer profiles make the book highly useful and interesting. She didn’t lob softball questions to the professionals interviewed, either.

Ask yourself these questions

“What do you dislike about your job,” she asks a 43-year-old cinematographer named Christopher.

“Time away from my family, excessively long hours, sometimes bad catering, and sometimes less-than-ideal living accommodations,” he responds, admitting he’d never wanted to do anything else.

To the question, “How did he get that first job in the film business?” Christopher answers: “Nepotism. My father was a television director in New York, and shortly after graduating from college I visited him on the set and decided to stick around for a few days. I began helping out where I could, working for free.”

“Soon I found myself working 18 hours a day without pay, and I loved every minute of it,” he shares. “I quickly gravitated toward the grips and electricians and started working with them. I eventually left, but not only after my phone rang and the production manager asked me to come back and work—for pay, and a free hotel room.”

Christopher’s passion for his work is what Loveland found with all of the people she interviewed. Her takeaway: “Given all the pros and cons each profession, I’d still recommend a career in the arts to anyone who truly wants one,” she says, but warns that the key to success is a willingness to sacrifice and be flexible.

What’s your passion?

Take show business. “This is not a profession for the faint hearted, or someone who can’t deal with rejection,” Loveland advises, adding that those who dream of being fashion designers are also destined to spend years in the Big Apple, “unless, of course, you are willing to just open a little boutique in your hometown or maybe a favorite seaside town.”

“You have to really know yourself,” she explains. “Finding the right career—and career path—is truly a process of elimination. What I try to show in the book is that there are a lot of ways to accomplish the goal of having a career in the arts.”

The back story

Loveland admits she is still a little sad that she’s not a professional dancer, but says she knew herself well enough to realize she didn’t want a secondary role in that field. Ditto for life as a writer.

“I chose not to work for a newspaper because I want to be able to take the time to think about topics, and working on tight deadlines has never worked for me,” she confides, adding she didn’t want to work for a publishing house either because “I’d be rubbing elbows all day with published authors, and that’s what I wanted to be doing.”

So rather than editing other people’s books, or publicizing them, she continues to write her own while working for the prominent trade association NAFSA: Association of International Educators as the managing editor of its magazine, International Education.

And when it comes to helping parents deal with a child who wants a career in the arts, Loveland’s advice to is to simply be supportive.

Advise from one who has been there

“Parents should be open-minded if their kids are interested in pursuing a career in the arts,” she says. “While there are ‘starving artist’ stories, not all jobs in the arts are financially unstable. The arts aren’t usually a path to riches but aspiring artists can find career fulfillment and financial stability if they explore many options in the arts and carve out a niche for themselves. Ultimately, that will help them achieve both professional and personal happiness.”


More Elan magazine / Artist profiles Articles

"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.