Even in times of economic prosperity, artists do not choose their professions based on financial security.
But as the job market continues to narrow, some graduates of professional arts schools will face post-graduation life with more uncertainties than in years past. Students at the Yale School of Music, however, said the policy of free tuition and grants to support alumni have assuaged financial concerns.
Without spending thousands of dollars on tuition, Timothy Andres MUS ’09 said he built up a safety net of funds to use when he leaves Yale. Though staying in school is now a serious consideration for some of his peers, Andres said, even with a waning economy, he will not change his plans.
“I was planning [on moving to New York] long before this economy stuff went down by scrolling away money for the last few years in anticipation, and not paying tuition has allowed me to do that,” Andres said. “Of course I’ll be tethered down to jobs to make ends meet, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my twenties in school.”
The School of Music recently launched a new program, called AlumniVentures, which enables musicians who need funding for a project to apply for grants worth up to $10,000. The three winning projects this year include a prison concert program, support for string players in Oakland, California, and music education for war-affected children in Uganda.
Deputy Dean of the School of Music Thomas Masse said funding such projects for non-profit groups is especially important during this time.
“There are not enough gifts to make their projects come along,” he said. “In all of the arts and visual arts, artists need funding and rely on grants.”
Without outside funding, the struggle to find a paying job that will support an artists’ work is a universal one. But money, Andres said, is not the ultimate consideration for musicians, actors or artists.
“We’re all expecting it to be tough even in the best of times and in a way composers and all music school students are prepared for that,” he said. “We don’t harbor any false hopes of making easy money.”
But not all graduate arts students share Andres’ relaxed approach, and many, Andres said, bemoan the dearth of job opportunities. Jensen Barnes ART ’09, who is in the graphic design concentration, said he interviewed with several studios that decided they were no longer able to hire.
“I’d say that openings have basically frozen in lot of the studios,” he said. “A lot of the places that we know of are like ‘I’d love to hire you, but I can’t at this time’.”
While Barnes said he has the prospect of entering a PhD program after graduation, this transition period is still a difficult time. The prestigious nature of the graduate programs at Yale is also a source of frustration for those who assumed they would be graduating with a desirable position, Barnes said.
“I don’t think I have a unique story, and that’s the positive thing, but after coming here I expected to leave with something more,” he said. “You go a little backward to find work, any kind of work, to support myself and my wife.”
Despite obstacles, Tod Papageorge, a professor of photography, said students and professors in the arts will continue to do what they have always done — make something out of nothing.
“It may well be that young artists are more fit to deal with this kind of difficulty than many of their peers,” he said. “First of all, they’re generally used to the condition, having traded a conventional life for the uncertain one of art-making, and, second, they tend to rely more on the right side of their brains, the side that sees lemonade where the other side sees lemons.”