So, you might already know that I'm in graduate school part-time. I spend the rest of that time making work, showing work, doing art fairs, marketing, looking for exhibition opportunities, applying for grants, etc. I also have a part-time job as an artist's studio assistant. Basically, I want to be a professional artist, so I'm behaving like one. And I think it's possible to earn a living as an artist, although not everyone feels that way.
At an event not too long ago, I ran into another woman artist. We hadn't seen each other for a while, so we got caught up a little bit. I told her I left my teaching job, got engaged to a wonderful man, and was going to graduate school. Then it went something like this:
Friend: "What will you get when you're done?"
Me: "An MFA."
Friend: "But what will you get for a job?"
Friend: "Yes, what will you do for work?"
Me: "Make art, I suppose."
Friend: "Yes, but how will you make money?"
Me: "From the art."
Friend: "But that's just so hard to do. You need to have a job."
Oh my. Why are we so quick to squash our dreams? And why are we so quick to squash others' dreams just because they seem a little impractical? The practical career path isn't for everyone. I tried it. I really did.
A few years ago, while I was working in a college writing center, I started an MA in Education because it was a practical means for me to get a stable job. But I didn't like it. I learned enough to know that I didn't want to be a reading specialist even though I could, and even though I care about literacy, and even though it would probably be not terribly hard to find a job in a private school or a in community college writing center. Even though it would be a totally adequate career path, it became clear that I would be unfulfilled. It was not what I really wanted to do. So I quit.
I decided instead to pursue art. I spent a little extra time on artwork. I took a class. I stopped feeling guilty for spending a little less time on grading and lesson-planning and a little more time on artwork and social life. I applied to graduate school. When I was offered only one 2-semester hour course in the upcoming semester, I said "no" and started grad school and my art career instead. I'm very busy, I hardly make any money, but I'm happy. I'm learning a lot about my work, myself, and my career. I think it will be difficult, but I'm so excited about the possibilities, so please don't tell me to be practical. I know how to make ends meet, even if I don't have a lot to work with.