Parents are rightly concerned about their children's future, but with preparation, an art student can excel in life.
In honor of Fathers' Day week (Can I declare a week for all dads?), I share this query from John G. from my Facebook page. He wrote:
I have 19-year-old daughter who is passionate about art and is pursuing her dream at college. As a father . . . and as the person paying her entire tuition . . . I'm naturally concerned about how she will turn her passion for art into a career.
I've done some research and found an interview you gave, so thought I'd reach out as a caring father to seek some much wiser advice on the topic. . . .
My advice to her has been to find a mentor or sponsor that will open the door to real-world experience as it relates to pursuing an art career, but how to go about finding such a mentor or whether it's the right approach at this point in time…well, quite frankly it's out of my realm of experience.
What thoughts and advice to you have for daughter and me?
Perhaps some of my thoughts might help other parents of would-be artists.
Dear John . . .
John, your daughter is very lucky to have such a caring father and I hope she realizes that. So many artists are without people in their lives to support and understand them.
I would encourage her to stay focused on developing her art. Give her space to be a student – to experiment and to make mistakes.
Too many people start marketing before the work is mature. She needs to build confidence in her abilities.
She will learn a number of things in art school that will serve her well: discipline, accepting criticism, art history, contemporary context, etc. Let her soak in these lessons.
But, as you surmised, school probably won't teach her how to make a business from her art. Then again, doctors and lawyers never learn how to open their offices while in school.
The cool thing about kids these days is that they are savvier about business and marketing than any previous generation. And they are open to creating new business models for their art without being tied to traditional “rules” of how things should be done properly.
All parents should encourage their kids to break the rules! That's what the most successful artists do. They find their own paths.
John, I have another idea that might make it easier for you to sleep at night. It's not too different from your idea of a mentor.
Whenever your daughter is on a school break (summer, holiday breaks) give her real-world assignments.
Help her write letters or emails to set up appointments with people in your community who work in the art arena: curators, working artists, arts writers, arts council personnel, arts festival organizers, and anyone else you can think of.
People in the arts are generous. Have your daughter ask for 30 minutes of their time to talk with her about what they do and how they got to be in their current position. She will learn a lot about how an arts community functions and how she envisions future self.
She will also learn how to ask for what she wants through this process!
We can thank my dad for this idea.
When I was living at home and finishing up my graduate-school thesis, my dad worried for my future. I worried, too! I thought I was going to grad school to get a Ph.D. and teach, but I left with an M.A. I had no idea what I was going to do after the diploma came in the mail.
My dad helped me connect with arts leaders in the community. Though it's probably something I should have figured out before I ever went to grad school, I wasn't confident or outgoing enough to do this on my own. I was grateful he nudged me.
And I'm not sure I've ever said that. So, Thanks, Dad!
And thanks to all of the parents out there like you, John.
How about you? Do you have any advice for John or his daughter?