Veronica Block — Being a professional artist can be quite demanding. The artist must dedicate many hours of her day to working in the studio developing their craft, their ideas, and a significant body of work. The artist must network with a loosely connected and often flakey assortment of people occasionally, who are only occasionally unified by the love of art itself. These include collectors, gallery owners, critics, curators, journalists, and the general public.
The artist is usually constantly maintaining a steady stream of proposals for exhibitions and grants in a highly competitive marketplace. It is well known that spending and the overall status of the arts in this country has been on the decline, and the artist must maintain her own body of work in the face of this neglect. Add to this the fact that the artist must also earn a living to support herself and earn enough for the space and materials necessary for an artistic pursuit.
Although there are many jobs an artist might pursue, the very well-paying ones are competitive, and often require that the artist use a skill set for which she is not necessarily trained. This is why teaching remains a perennially appealing option for an artist looking to maintain her sanity and her artistic career.
Many people believe that the art teacher finds their home in the high school or college, and while this is true, artists have been passing on their skills in formal and informal settings for a very long time. In the days of ancient Greece, the very first art schools were founded on the traditions of apprenticeship and direct mentoring, a model that was passed down through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This is very similar to the way that art is taught in schools today with the difference being in the myriad of models that art educators use to pass on their knowledge. For instance, Canada uses a six fold system as its model for art education in the classroom which examines creation, cultural and historical setting, and the critical response. Art education in the United States by contrast has focused on a diversity and visual culture model to pass on art knowledge. In either case, the classroom can be a place where the artist must directly use their artistic knowledge and skills.
The attractive thing for the artist to consider about art education is that art education uniquely takes place across the lifespan. If the artist does not find themselves well suited to deal with small children, college and independently founded workshops and schools offer appealing alternatives. Many states and federal agencies offer grants for the efforts of art education directed at neighborhoods and those disproportionately affected by poverty or disabilities. Often, this money is more easily obtained than a single award handed out to an artist for recognition of their artistic merit and achievement.
Whether in the studio or in the classroom setting, art education provides the artist a way to further their careers in the arts while mentoring a new generation’s discovery of art.