As a rule, we don’t usually let the kids from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts climb around on the roof of the Winspear Opera House. But on a very special day, our Operations team allowed them a sneak peek into all the highs and lows of managing the Center – just one of the professions that students explored during their arts administration shadow day. Our Senior Manager of Education and Community Engagement Jessica Roberts worked with Lily Weiss of the Dallas Arts District (formerly at Booker T.) to create a course for students who could learn about the variety of jobs available to them within the arts sector. The yearlong course exposes students to different professions and projects, culminating in a “shadow day” of top industry professionals at the Center.
Students were allowed to explore booking with our team members who find and negotiate shows that are presented at the Center. Others learned about communications or event planning. One young dance student was paired with legendary arts leader Charles Santos of TITAS Presents, where she got to help him create a “sizzle reel” video for the upcoming Command Performance gala. It was an opportunity to learn from one of the greats, and she reported back, “I just got confirmation about what I want to do with my life and I’m just really happy I got to have this experience!”
There are so many important reasons for the Center to invest in career exploration, but here are the reasons you should as well!
There are literally hundreds of jobs in the arts that most students don’t know about.
No artist has to be starving if they don’t want to be – from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. corporate professions to flexible contract jobs, there is a vocation for students out there. The trouble is, they can’t get into a job without knowing it exists. From music therapy to arts finance, there isn’t a skill set that cannot be accommodated in the real world. And yes, earn very real dollars! Guides like these help students chart their course, but the best bet is always a day in the life of a person who has the job — and the Center is at the forefront of it.
There’s no substitution for this kind of learning.
It’s no secret that students learn from doing, but doing in the real world with real mentors cannot be duplicated in a classroom. It’s imperative that students — but especially low-income students — have the ability to see the workforce so that they become familiar with the ins-and-outs of their future. With the experience under their belts, they become convinced that they, too, can become what they want to be. That kind of self-confidence is irreplaceable.
Arts mentorship opens up multiple (and unexpected) pathways to young learners.
Some arts students might feel that they are bound for the big lights of Broadway and would never consider any other type of employment. Yet in our experience, young people who learn about the various applications of arts-based skills in the workforce see that a different job can be creative, exciting and fulfilling. Opening up the minds and hearts of students is incredibly important so that they can reach their full potential.
All arts students can learn from the business side of the arts.
Even if a student wants to be a full-time visual or performing artist, he or she will indubitably need to understand topics like marketing and finance in order to successfully market themselves. With the opportunity to speak with professionals in the field, students can absorb the best advice from those in the field. An experience like this can act as their foundation as they move in the world.
Texas has a great need for diverse skills in the arts
Not all arts mentorship is solely for the students’ benefit. The nearly 10,000 Arts and Culture Industry businesses located throughout Texas employ more than 110,000 workers, according to the Texas Cultural Trust. The next time that someone tells you that you can’t do anything with an arts degree, let them know there are about 110,000 jobs waiting for arts students. As these jobs continue to grow, there is a mounting skills gap that must be attended to. As corny as the song is — the children are our future, and they must have the capacities to ensure our creative economy continues to grow.