A career in the Arts offers opportunities for growth and development—both personally and professionally—as well as exposure to a thriving community of creators and thinkers.

At Career Conversations: Theatre, Music, and Art, Logger students met members from the arts community—actors and comedians…opera singers and music teachers…painters and sculptors…arts administrators, gallery managers, and theater owners! Students learned about the professionals’ personal experiences and adventures, and gathered advice.

As these Puget Sound graduates expressed, a day at “the office” is never boring, and is very rarely an actual office! If you missed the event or just want to refresh your memory, check out a sampling of the experiences and advice offered to students below:

Megan Ahiers ’06, Theatre Arts major; Sociology minor | Operations Director, The 14/48 Projects: I love to tell stories. But I also love telling stories that bring people together or challenge people to think about their place in the world. Mostly, I love to create space for artists to all tell these stories while engaging in their community and their fellow artists.

Advice: Be true to yourself, be willing to always learn, be curious about the world and people. Work hard, be willing to sacrifice, but be prepared for some awesome rewards (though not always financial).

Ryan Bede ’05, BM Voice Performance | Adjunct Instructor (Music), Tacoma Community College; Professional Baritone, ryanbede.com : In both my teaching and performance activities, I have the opportunity to share my passion for singing. I have always enjoyed sharing music in many different settings, from the church to the opera house to the concert hall, even as a member of “Opera On Tap” in Seattle. I love how so many different disciplines (language, history, science, mathematics) unite to form various facets of music, and I’m always fascinated with the “back story” of the music I perform and teach.

Advice: Know that it will take years of hard work building up your résumé both as an educator and performer, and you will likely have to work in other industries/jobs as you pursue your art. Make the effort to discover a number of possible job/career paths within the arts, and identify mentors/teachers who have worked in the business and can help guide you to your ‘next steps’ after completing your undergraduate program.

Gwynne Kuhner Brown ’95, BM piano performance | Associate Professor, University of Puget Sound: I’m energized and inspired by my students, and I love that my teaching and scholarship challenge me and provide opportunities for creativity.

Advice: If you love music and love teaching, pay attention: you are called to this important work! But don’t go into debt for grad school.

Alexander Keyes ’10, BA Studio Art | Professional Artist, alexanderkeyes.com: As a practicing artist, I love the atmosphere present in the university art department. Being able to teach students about contemporary art is not only challenging and rewarding, but this back and forth environment helps me develop my own research and motivates much of my artwork. 

Advice: The greatest trait you can have as an artist is persistence. Talent means almost nothing in the professional art world. Being able to consistently work hard and show up is the only way I have found to succeed.

 Kaeline Marie Kine ’12, BA Theatre Arts; Business | Artist Engagement Coordinator, Meany Center for the Performing Arts: The thing I most enjoy about my work is being surrounded by creativity. Working in the performing arts is so fulfilling because it is such a collaborative field, which means I get to experience, participate in, and learn from the creativity of my co-workers (and myself!) on a daily basis. And I don’t just mean the creativity of the art that’s presented on stage—creativity exists everywhere in the workplace, whether it be onstage or in the lobby, backstage or in the boardroom.

Advice: My main advice is to always be open to learning. You never know where you’ll find your next mentor, project inspiration, or career path—learning as much as possible in as many ways as possible will keep doors opening in every direction.

Sarah McKinley ’14, BA Theatre Arts | Sketch Comedian, Smat Comedy; Owner, The Pocket Theater: Dreaming and scheming with artists about their show when I first meet them, then experiencing their final product months later. I love that I get to support artists from idea to performance—cheering them on, helping repair bumps in the road, celebrating their growth, and making a ton of artist friends I would never have known otherwise. I love helping passionate people do what they love to do.

Advice: Find a place that’s doing work you believe in and hang out there. Ask them what they need and if you can help them with whatever it is—volunteering to run the bar, touch up paint, run lights, whatever it is. When I started volunteering at the Pocket, I got to see a bunch of shows for free, learn about running an arts business, and meet other artists. It has to be mutually beneficial and the people have to be good to you! Don’t hang out with jerks, there are plenty of other people who will treat you like you deserve. 

Michael Rives ’06, BA in Studio Art; concentration in painting | Professional Artist, michaelrives.com; Store Manager, Artist & Craftsman Supply Tacoma: Read the CESblog featuring Michael.

Advice: I see a lot of folks trying to pursue entry-level jobs by asking if an employer is hiring and then applying to every job available. Instead, I recommend making a short list of actual places you’d really enjoy working, and customizing your cover letter and resume specifically for those places. Go in person and introduce yourself to someone in charge. Tell them how much you’d like to work there, thank them for accepting your resume, and leave. Make it short and sweet. Don’t worry if they are currently hiring because nobody knows what may happen tomorrow. A month down the road you’ll get a call out of the blue asking if you’re still available for that dream job.

 Peter Stanley ’09, BA in Studio Art; Politics and Government | Gallery Manager, Kittredge Gallery: I am lucky to get to do this work. I love being exposed to a constant flow of big ideas and beautiful artwork. I’ve managed a small business, worked in museums, and in the advertising world. Every job offer I’ve had was because I was an art major, not in spite of it.

Advice: Talk with everyone about their organizations, whether they are hiring or not. Build your experience any way you can. Get used to telling your story and talking about yourself. Accept and enjoy a circuitous career path.

Keep an eye out on the CES events calendar for other chances to engage with alumni and professionals—you never know what types of career opportunities might arise!

Author: Ella Frazer ’18
Photo Credits | Head shots provided by each alum, Career Conversations poster elements created by Audra Delisle ’11
© 2017 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound