Tuesday, November 8, 2011

5 ways to be an artist and NOT live in a cardboard box

There are some majors that you can pick in college that come with a free cardboard box for you to live in after you graduate. These are known as the "useless" majors that free spirited minds get for the love and not for silly things like money or food. There was a recent poll in the Huffington Post about the 5 least paying college majors: 5) Art History 4) Philosophy/ Religion 3) Communications 2) English 1) Theatre/Film/Dance

Now, I am here to tell you there is a way you can get that Theatre degree and live a decent lifestyle. Yes, it takes hard work and maybe compromising some of your "ideals" you learned in that fancy school of yours but you can do what you love for a salary.

5) Have two jobs
I know, this idea SUCKS! But a lot of people do a normal 9-5 day job and then spend their nights doing what they really love. Paid theatre and art gigs are rare in this economy particularily for actors so make sure you have a secondary skill like sound engineering, lighting design, stage management or wardrobe. These positions come paid more often then acting or directing. I have friends who are baristas, waiters, data processors and retail slaves during the day and then artists by night. It's a bit like being a superhero. You are under appreciated for your skills and have to realize that you will never get full credit for all the hard work you do for your craft.

4) Teach Abroad
This is what I did. When I graduated grad school I was given two job offers. One was very prestigious but offered NO money and NO benefits. (I think it was a 5,000 subsidy + housing for the entire season if I remember correctly.) My other offer was here in Hong Kong, teaching drama and directing musicals for a decent salary and benefits. I sold out and took the one with more money. Teaching abroad was one of the best things I did in my career. It opened me up to a multicultural experience which really helped define my work as a director and allowed me to see more of the world. Traveling is a great tool for artists.

3) Write what you see and maybe get bonuses
You can start a blog, like me, and maybe get yourself some perks out of it. It could just be free tickets to art openings, theatre shows and music gigs. But you are saving money you would have spent before. The more art you can see as an artist the better you will become.

2) Live in the shitty apartment
Despite what society is telling you, you do not need an iphone. You do not need cable tv and you do not need a fancy apartment. You can pull a full on "La Boheme" and live in a shit hole. I'm talking total crack den but save yourself some cash and maybe don't live in the fancy neighborhood. You don't need a lift, use the stairs like Clark Gable wanted you to. The same principal with your art: you don't need to put on the musical with the 10,000 dollar rights you can't afford. Put on a play that is over a hundred years old so that the royalties are free and use the Grotowski approach to sets and costumes. It'll save you a bundle.

1) Don't be stupid
I know it sounds very silly but please don't be one of those morons that buys their art supplies on their credit card. The interest will eat into your profits if you EVER do sell a painting and you'll be stuck with a bill you can't pay. If you can't afford it with the cash in your wallet, get a sponsor or cut down your list of wants. Don't be one of those idiots who builds their whole show on credit. You'll eat yourself into a hole you can't get out of.

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