I just returned from a trip to Santa Clarita, CA (a bedroom community just north of Los Angeles) to make a presentation at the ARTree, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization engaged in bringing creativity to youth and adults in the surrounding community. While the ARTree expands awareness and participation in the arts to the population in general, a primary goal of the organization is to fill the void left by cut-backs or complete elimination of the art and music programs in public schools.
My presentation covered the personal opportunities that presented themselves to me over my, now, 46 years as a professional artist. Through my partially scholarship funded education at CalArts, I was able to perform as illustrator, graphic designer, animation director, fine artist, art director, creative director, chief creative officer and even CEO, providing income for my family: opportunities that stemmed from a love of drawing as a child and the continued support of family and the art programs in public schools.
Sadly, at a time when there are more opportunities than ever before in which an individual can earn a very good living as an artist, our public education system has ear-marked art and music programs in schools as unnecessary disciplines and targets for trimming from the education budget. Through public outcry, school sports programs, also once marked for elimination were able to survive, while art and music were eliminated. Sports programs do perform a vital function keeping youth physically fit, teaching cooperation and team building towards a common goal, not to mention providing activities that engage the whole family and entire community, but I guarantee, a lot more public school graduates will have the opportunity to earn their livelihood through art, than as a professional athlete.
There has long been work for artists in the creation of illustrations or graphic designs for the advertising and editorial print industry (magazines), TV commercial industry, television and feature film animation industries, but the quickly expanding Internet and technology industry has increased the demand for artists. The ever increasing demand for web sites provides endless opportunities for artists, in their design and fabrication. Television and feature animation has gone from being a solely hand drawn and painted undertaking to a computer generated discipline, expanding the size of their creative teams 30 fold. If you doubt this, stay in your seat to read the closing credits the next time you watch an animated feature. Feature live action films, heavy in computer generated special effects, now have the same increased demand for artists. The computer game industry, as big or bigger than the feature film industry, employs myriad artist and new companies in this industry appear every day. Remember when I say computer games, that includes not only games played on computers, but those on dedicated game machines (Xbox, Sony Playstation, Nintendo), tablets, mobile phones and, now, smart watches: each separate efforts by separate creative teams. You get the picture, increases in the need for artists and increases in the use of new technologies go hand and hand.
While we’re unlikely to be able to quickly redirect our lumbering ship of state to toss life preservers to the drowning public school art and music programs, bringing them safely back on board, non-profit private sector art education organizations, like the ARTree, and local government Teaching Artist programs are there to fill the gap.
These organizations deserve your support, both as a financial contributor and, if possible, a volunteer: if not just to keep cultural participation, awareness and opportunity alive in our society, than to guarantee our populations are equipped and ready for the jobs that are available!