Making a living (from art)

Countless options exist for those who dabble in arts and culture and who seek, either professionally, or amateurishly, to place themselves in the market. In music, dance, theatre, movies, and plastic arts, many individuals are professionals in other areas and do not market their artistic talents. Others make art an income complement and some live exclusively from a specific cultural segment. They also diversify their skills to broaden their work opportunities.

Professionally, we can group the activities for an individual to position himself in the market. This has been discussed previously in another article of mine, focused especially on the music market. (Available here )

However, we may use the same classification tool with other segments, e.g.:

– Amateur: Plastic artist / Actor / Dancer / Musician: the person who has a profession outside the cultural area to support himself. His activity is an extra one, and he may either be remunerated or not.
– Semi professional: Plastic artist / Actor / Dancer / Musician: the person who earns remuneration from the cultural segment, but still need another economic activity to balance his/her budget.
– Professional: Plastic artist / Actor / Dancer / Musician: the person who lives exclusively from his/her cultural segment, this being his/her main source of remuneration.

It stands to reason that one can develop a career without having necessarily a single source of income. In music, for example, Brazilian composer Guinga, shared, for a long time, his musical career, with that of a dentist. Vinicius de Morais was a diplomat.

286_1145-arte-teatroIn the theatre, for example, experts defend that the professionals have better chances of placing themselves in the market by diversifying their field action: “They do not need to be only actors, they could be directors, create texts or costumes. Those who produce spectacles are also requested”, says Paula …, USJT Scenic Arts Coordinator, in an interview available in ….

The scenic arts provide a wide diversity of career options, many of which, off-stage, unlike popular belief. The Brazilian Ministry of Labor, through the Brazilian Occupation Classification, lists some of them, as follows:

– Play adapter;
– Actor;
– Director’s assistant;
– Scriptwriter;
– Scenery designer;
– Critic;
– Electrician;
– Sound engineer;
– Producer;
– Theatre instructor at basic school, high school or college.

Beside, many of those who work in the theatre do not make an exclusive living from it; it is possible to be an actor, work in a given theatrical company and still have a career in another economic segment, something quite usual.

286_1146-arte-cinemaIn the cinema, there is also many work options, at times far from the movie theaters. Many people are hired as independent professionals – freelancers– to work for a specific project, or with a production company. It is possible, e.g., to work in producing commercials, and in long and /or short feature films. Here are some career options of this segment, classified by the Brazilian Ministry of Labor:

– Director’s assistant;
– Studio assistant (cinema and video);
– Actor;
– Screenwriter;
– Ticket seller;
– Camera man;
– Movie Set designer;
– Tv and Movie production team coordinator;
– Critic;
– Director;
– Studio manager;
– Costume designer;
– Sound engineer;
– Costume administrator;
– Movie technician;
– Production technologist

In plastic arts it is possible to develop creative skills such as drafting, sculpture, painting and engraving. There are also niches like arts restoration, organizing exhibitions, art shows, gallery management, museums and cultural foundation management. Besides these examples, here follow other positions in this sector:

– Curator;
– Critic;
– Art teaching;
– Art show organizer;
– Art dealer.

In Brazil, tax incentive laws have enabled specialized professionals to perform tasks in private initiative projects geared to this sector. It is also common for people to act in other areas to complement their income. Or have arts as a hobby.

For dancing, there are also several options of activities to be performed, depending on market insertion. As seen in the other segments, the tax incentive laws have facilitated generating sponsorship, essential to enable projects. The Brazilian Labor Ministry lists a few work occupations, as follows:
– Critic;
– Dancer;
– Playwright;
– Dance rehearser;
– Instructor in schools.

286_1153-arte-musicaIn the case of music, this issue has already been specified in a previous article, available here As a comparison, we list a number of activities in this segment:
– Own-composition band;
– Tribute or cover band;
– Dance band or orchestra;
– Tour manager;
– Sound engineer;
– Art manager;
– Record distributor;
– Arranger;

As could be observed, certain segments afford more opportunities for work than others, depending, among other factors, on their economic development. Probably there must be other activities not listed, but the goal of this article was to clarify different insertion forms in the realm of arts and culture, either on amateur or on a professional basis. Each individual should then determine the specialization he would like to perform to achieve success.

There are several variables, which determine success in a specific cultural segment: training, organization capability, talent, professionalism, network and, last but not least, luck. Because of that, one needs to be aware to learn how to live in a market which is, at the same time, developing in Brazil and demanding ever more qualified professionals, and which still suffers from a high degree of informality in labor relations.

Leo Morel is Professor of Culture and Media Studies at FGV/IDE-Rio, author of the book Music and Technology; he is also a professional musician.


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