What To Do After You Earn Your BFA

By Kristina Bradt, Preparator and Gallery Guide at The Art Gallery of Windsor

Before even starting my enrollment at the University of Windsor, I was constantly met with the question: ‘What can you do with an art degree?’ I’m serious when I tell you that you have a lot of options to choose from, and having a successful art career is one of them. Pursuing a degree in fine arts is a wonderful adventure through education where you not only learn technical skills, but transferable ones. While you may learn the process of drawing, painting, sculpture, or digital photography, your education will teach you a lot more than just your technical understanding.

Now let’s fast forward. You have written countless papers, created works of art, and completed group projects and presentations. You are nearing the finish line and finally get to wear a cap and gown across that stage….but now what? If you’re not so sure what the next step is, then this is a great time to put yourself out there and try something new.

Here are a few questions to help point you in the right direction:

  • How do you define your arts practice?
  • What are your goals? What are your strengths? How can you connect those two things?
  • What do you want to learn, and what steps can you take to get there?

I struggled to define who I was as an artist, but that was good—and normal! I discovered that I have two major identities: Visual Artist and Arts Administrator, with a large focus in Community & Public Art. Here are some tips and tricks that have pushed me to where I am today that could help you navigate the world as an emerging artist:

START YOUR ARTIST CV ASAP
An artist CV acts as a record for your accomplishments and professional experience. All of your experiences help shape your artistic practice, and it is never too early to start! Are you a volunteer with an organization? Have you exhibited work at a coffee shop? Did you design t-shirts or posters for merchandise? Have you completed training with a teacher or professor? Do you have skills with tools or specialized licensing? Make all of these experiences known on your CV. Whether you are presenting your work to a hiring committee, curator or jury, they all want to clearly see who you are and what kind of skill set you have. If something doesn’t seem relevant to an application you are submitting, you can always remove it later! But for now, track all of your accomplishments in one document so that when you are in need of a resume, you won’t have to start from scratch— or worse, forget to include something that might make you stand out as an applicant. Looking up artists and professionals that you admire online may lead you to their website or CV, which is a great way to see what experience they have and use that knowledge to inspire your journey.

SUBMIT TO CALLS & AUDITIONS
Knowing where to find opportunities and getting your name out there is an important part of pursuing a career in the arts. Whether you want to be a visual artist, musician, author, or actor, you need to have strong communication and written skills — which takes practice. Don’t be afraid to submit your work everywhere, even where you think you may not be qualified. Having more eyes on your work is a good thing to build up your name and your practice even if you don’t get the gig. Rejection is part of the process for everybody and your submissions will only get stronger with each application you prepare. Keep in touch with local galleries, non-profits, and other organizations in your field to see when they post open calls or jobs. Subscribing to online resources and newsletters like Akimbo or ACWR’s Arts Notes Newsletter can bring those opportunities right to your inbox. This process takes some research, so keep in mind that learning doesn’t stop once you’ve graduated.

CURATE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA NEWSFEED
A lot of us are connected on a variety of platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and LinkedIn. These online spaces often serve both personal and professional use, but keeping in touch with friends and family or sharing funny content and memes can often turn into an endless reel of distractions. I’ve found the best way to take charge of the content I consume online is to curate my newsfeed to the people and places that help keep me inspired. I make sure to follow artists, festivals, museums, and brands that are related to my artistic goals and push me to think creatively. Hashtags are a really powerful tool to get specialized content to pop up on your screen too. Some of my favourites are #callforartists #callforsubmissions and #artistsoninstagram. You may discover a new artist you love, interesting media and techniques to try in your studio, or even a new exhibition space to submit your work. Your online activity can shape your creativity, for better or for worse. Why not use it to your advantage?

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTS COMMUNITY
Participating and supporting your local arts community is crucial as a creator. Looking for events like artist talks, exhibitions, and performances are great ways to keep in the know and maybe even do some networking at the same time. If you are able to purchase a CD or work, you are investing in the future of a fellow artist. There are also free ways to support, like sharing another artist’s work online, or recommending them for gigs and commissions. It is important to support your fellow creators and their initiatives otherwise how can you expect them to support you? Sometimes the easiest way to get experience is to find out how you can lend a hand with someone else’s project. Becoming a volunteer, serving on a jury, taking on an internship, or joining a collective all offer valuable hands on experience. These experiences can help introduce you to new members of the arts community, as well as inspire or lead you onto new paths. The more ways you find to participate, the more people will want to collaborate with you. Show up for each other and you can build a bigger community together!

Kristina Bradt is a multi-media emerging visual artist from Windsor, Ontario. After earning her BFA from the University of Windsor (2017), she began working as a Preparator with The Art Gallery of Windsor and as the Programming Coordinator with Artcite Inc. In 2020, Kristina received the Lois Smedick Emerging Artist Award through Windsor Endowment for the Arts, and became President of the Vanguard Youth Arts Collective. Kristina is passionate about accessible art in the form of community projects, murals, and festivals, and constantly looks for new ways to exhibit her work, including product illustration and design.