As most educators involved with the arts-focused subjects of any curriculum will tell you – whether that be any of The Arts and Performing Arts subjects – it’s an area of study that is sometimes dismissed as being not as ‘serious’ as other subjects of the curriculum. We know of students who have been passionate about getting into an arts-related career, only to be discouraged actively by parents who think there is no pathway to a ‘real’ career.
This is an enormous shame. The arts in all forms have such a critical role to play in our society.
Throughout the ages, art and performance has helped societies communicate wants and needs in different ways; make sense of current events; and build awareness about important issues. For individuals, it helps develop social and emotional intelligence, and offers a critical outlet for many of us dealing with unwieldy emotions (if you are that way inclined). Most importantly, they provide the general public with beauty, passion and entertainment!
The arts can and do act as a force for good in our society – which is particularly important given the current global landscape, where people are coming to terms with issues such as the pandemic, climate change, war and other disruption.
As the artist Olafur Eliasson said:
“I believe that one of the major responsibilities of artists – and the idea that artists have responsibilities may come as a surprise to some – is to help people not only get to know and understand something with their minds but also to feel it emotionally and physically. By doing this, art can mitigate the numbing effect created by the glut of information we are faced with today, and motivate people to turn thinking into doing.”
The arts in all forms are critical components of healthy societies, and they always will be. That’s why we’re offering three strategies to bring Arts subjects to life as real, viable careers for secondary school students, through experiential learning opportunities. In our experience, these are practical ways to engage students with arts for the long-term, as well as demonstrate to the adults around them that there are long-term career paths – and lots of them!
1. Aim to provide students with exposure to the business of the arts
Most students who gravitate towards Arts subjects do so because they are naturally creative, however it’s also important to help them understand the realities of a career in an artistic field. As most of us know, it’s not always a case of ‘do what you love and the money will follow’!
One workshop we offer provides students with insight into the Business of the Business – on Broadway, no less! Taught by a leading New York City career coach or casting director, the session introduces students to some of the business skills required for a successful career in theatre. It covers the day-to-day, ‘nuts and bolts’ of audition procedures, agent submissions, head shots and resumes.
For most students, this is a positive opportunity to connect their passion with the real world. For a small handful, it can also serve as a reality check. One student who attended the workshop was extremely passionate about getting into acting, probably more so than anyone else in the tour group. However, after the workshop they decided that the realities of the business were far different to what they expected. They are now pursuing a different field of study instead.
We have seen the reverse reaction, with some students really starting to understand what they need to develop to have a successful career in the arts. It’s not all about being good – or great – in the technical aspects of their chosen field.
2. Combine related subjects on tours to show a multitude of career paths
For many schools, excursions and tours are segregated by subjects. History students go to the Western Front, Rome, Greece and other relevant places, French students go to Paris and Science students visit NASA. We say a very resounding ‘no’ to keeping things separate – and believe where possible, you should, or could, combine subjects within tours.
Creating these highly customised tours isn’t easy, but it’s what we specialise in. For example, one tour we created combined French Language, Italian Language, Art and History on a tour to France and Italy. We hosted students with specific interests in subjects as diverse as Renaissance Art, Commedia dell’arte, World Wars I and II, fascism, Mussolini, Cold War and much more, as well as Ancient History.
These types of itineraries are highly complex to plan and manage. It’s critical to ensure there is enough emphasis on each subject group, as well as finding ways to combine some subjects, particularly when considering experiential learning opportunities, exposure to real-world situations and sightseeing.
There are so many benefits to this approach – the most obvious being that you get a better outcome from a numbers and budget perspective. Equally as important, from an educational standpoint, there is also the opportunity for students to gain valuable exposure to related career paths they may not otherwise have considered.
A great example of this was a recent Arts/Performing Arts tour we hosted for one secondary school. One student who was there for the Visual Arts components, also ended up experiencing a stage make-up workshop. They had never considered this as a potential career, but later told their teacher it could be a perfect fit for their interests and skillset, let alone something they needed to learn for a future career on the stage.
3. Always remember the bigger purpose
We started with the ‘business’ of the arts, but at the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s also important to remind young learners of the broader role the arts play in our society. While we can and should instill a grounding in the business elements of the arts in anyone who wants to build a sustainable career, we can never lose sight of their wider purpose.
This last point is why we always love taking students on one of the many graffiti tours of New York City, including one with an emphasis on Banksy. While Banksy almost certainly never had a formal business plan (although maybe he does – we’ll never really know, will we?) – no one can argue that this street artist is one of the most recognised and successful in the world. All without anyone really knowing his real identity.
Banksy also uses his profile to do good in society. Our favourite story to share with students while on this tour is that of the Bristol youth club – if you haven’t read this story before, it’s sure to bring a smile to your face.
How can we help?
Latitude Group Travel is Australia’s leading provider of school trips and educational tours for late primary and secondary school students. We’re committed to helping teachers and their students bring their classroom learnings to life by creating memorable and unique experiences. Our itineraries allow your group to take in iconic sights combined with as many classes, workshops, themed guided tours or subject related activities as you wish.