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Careers In Culture

Visual Arts and Crafts - What You Need to Know

Challenges and Opportunities

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Needed – creative self-starters

Creators - It Starts With You

People who work in visual arts, crafts and design see things in fresh and original ways. They use their creativity to be communicators – expressing their personal vision through art. Are you one of the people who has a passion for "seeing and saying"? Then you have your choice of hundreds of career possibilities in each of these three distinct creative fields. You could be a visual artist using paint to describe your view of the world. Or perhaps a craftsperson putting your spin on a traditional object such as a quilt. Maybe you want to be a graphic designer creating a bold new webzine. Whatever your interest, you'll need training, persistence and the ability to work hard.

Back to the Future!

Did you know that the earliest knowledge we have of our human ancestors comes from the visual – the pottery they made, the tools they fashioned of stone and bone, the pictures they painted on rock walls? By becoming a painter, sculptor, potter or illustrator, you will be part of a creative field that is old and new, traditional and modern, primitive and avant-garde – all at the same time. No matter what kind of work you do, you'll find exciting challenges and many opportunities.

Do It Your Way

More than half of the professionals in visual arts, crafts and design are generally self-employed. Being your own boss brings the freedom to set your own rules. But it also means being self-motivated and highly disciplined. You have to produce your work on a steady basis, find sales outlets, and manage your finances. Working for yourself may also mean supplementing your income from other sources not related to your chosen field. Chances are you’ll need to add many business skills to support yourself while getting established as a full-time professional artist.

Openings for Openers

What If you love the arts but doubt you'll ever be a Michelangelo or Picasso? No fear. People can choose from a number of careers that open doors in the invisible wall between artists and the public. Because visual artists and craftspeople can find it difficult to get recognition for their work, they need people to promote and market what they produce. You could work in a crafts store, an art gallery or for a webzine. You could be a curator conceiving art exhibitions, a promoter organizing crafts shows, or a web designer leading a team in a digital communications firm. All these careers require creativity, commitment and the right education.

Show and sell

If you become a visual artist, one of your biggest challenges will be finding ways to showcase your talent. Since your art form is highly visual, people need to see what you can do. Your biggest asset will be your portfolio containing visual documentation such as photographs, digital files and videos of your best work that you can show to curators, dealers, crafts retailers, creative directors, customers and clients. If you are pitching your work for online presentation, consider a CD presentation, or lead clients to your website. How can you learn to be a good marketer? Build up a network talking to other professionals and potential customers. Also, consider taking marketing and sales courses at your local community college or Cégep.

A visual reality check

Now that you're getting familiar with careers in visual arts, crafts and design, try these statements on for size. Do they sound generally true to you or generally false?


Question 1: Visual artists, craftspeople and graphic designers do not need business skills.

  1. True
  2. False

Question 2: If can be difficult at first for young artists and craftspeople to work full time in their chosen field.

  1. True
  2. False

Question 3: Raw talent is all you need to succeed.

  1. True
  2. False

Question 4: Once you've graduated with a degree or diploma in visual arts, crafts or graphic design, there's nothing left to learn.

  1. True
  2. False

Question 5: Artists, craftspeople and graphic designers need to keep up with new technologies and new media.

  1. True
  2. False

Question 6: Having a career as a visual artist or craftsperson means getting hired at a regular salary.

  1. True
  2. False

Question 7: Visually creative young people are in demand in industry and entertainment.

  1. True
  2. False

Question 8: Great art sells itself.

  1. True
  2. False


1. False
Professionals in these fields need to understand marketing and financial managment.

2. True
Most people have to supplement their income with other work.

3. False
Talent is essential, but so are education, perseverance, hard work, communication skills and people skills.

4. False
These professions are always changing, so learning continues for life.

5. True
The new electronic media can be vital for creation as well as for marketing and communication.

6. False
Most people in these fields are self-employed.

7. True
Graduates with graphic design skills and visual imagination are needed in book and magazine publishing, the high-tech industry, film and television production, and the live performing arts.

8. False
To find buyers, even great art needs promotion from dealers, curators, the media- and from the artists themselves.