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Dilemmas of being an art student… taking a paid gig while you are still in undergrad

You get what you pay for

This letter came across via email at the Miami University Art department. What it literally says is that a woman is looking for a student from the art department, that was able to do a photography wedding gig. What I read was that the woman was looking for less expensive way of getting her wedding photographed, hoping that a student would want to do this for less because it would help the student by being able to put it on their resume.

I agree that it is very important for these opportunities come across for students, but this also brings up a gray area; when does someone become a professional artist??? I’m not sure that there is a clear cut definition for this, but for me it was when I wanted to become a professional artist. The day I wanted to become a professional artist was the day I decided to. Even-though I was still in undergrad, I decided that I wanted to be taken seriously as an artist. So I did.

There are many times in school where we feel like we are just practicing for the “real” thing when we graduate. The real thing is practicing, each piece is an exercise in how we express ourselves. Each piece, if we deem it so, is a professional piece. Along with this, I recently gave a lecture on Social Media and the artist for upcoming graduating art majors. Most of them didn’t have a site, which meant that they didn’t have a way of making them professionals. Am I saying that you need a website to be professional? No, not really, I am saying that as someone in undergrad it helps define you as a serious practitioner and allows you to open your audience to more than just the people in you temporal location.

At the end of the day, you are only a professional as you take yourself. If you know you do quality work, charge that much for it. It takes a long time for an artist to cultivate the skills they need in order to do what they do, and no one usually pays them to learn theses things. Keeping that in mind always charge what YOU are worth, not just the specific job at hand.

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