I always enjoyed art history, from Greco-Roman through Renaissance, Impressionism to Dadaism. Somewhere in art, I wanted to find a career. As soon as I was released from Navy duty, I applied at one of the best art schools, The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. My intent was to major in art history, with the ultimate ambition to teach art at a high school or college level.
At the time, I thought it was a good, solid career choice. I earned my BFA and have never regretted it. Would I recommend for an art student today? I don’t have a negative answer, just one of caution.
By choosing such a specialized major as a career, I understood my employment opportunities were limited to teaching or being a curator at a museum. I quickly discovered how really narrow the field can be. I applied at several major museums, including Philadelphia, New York and London, but never even received an answer.
Even after I found an untenured position teaching at a junior college, the job wasn’t very satisfying. Most of my classes were at night, and the students were older and not very motivated. More depressing, my pay wasn’t much more than I could’ve earned working at McDonald’s.
In an attempt to get my career started, I landed an assistantship at the University of Pennsyvlania, which included free tuition to its graduate school of communications. With an advanced degree in advertising and public relations, I was hired to manage the creative division of a major insurance company. My art education was useful, because for 25 years I was the boss of an office that included a workshop staffed with commercial artists.
My advice to a student who wants to graduate with a degree in art history in these uncertain economic times is to consider a double major, making art history or other academic subject your minor study. That doesn’t mean giving up your love for art.
Today’s opportunities in business-related art are almost endless. Look into all that has happened to various commercial uses of art in just a few years. The magic of the computer has completely revolutionized it, and satisfying careers await graduates who’ve mastered the ever-evolving fields of art.
Make business or computer technology your major, and in your junior and senior years, get out of the classroom and explore real-life career opportunities in commercial art. Consider such areas of concentration as web design, digital imaging, animation, art therapy, advertising, interior decorating, industrial design and many more.
Majoring in art history can be an interesting and satisfying pursuit. Unfortunately, once studies are completed, career choices are very limited. However, opportunities in commercial art are always expanding with new technologies and more satisfying incomes.