Monday, November 20, 2017

TYA BLOG: Labor Day and the Current Job Market for Teaching Artists

As part of my final evaluation with my teaching artist and theater education interns, I discuss possible future opportunities with our company with the interns that are a good fit.  For our company, that usually means contract work: part time work as an actor and teaching artist.  Sometimes we are able to offer them a contract for several months to act on a national tour, but usually it would be a show here and there as well as some workshops and classes.

In the last year, I had two interns initially dismiss that possibility.  They both were interested in full time work as a teaching artist with a resident professional TYA company.  Of course I understand the security and comfort and desire to have a full time position.  (My father’s practical voice never leaves my head and that voice was screaming at me about security when I left graduate school).  But are there full time teaching artist positions?

I know many companies that hire teaching artists for several months for their touring programs.  Most full time salaried jobs I am familiar with, though, are education director or artistic director positions.  While my company does have some full time teaching artists, on the rare occasions we have a full time opening, I almost always am able to hire a candidate with a Master’s degree and at least 5 years of working experience.

So this Labor Day week, I am thinking….What is the job market like in the TYA field?  What are the entry level positions for young people passionate about this work?  Feel free to comment to this entry and add your experience as someone who is looking for work or looking for new employees.   I’m also going to solicit blog entries from recent TYA graduate students about their journey into our professional field.

-Brian

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    0 Response

    1. Talleri McRae

      Brian and all,

      As a recently graduated graduate student, I feel like I’m getting to know the job market all over again. Here are two thoughts that have come through my head in the last few days, weeks, months:

      1. The full time jobs in theatre and education that exist in my dreams involve working alongside/supporting part time teaching artists. Thus, I should probably know what it feels like to be one.

      (If I can swing it, I want to be a rockstar TA at the same company I am hoping will hire me full time…)

      2. My career is more circular than linear, and that is OK.

      For example: I worked as a part time, piece-it-together teaching artist for 5 years before going to grad school. This month, with a certain sense of déjà vu, I’ve landed several part time, piece-it-together gigs. Similar to before grad school? Sure. But not the same. I am a different teacher now– I plan differently, talk differently, and make mistakes differently now. I am learning a TON.

      Teaching classes and leading workshops that I could logically dismiss with a “been there, done that” reminds me how much I love what I do– how good teaching and compelling artistry is daily work. Yet, when is the time to raise the bar? To offer new challenges to myself? When is it OK to admit that I am tired of listing 7-10 employers when I do my taxes in the spring? When will I feel ready/qualified to make the move to full time work?

      The only answer I’ve been able to come up with so far is “I’ll know the job when I see it.” When I really think about it, expecting the “perfect” job (in the perfect location with the perfect balance of process and product, art and teaching, administration and practical work) to appear before me right now just because I graduated and I’m looking is ridiculous.

      So, in the meantime, I’ll part time it, I’ll improve, I’ll improvise. I’ll prioritize what is most important to me. Hopefully, I’ll find a company/colleague/organization that will, over time, let me customize a full time job to feel…. well, perfect. For me.

      1. Bethany

        After 3 years of part-time teaching gigs and independent contracting I found myself in the place we’ve all probably been-sick of taking work I wasn’t all that interested in, over-extended, tired of the ever evolving coordinating schedule and filing those 10+ tax forms(often in several different states) at the end of the year. I set out to find what was next. So last summer I began surveying the job market and found there were basically 3 categories of work in our field right now-1. intern/apprentice, 2. part-time/contract and 3. higher level MFA/PHD required positions.

        Having already taken many a position in categories 1 and 2, I decided maybe in order to move forward I needed to look into getting a graduate degree. But what I found in looking and thinking about graduate school wasn’t that I should do it to get a better job, just to become a full-timer somewhere. What I found was that maybe my problems as a part-timer were less about the constantly changing schedule, lack of insurance(which on a side note I urge everyone to get insurance-if you get sick you will be thankful) or the 10+ tax forms. What I found was that I was overwhelmed and dis-interested in some of my work because I often wasn’t prepared to teach all the things I was asked to teach.

        I did decide to go back to grad school and a few weeks into my first semester am so happy with my decision. But it’s not because I think it will lead me to a full-time dream job-it’s because it will make me better at what I do, it will make me more fully aware of my own teaching practices and open me to new possibilities-I know it will because it already has. So in May 2013 I will be looking for a full-time job but in the meantime I’ll part-time it and know that I am a better teacher for it. I’ll know that every part-time gig I take gives me a better understanding of the field and makes me a better teacher. I am glad I spent 4 years as an independent contractor-it gave me a plethora of experiences I never could have gotten in a full-time job. And I may very well upon graduation find myself happily independent contracting again.

        1. nextusa

          Bethany,
          Thanks for sharing your journey. I think you have a very healthy view of graduate school and how it can help you on your journey…..

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