ArtsForce: the University of Utah’s Answer to Readying Art Students for the Workforce
When University of Utah College of Fine Arts students asked for tools and resources to prepare them for the transition into the workforce, Dr. Liz Leckie, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, listened.
The students’ request resonated with Dr. Leckie given that it reflected what the collective voice of more than 100,000 arts graduates from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) was saying, which is that in addition to mastering their craft, art students want more time spent on career and post-graduate advising.
And, earlier this month, the students got exactly that. By hiring and empowering student staffers, Dr. Leckie created a team that envisioned and executed the highly-anticipated first annual ArtsForce conference, a two-day, student-driven event including an array of workshops, panels, networking opportunities and a keynote presentation by the esteemed associate director of Vanderbilt University’s The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy, Steven J. Tepper, PhD.
“ArtsForce is one of the first college-wide efforts to bring students together to begin to imagine what their futures could look like,” said Dr. Tepper. “Through this conference, the College is providing its students with evidence of the broad value of their degrees and helping them reflect on how their creativity and artistic talents can best be deployed throughout their lives and careers."
SNAAP director, Sally Gaskill also spoke at the conference, connecting the dots between the research her team is conducting and students currently studying the arts.
“The University of Utah College of Fine Arts has demonstrated that it is leading the charge to educate its undergraduates about their post-college careers,” Gaskill said. “The student-run ArtsForce conference is unique to my knowledge in terms of its use of national Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) alumni data, providing students with a clear view of the creative economy well before they graduate.”
The University’s newspaper, The Daily Utah Chronicle noted in its story on ArtsForce that the creative economy is looking good for students when, as Tepper said in his keynote, 87 percent of art majors are satisfied with their current job.
“ArtsForce was designed to help the students understand and articulate the value of their degrees,” said Dr. Leckie. “And part of that is dispelling myths about the success of arts graduates and highlighting the economic demand for creativity.”
Hundreds of students, some from each of the six academic units that make up the College of Fine Arts, attended the conference, which brought in faculty, staff and professional members of the various arts communities to facilitate workshops and panels. So, in addition to connecting the students across disciplines, it also gave them access to working professionals in their industries. All while giving them the tools to successfully network and communicate their skills and experience.
As Elan Bartholomew, one of the conference attendees put it, “This conference is taking what we already know about creativity and applying it to our transition from school into the workforce. We’re really fortunate to have ArtsForce.”