Despite stigmas surrounding arts-related degrees, many graduates face bright futures. Susana Gómez Báez reports
It is 5:57 p.m. on Sunday afternoon as fourth-year theatre production student Jeny Nikolova pauses to catch her breath during the only five minutes she can spare between shoots.
“I always knew I wanted to go into the fashion world,” she says. “I plan on opening my own store for clothes and I want to move into the [medium] of television.”
Amongst her peers, Nikolova is the exception, not the rule. Many university students in artsrelated programs, such as photography, new media, or dance, are afraid to graduate because they say it is tough to find work in the arts industry.
Amanda Pye, a Ryerson fourthyear dance student, says she is afraid to go out into the real world.
“In Toronto, the dance community isn’t like it is in New York and L.A. so the work is pretty sporadic,” Pye says. “It is pretty scary sometimes.”
After graduation, Pye has lined up a three-day intensive workshop with Springboard Danse Montreal, a company that casts dancers who excel in the workshop, to perform nationally or internationally.
“The opportunity itself is great even if I don’t get [the job],” she says.
Nikolova, 22, juggles her time between school, modeling, and designing her fourth-year piece: a gown for the upcoming Emmy Awards, made for her cousin, Nina Dobrev, better known as the star of the popular TV series The Vampire Diaries.
“It’s a hundred per cent silk, a deep navy blue, corset front, and completely backless,” Nikolova says. “I designed it and I’m sewing it myself too.”
Nikolova got the opportunity last year to be on the set of The Vampire Diaries as a part of the costume design team.
She plans to travel to the United States next year, where she has been invited to work once again on the set of the TV series.
“I can’t wait to graduate,” she says, with enthusiasm. “I want to move into the theme of television.”
Some arts students seem content with interviews alone, following their graduation. Maegan McWade, a fourth-year fashion design student, says she is not scared to go out into the industry.
The prospect of applying her skills to real life work is what is most important to her.
“If you love what you do, it will work out,” McWade said.
But for some graduates, it may not.
“There are a couple of reasons as to why students from many programs are struggling to find work,” says Robert Burley, a photography professor at Ryerson.
“First of all, the economy is not doing well.”
On top of that, in the last year, tuition has increased 5.1 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. As tuition rises, students are thinking harder about where and in what they should invest their money.
“The other reason is that most fields are being turned on their heads with new technology,” says Burley. “The key is to keep up with the changes that are going on. What I’m seeing is that our most successful graduates are able to do more than one thing.”
Burley says that students need to be willing to start at the bottom and work their way up, as well as network extensively.
“We try to build them a network while they’re still in school and make them aware of opportunities available upon coming out of the program,” Burley says.
In fact, Nikolova says that it was networking that helped her to achieve so much so early. Although she knows of the overwhelming belief that arts majors bear no jobs, she says this has never scared her.
“If you love what you’re doing, fear should never stop you,” Nikolova said. “Don’t let anything stop you because anything you work for, you will get.”