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Networking, ambition important for arts employment

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Marisa Espe outside the Wexner Center. Credit: Cameron Carr / For The Lantern

Marisa Espe outside the Wexner Center. Credit: Cameron Carr / For The Lantern

In a study earlier this year, SmartAsset, a company that gathers financial information to give advice for making major financial decisions, ranked Columbus the sixth best city for creatives based on the number of creative workers and the cost of living.

But for students wanting to get involved in the arts scene, taking those first steps can be overwhelming.

Kate Sherman, a fourth-year in art history and religious studies, has taken advantage of those opportunities that Columbus provides Ohio State students.

“I came to college not really knowing I was going to major in art history,” she said. “I had little to no art experience. Really the only way that you can combat that is to start getting involved.”

Sherman has now had internships and work experiences with organizations, including the Columbus Museum of Art and the Wexner Center for the Arts, where she currently works as a gallery tour guide. Experiences such as these give students a valuable opportunity to learn what goes on behind the scenes of the art industry.

“I don’t think it’s like other jobs where it’s very clear-cut what the job description is, and I think you can definitely find that through internships,” said Marisa Espe, the Wexner’s Education Assistant and a 2014 OSU graduate.

Ken Aschliman, ROY G BIV Gallery director, pointed out that said opportunities aren’t necessarily advertised.

“I’ve never posted a call for interns. I actually wait for people to contact me about internships,” Aschliman said.

Though it seems obvious, he said basic skills such as submitting everything requested in an application, avoiding spelling mistakes and following up distinguish strong applicants.

Aschliman also said some might believe that careers in the arts industry require less work or professionalism than other jobs, but that is not the case. Timeliness, a willingness to do any task and a positive attitude still remain vital in the field.

“This is just like any other business,” said Megan Ramhoff, promotions manager for PromoWest Productions.

Ramhoff said some applicants jeopardize their chances by failing to dress properly — band T-shirts and gym shorts are not acceptable office attire.

Ken Aschliman with a ROY G BIV installation piece. Credit: Cameron Carr / For The Lantern

Ken Aschliman with a ROY G BIV installation piece. Credit: Cameron Carr / For The Lantern

Applicants who show a passion and strong work ethic, however, earn opportunities even if mistakes happen along the way, Aschliman said.

“Internships are learning experiences by definition,” Aschliman said. “You’re really there to learn, you’re there to get skills.”

Kendra Zarbaugh, a fourth-year in painting and drawing who has interned for the Greater Columbus Arts Council and ROY G BIV Gallery, said that while her internships were challenging at times, the work was worth the reward.

“I really kind of pulled up my big girl pants and was like ‘okay, I have to do this,’” she said. “I pushed through because it was what I was supposed to be doing, because I wanted that knowledge.”

Zarbaugh also stands as an example of another important skill: networking. While working for the GCAC, she met Aschliman, who offered her an internship after seeing her hard work. He stressed the importance of networking and getting involved in the arts scene beyond internships and work experiences.

“Get involved in clubs that are similar to your major,” Aschliman said. “That’s a really easy way to get involved, get your first step into the art world.”

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