Careers in the arts cover a lot of ground. While there's someone to fluff up wardrobes between acts, there's someone who first created the costumes, and of course someone who orchestrated and wrote all the music. There are singers, dancers, and acrobats; wildly powerful writers, and photographers whose imagery takes your breath away. There are the ticket takers, the planners, and the audience to cheer them on. There are truly infinite opportunities to work and be involved in the arts!
One thing we hear all the time from parents and skeptical art students is that an arts degree "won't get you anywhere." While we can say this is not true, and remind you how many jobs are available for artists, we know the best way to get this point across is to show you firsthand. Today we're sharing a real-life example of someone who studied the arts in college, and has made a career in the business sphere using his arts background. With no further adieu, Senior Production Manager at Boardriders, Inc, Dave Kowalski.
Acceptd: Thanks for meeting with us today. Can you tell us why you love the arts?
Dave Kowalski: Absolutely. I love the arts because I am creative. I believe that life is art, and art is life. We all must and do create.
Acceptd: So true! Great answer. Can you describe what it is that you do in your role as Senior Production Manager?
Dave Kowalski: I work for a Marketing company called Innerworkings, but am the on-site Senior Production Manager at our client, Boardriders. Boardriders is a surf/lifestyle label with brands like Quiksilver, Roxy, and DCShoes. I work closely with the design team to creative innovative ideas and concepts for point of purchase displays in retail environments, as well as national events.
Acceptd: That sounds fun! Did you attend school or receive training in the arts?
Dave Kowalski: Yes I have a Bachelor's from Miami University in Fine Arts.
Acceptd: Cool. Would you say your path to get here was traditional in your field?
Dave Kowalski: Well...sort of. It started out that way! I actually double majored in painting and sculpture in college, then taught myself graphic design via online courses, and worked my way through the business world through art/design based knowledge and hands-on experience.
Acceptd: Did you ever expect this would be your job?
Dave Kowalski: No, but, I have always dreamed I would work for a skate/surf/board company! My nickname is actually "Skater Dave" to all my friends. I skate and board regularly.
"Skater" Dave skateboarding in 1997. Cincinnati, OH
Acceptd: That's so awesome! Congrats. Can you speak to risk vs. reward when it comes to pursuing a career in the arts?
Dave Kowalski: It is really difficult to make money and be sustainable in the arts. However, with dedication, perseverance and confidence to keep trying, art is an element of almost, if not everything, in life, so it CAN be done. It can take multiple tries and jobs to find the right fit and career, but just like art, you can never stop creating and trying.
Acceptd: Wow, what a GREAT answer! We ask artists this question all the time, and you really captured so much in what you said. Thanks so much for that. On a related note, and if you feel comfortable answering this question: are you able to financially support yourself comfortably from this role?
Dave Kowalski: Yes. But that is after many years of multiple jobs or “paying my dues” in jobs that were not my favorite. I've now come to a position (in my mid-thirties) that is sustainable financially for me and my family. It took a lot of tries to get where I am now!
Acceptd: Also very well said. Why is your story unique?
Dave Kowalski: My story is unique since I have an arts degree and work in the business sector. Lots of people scoff at an arts degree and say you can never really get a “real” or a “good” job. I have found that to be untrue. I was able to get a solid job despite my art degree in painting and sculpture. It takes plenty of drive and hard work, but it can be done.
Acceptd: Kudos. You've worked hard and it shows. Who was the most influential person on your career?
Dave Kowalski: My grandmother. She always told me everyone can make art, you just have to find out which kind is yours to create.
Acceptd: Very touching. She taught you well! As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Dave Kowalski: An archeologist like Dr. Grant! I really liked Jurassic Park growing up.
Acceptd: Amazing! And do you have a proudest achievement?
Dave Kowalski: It's tough to say, but I am very proud to say I've performed on stilts with The String Cheese Incident at Electric Forest Festival (music festival in Michigan). It was a different artistic outlet for me, as well as for the band. It created a beautiful scene for everyone involved, like good art does.
Acceptd: Love it. Do you have a favorite quote about art?
Dave Kowalski: Yes, I do. It helps me to continuously create more and keep trying. To keep making new art. It is: "Art is not eternal," by Tom Wolfe.
Acceptd: Very inspirational. Thanks for being so informative today. Lastly, do you have any advice for young artists?
Dave Kowalski: I do. Create art for art, and the money will come. When you create art for money, the art suffers and then money never really comes.