Gotta dance? Gotta sing?
For creative artists eager to dedicate themselves to their craft, the desire to do so full time can be powerful.
But soon after graduating with the Bachelor or Master of Fine Arts, or “turning pro,” the reality hits: Musicians, visual artists, dancers or writers will seldom be able to consistently, year upon year, “pay all the bills” from the proceeds of their craft.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for dancers in May 2018 was $16.31 and for a dancer and choreographer only $18.17. Dancers and related artists do not usually work a 40-hour week and are often prone to injuries that can reduce working hours for a prolonged period of time, amplifying financial challenges.
Visual artists hoping to live from sales of paintings, sculptures or other work can expect a median hourly rate of $28.06, however barriers to entry into galleries and other lucrative sales venues are steep. It can take years before financial gain catches up with effort.
Writers can find full-time work in technical and academic fields, and there are seemingly unlimited opportunities for individual expression online. But those who want to support themselves on writing books will struggle to do so: A 2018 Author’s Guild survey shows that the median annual income of a book author is $6,080. This figure includes all writing-related activities (speaking, teaching, editing), and is down from $10,500 in 2009.
Wear and tear on the confidence and bank balance of someone who aspires to a life in a creative field can be significant. Some artists might be tempted to “compromise” to stay afloat, taking on projects that fall short (sometimes very short) of respect for their gifts and the Creator responsible for them.
Or, talented individuals might burn out and drop out of the “race” in the face of repeated rejection and other challenges.
The costs of training, supplies and marketing in a craft usually far overrun earnings. Industry fluctuations can sideline even the most veteran of artists. Life can intervene, bringing illness, familial responsibilities and other sidetracking realities. The notion of “starving for one’s art” might seem noble and glamorous — until you try it yourself day after day!
Yet, for all of the worldly struggle inherent in trying to survive with God-given artistic talent, a true calling is all but impossible to ignore. Dancers dance. Artists make art. Musicians make music. Writers write. We “gotta” do what we do, and we cannot do it in a vacuum.
Blessedly, faith provides a wonderful focus for God’s call to creative endeavors.
For centuries, our church has provided avenues for faith-filled artistic expression and supported art of many different disciplines, from choirs to visual and written works that prompt deeper prayer and engagement with faith.
Today, parishes, faith-based hospitals and schools are but a few of the places where talents can be put to use. Liturgy, catechesis, adult faith formation, evangelization and other areas benefit greatly from thoughtful, faithful creative artists who apply their talents in service to others and the church.
After earning my Master of Fine Arts from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, I thought I’d be writing scripts in Hollywood. The harsh reality of lupus changed that trajectory, but ultimately brought me to where I am today — I am so grateful that God had other plans!
The richness of the work that blends my skills and faith has been a greater blessing than I could ever have imagined (or fashioned) myself — and I heartily recommend it!
Gotta write, dance, sing, sculpt …?
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