What an arts career really looks like

No arts career looks the same, but they all have one thing in common - no one really knows where they will end up.
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No two careers in the arts look the same but even the briefest summary of a career makes it clear that change is the one constant.

The upside is varied, challenging and interesting work, but the downside is inconsistent and irregular pay which can impact many people’s well-being.

If you feel like your work life is erratic, check out the career trajectories of others in the arts. Summarised in a single line, they tell a story of tremendous flexibility, multiple talents and the ability to reinvent oneself, sometimes repeatedly.

Geoff Corbett: ‘I started out in painting/sculpture, then stage set design, then rock and roll.’

Robert Catto;  ‘Lighting design to photography, via box office.’

Cyndi Darnell: ‘Wardrobe to sex therapist.’

Robbie Rowlands ‘Music producer/engineer to sculpture. Traded speakers for a chainsaw.’

David Blumenstein: ‘Animation to experience design. I started out as an animator on kids shows, moved into storyboarding, from there to corporate scribing and now I’m interviewing bank managers about “consumer credit loan insurance”, drawing the result and working with other designers to try to come up with ways to make the insurance better and fairer for consumers. It’s really weird and really interesting!’

Michaela Skelly: ‘Photography to publishing, via cinema.’

Roland Cox: ‘Ballet dancer to pianist.’

Ella Hinkley: ‘Television to Arts Marketing to Community Cultural Development to Development Manager to Gallery Manager.  You have to adapt!’

Sam Hoff:  ‘Children’s Actor to Video Design to Education to Production.’

Kristy Seymour: ‘Artist to Academic.’

Fiona Sweet :’Graphic designer to festival director’

Clea Fraser Chiller: ‘Painting to installation/video art to film to arts management to comics.’

Amelia Bartak: ‘Photographic artist, to curator, to marketing and events coordinator, writer, General Manager and Producer at BalletLab, helped set up ArtsReady (traineeship program), then Executive Director at Experimenta, back to BalletLab as Executive Producer, and now CEO of The National Theatre Melbourne.’

Linda Catalano: ‘I started out acting then did stand up programming and producing. I’ve worked onstage and behind the scenes in film and TV too.’

Michelle Hamer: ‘Architecture to visual art.’

Anna Schoo: ‘From actor/maker to production manager to programmer/producer.’

Laura Milke Garner: ‘Radio broadcaster to theatre producer.’

Rick Jacobs: ‘Had a strange transition from musical theatre directing, to producing food/travel TV series.’

Peta Spurling-Brown: ‘Festival marketing to independent producer at Hey Boss’.

Jane Kreis: ‘Like a lot of my colleagues I started out in practice (theatre) but adapted to arts marketing, CCD and now arts management.’

Tai Snaith ‘Fine art to picture books. I still do both.’

Nicole Jenkins: ‘Life is all about adapting: cook, costume designer, vintage clothing retail manager, fashion inventory manager, film art director, telco inventory manager, software designer, vintage clothing business owner, writer, fashion historian.’

Van Badham: ‘Avant garde feminist theatre practice to journalism.’

Fee Plumley: ‘Theatre (props/tech/Stage Management), to media arts, to social change – the third not being the most traditional of the arts, perhaps, but certainly the most creative.’

Isabel Hertaeg: ‘Contemporary cabaret to classical singing (but still including cabaret).’

Benito Di Fonzo Jr: ‘I went from performance poetry to playwriting to now making comedic folk music. Oh, and Fairfax and CNN arts journo, as well as radio broadcaster, along the way. I am presently performing at Adelaide Fringe – puppeteer!’

Kate McCurdy: ‘Arts marketing from film distribution to choreography. Also on different sides of the world! I moved from Melbourne to London.

Kate Jane Gaul: ‘Stage management to Directing.’

Fiona Scott-Norman: ‘It’s possible that all artists transition. It feels like it’s an inevitability. Even super-successful artists, say, Clint Eastwood, move into directing. I started as a critic, became a performer, then a director, and now I’m an artistic director. If you stay the course, you have to reinvent.’

Scott Brennan: ‘Started as an actor, became a stand up comedian, and now I’m a television producer.’

Thomas Roker: ‘From poet to English Language Teacher.’

Brooke Boland
About the Author
Brooke Boland is a freelance writer based on the South Coast of NSW. She has a PhD in literature from the University of NSW. You can find her on Instagram @southcoastwriter.