A first course in the arts division of UC Santa Cruz introduced students to a wide range of professionals in creative fields to help them explore and prepare for careers in the arts. Titled Careers in the Creative Economy, the class was launched this spring as part of a number of on-campus initiatives funded by a grant to UCSC Institutional initiatives serving Hispanics from the United States Department of Education, Graduing and Advancing New American Scholars: Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans (GANAS PPOHA).
Taught by lecturer Shelby Graham, who for many years served as director and curator of UCSC’s Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery, Careers in the Creative Economy provides students across the arts division with information, tools and strategies to consider when considering working in the arts. , including strategies for addressing challenges and seizing opportunities related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
The 23 students enrolled, all of whom are either first-generation colleges and/or BIPOC including Latinx, explored their professional values; prepare and create career-related documents; and learn about a variety of artistic careers from a series of guest speakers who hold the same identities and have navigated a wide range of creative fields.
“I was so excited to be able to talk about jobs in this course!” said Graham. “There are many creative career opportunities out there, not just ‘I need to be discovered’. It’s important to show young people that there are really cool things they can do in terms of jobs and internships entry-level, that there are opportunities to support themselves as they prepare for a career.
To that end, Graham has recruited a number of recent graduates as guest speakers, including Juan Morales-Rocha, who holds a BA in Art and Design: Games + Playable Media and a BA in Cognitive Science: Artificial Intelligence/Interaction. UCSC man-machine. Rocha, who currently works as a design analyst at Xbox Game Studios Publishing and runs an independent game studio called No static games, was a hit with students when he spoke to them in early May.
“What struck me about Juan Morales-Rocha is how much he resembles me,” says film and digital media student Justin “JJ” Hamm. “It’s a joy to see someone who enjoys the same things as me working in the creative economy and thriving.”
“He changed his major to cognitive science, which is still related to what he wanted to do, but from a different perspective,” says Chenguang Wang, a film and digital media student. “So I think one thing that’s really important is to open your mind, to try to see things from different angles.”
Other guest speakers include Eric Rosales, Head of Feature Film Department at Pixar Animation Studios, BA in Film and Digital Media from UCSC; Christina Garcia Weiland, Senior Technical Director of Sets at Pixar Animation Studios; George Luna-Peña, program director of the Diversity Apprenticeship Program (DAP) at The Broad in Los Angeles; Betty Avila with Self Help Graphics in Los Angeles; Ela Troyano and Krista Fabian DeCastro of Creative Capital; and award-winning director, editor and cinematographer Melissa Lesh.
The wide range of guests impressed the participating students. “The field of creative economy is much broader and even more abundant than I thought it would be after taking this course,” says Wang.
For Art Major Katana Parker, the visit with the professionals at Creative Capital was particularly enlightening. “It felt good to hear about grant applications, because I hadn’t really thought about it at all. It’s reassuring to know that there are a lot of different people and groups that are interested in helping artists,” he says.
For Graham, the course formalized something she had been acting on for years as UCSC’s gallery director. “I always helped students get internships in interesting places, writing letters of recommendation and helping them think about how to find work in the arts,” she says. “There are a lot of paths after art school. This course really opens doors.
Learn more about the course here.