Art schools will teach you many new creative techniques and skills, but the one thing they can’t teach you about are the pressures and systems found in the real art world.
That’s why many artists choose to pursue art internships before launching their own careers.
With an internship, you’ll gain valuable, on-the-job experience in a field you’re interested in, and you have a chance to dive headfirst into an art career without taking on a full-time role. If you discover that art is not for you, you can simply move on at the end of your internship, no problem.
Of course, there’s always the option of taking on several different internships, one after another, to get a feel for how different parts of the art world function. This may help you narrow down your job search to focus on the areas you’re most interested in.
Here are a few additional reasons to look into art internships:
Internships improve your resume
Being able to write that you’ve completed internships adds another dimension to your resume. It shows that you’re proactive in improving your career, and that you have real-world experience in an actual working environment.
Even if you’re looking for your first job, evidence of internships will show an employer that you have a certain level of expertise.
An internship director could also act as a reference for future job prospects. If they’re well respected in the industry, their recommendation could carry a lot of clout.
Internships broaden your horizons
You don’t have to apply for internships at just the standard places, like magazine art departments or creative agencies. There are plenty of unique opportunities you can explore via internships. For example, I completed an internship in university working at a living history museum arranging displays and conserving artifacts. I also had a friend who spent a summer in Greece drawing archaeological finds for a library.
Artists can find internships in schools, non-profit organizations, retreats, museums and galleries, TV, animation and other media, and even the travel industry. The possibilities are endless.
Internships help you expand your network
When you become an intern, you’re making professional connections with people in your industry. Because you’re working for free (or not much, in the case of paid internships) you’re automatically in their good books, because you’re helping the company or organization out. In return, they’re looking to recommend you to other people and offer you opportunities to expand your career.
Many internships involve attending industry events, liaising with important folk, working for big-shot clients, and having the chance to impress very influential people. Do a good job and you’ll see opportunities rolling in.
How to find art internships
You can find internships in all sorts of places!
Start by talking to your teachers and lecturers about opportunities in the local community, look on websites and newsletters, and talk directly to companies and people you’re interested in working with.
You don’t even have to be a student to gain an internship (although some states prohibit unpaid internships for non-students, so it might be called “volunteering” instead).
It’s never too early to be working at an internship. Many enterprising students pick up internships during the school year and work when they’re not studying. You can also spend the summer months working at an internship—some even involve travel to new and exciting places!
For all of the reasons listed above, I’d encourage you to look into an internship. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are in your career. . . the right internship can bring both great opportunities and fantastic benefits, and will always be worth trying for.