“But what do you do with an art history degree?”
I can do whatever I want, thank you very much.
It can be difficult to navigate the world of art careers. What can you even do in the arts? How do you find a job? Do you have to work in a museum? Many people assume that working in the arts is limited to only a narrow field of careers at major museums or in art galleries. What many people don’t realize is that the field is massive and filled with so many different opportunities! Some people may end up working in museums or galleries, but many people don’t realize that art degrees can translate into careers in law, business, hospitality, and so many more! We want to highlight some of the amazing careers available that many may not know about!
Claire Sandberg, Visual Arts and Museum Affairs Assistant at Woman’s National Democratic Club
I am fortunate to have found a job working in my field after I graduated with my Masters degree last May in the midst of the pandemic. I currently work for a political organization housed in a historic house in Washington DC. My title serves as an umbrella term for the wide variety of roles I play. In my position, I work as collection manager, art technician, researcher, social media and website manager, public relations and advertising, and graphic designer, to name just a few of the tasks I have.
What do I do?
This week, I’m preparing for a new exhibition in our gallery space which opens soon. I am communicating with the artist about the transportation of her art, finalizing exhibition materials such as wall labels, brochures, and price lists, and am beginning to plan the virtual artist talk/reception we will have to celebrate the opening of the exhibition. Once the works arrive at the house, I’ll also install everything! We have about four exhibitions a year and I’ve been fortunate to assist with the preparation and installation of three exhibitions so far!
In addition to the exhibition preparations, I am conducting an inventory and re-organization of our collection. This includes researching and photographing the collection so I can create a catalog for visitors to view on our website. It’s important to me that our collection which includes political cartoons and memorabilia, as well as large collection of early American furniture and decor is accessible to people!
Each day usually comes with something new; helping pick out fabric to reupholster a 19th century sofa, corresponding with local historians about the house and its collection, assisting with organization events and projects, and doing anything that’s needed to keep things moving smoothly while we are closed during the pandemic. The closure has given us the opportunity to restore and care for our collection of antique furniture and the historic house.
The small size of the organization means I do a little bit of everything, which I love! It gives me the space to learn so many new things and develop my own projects and ideas as well. I never imagined my degree would bring me to working in a historic house for a political club, but staying open to opportunities opened so many doors for me.
I was fortunate to find this position thanks to one of my professors! She sent out an announcement for the position and I applied. Professors are an amazing resource for finding jobs as they often receive job notices from their contacts in the art world. They can also put you in contact with people who may be able to help you find a job or can offer guidance in finding a job! I still receive job listings from old professors, even months after graduating!