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NIU art graduates seek many career paths

Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 11:21 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 11:58 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Danielle Guerra - dguerra@shawmedia.com)
Artist Miranda Munns paints giraffe spots on the wall of her client Taylor Mayer's future son's nursery Tuesday in Mayer's Somonauk home

DeKALB – It’s easy to spot Northern Illinois University graduate Miranda Munns on the road.

Munns, who graduated from NIU in Spring 2012 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting, is in the process of transforming the body of her 1998 Chevrolet Lumina to feature zebra stripes. She is also painting a bedroom wall for a family in Somonauk.

The Plano resident said she is struggling to find an art-related job while working her full-time job at a gas station.

“It’s hard to find a job involving art in any way,” Munns said. “I’m probably going to go back to school [to be] a dog groomer. It’s still art in a way.”

Munns is one of a number of students who graduate with art degrees but struggle finding art-related careers. NIU officials said it’s a tough market which depends entirely on a student’s skillset – but students trained in the arts adapt themselves to numerous career fields.

The 2013-14 College Salary Report by PayScale, a salary informational company, show those who graduate with an art degree are near the bottom of the list in terms of salary pay. The full list shows art majors rank 100th out of 130 with an average starting salary of $34,400 and a mid-career salary of $56,700. Art history majors rank 113th with a starting salary of $36,400 and a mid-career salary of $54,000.

Figures from the NIU Office of Registration and Records show more undergraduate students are receiving art degrees. In Spring 2011, the university awarded 68 undergraduate art degrees. There were 78 art degrees awarded in Spring 2012 and 87 in Spring 2013.

From May 2012 through Spring 2014, 64 students received or will receive graduate art degrees from NIU. Only nine of those students received an art history degree, said Joan Smola, NIU Art Department graduate secretary.

Lee Sido, assistant director at NIU’s school of art, said some art students who graduate end up working as museum curators or start their own business. Sido said three former NIU students work at the Field Museum in Chicago.

Students should graduate with knowledge in multiple art mediums so they don’t restrict themselves. There are an array of factors that go into landing a career, but artists are sought after for their creative eye, Sido said.

“Thinking outside the box. That’s what artists are exceptional at,” Sido said. “If you look at inventions, creativity is always an important aspect.”

Lyndsey Spurlock graduated from NIU in December 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in art with an emphasis in painting.

The Lena resident currently works as a night manager at Sullivan’s Foods grocery store. Spurlock also has a home studio and shows her paintings and drawings at local galleries.

“I get positive feedback, but unfortunately with the times, people are interested but can’t afford it,” Spurlock said.

Spurlock’s goal is to land a job as a museum curator or teach art classes.

NIU art graduate David Lepo has found success starting his own sculpting business in Lima, Ohio. Lepo graduated with a master’s in fine arts and sculpture in 1975. He spoke to NIU graduate students in April about how to make a living with art.

Lepo is involved with sculptural projects across the world, including creating a 22-foot sculpture in Selcuk, Turkey.

“Nothing is guaranteed. There are different ways to go about learning and becoming a professional artist,” Lepo said. “Believe in what you’re doing. Sometimes that motivation can take you someplace.”

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