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ISSUE 121 VOL 20 PUBLISHED 5/9/2008

Slow economy impacts art graduates

By Molly Trucano
Associate Editor

Friday, May 9, 2008

Stories about the economy bombard daily news reports. They speak of fluctuating housing markets, the dollar's lost value and continuously rising oil prices place an influence on nearly every purchasing decision we make. Often, the first things to fall by the wayside in a sliding economy are the arts. It may seem troublesome to some students with majors like art, theatre, dance or other programs sometimes seen as unemployable to know that jobs may not necessarily be had once graduation hits.

Recent St. Olaf alumna Marie Strampe '07 graduated with a degree in theatre. She has since been employed at several theaters in the Twin Cities area, including an internship with the Guthrie. "The problem is that the companies are offering the same, very limited compensation when everything costs more," sha said. "I've been really lucky in finding consistent theatre jobs, but I've had to turn down work with smaller companies because I can't live on $150 for three months of work when gas is $40 a tank."

At St. Olaf, students with a major in an arts-related field are adding a second major or a concentration to make themselves more employable after graduating. "I added the art history major so I can maybe curate a museum someday. I don't want to just be a studio artist," Carly Wright '10, said. But will more majors make a graduate more employable? Some professors are adamantly against second majors; some employers value them. According to Scott Covey, marketing director at Minneapolis's Theatre de la Jeune Lune, quality is more important that quantity. "I think it matters more where the totality of the thing is, if a second major crosses disciplines versus résumé loading," he said. He believes employers will look at the individual before they look to numerous major certifications.

Margo Gisselman, executive director of the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, says there has been no definite decline in ticket sales. "Our first show of the season sold much better than we expected it to," she said. "Our second show which is running now has not sold as well, but it is about an uncomfortable subject matter."

Gisselman also adds that patrons may be affected by gasoline prices more than anything. "People from farther away might have a harder time justifying coming to see us, but so far we haven't seen a difference," she said.

Covey's outlook echoes Gisselman's: "It takes awhile for the problems in the economy to reach the theatre. We tend to have a higher-end clientele. There really has been no difference," he said. Covey also addressed potentially fewer patron donations to foundations that fund the arts. "When foundations' money gets tight, our money gets tight," Covey said. Without adequate funding, changes may be evident in the coming months.

While the declining economy has not yet had an effect on the patronage and sale of art, and while the future is anyone's guess, no end is in sight for artists. The predominant reason anyone chooses a major in the arts or to pursue a career in a creative field is because of a passion for art and creativity -- and the economy isn't bad enough to stop these passions.

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