A Career Path to the Arts

A Career Path to the Arts

Alumni artists offer undergraduates advice, and hope, for the future

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

Fresh out of Boston College in 1978, Sharon Bazarian was confident she could begin her career in photography by letting her fingers do the walking, instead of aiming and clicking.

Independent film producer, director and camera operator Thomas Curran '80 chats with students during last week's annual "Careers in the Arts" night, held in the McMullen Museum. (Photo by Mike Mergen).
So the Reading native leafed through the phone book in search of businesses that might need someone to take employee photographs.

"I figured if I was persistent, I would find something," recalled Bazarian. "And I did."

After countless phone calls, she finally landed an assignment at a local firm and was able to start building a portfolio, an essential element for an aspiring photographer.

"My secret really wasn't a secret," laughed Bazarian, who in her 23 years as a successful freelancer has photographed such celebrities as Sting and Elton John. "The most important thing I did was to work hard, and of course talk to as many people as possible who were already in the business."

Bazarian was one of 10 alumni who returned to campus on Nov. 7 to share her observations of "the business" with current Boston College students at the fourth annual "Careers in the Arts Night." The event, sponsored by the Career Center and the Arts Council, offers undergraduates an opportunity to meet with alumni who are working in art-related fields.

The success of "Careers in the Arts Night" underscores the growing popularity of the arts among BC students as both an academic discipline and a profession, administrators and faculty say.

"This event really offers a great opportunity for students to see what career paths are out there and to meet with alumni who have been in those shoes before," said Assoc. Prof. Jeffery Howe (Fine Arts), who chairs the Boston College Arts Council and helped start the "Careers in the Arts" nights.

Howe said the event attracts students from an increasing variety of majors. Undergraduates from fields like computer science, for example, can benefit from "Careers in the Arts Night" because of the evolving relationship between arts and technology.

"It seems that each year we're seeing more and more students who learn something at the event," he said.

Last week, with the McMullen Museum of Art's "Hope Photographs" exhibition serving as an appropriate backdrop, more than 100 Boston College underclassmen met informally with alumni employed as professional writers, film-makers, photographers, museum curators, graphic designers, and editors.

The alumni discussed their experiences, good and bad, working in the arts and answered students' questions on subjects ranging from graduate school to resume details.

One common piece of advice from the alumni was obvious but inescapable: Work hard.

"Colleges, in general, are excellent places for gaining knowledge and even a little wisdom, but in order to translate that into marketable job skills students have to work pretty hard," said Timothy Lemire, '89, a published magazine writer and aspiring novelist who works in corporate communications at Fidelity Investments.

Bazarian said, "You first have to ask yourself what you love, then you have to go out and work at it. Persistence is the key."

Lemire said students, even after four years of college, may feel unprepared to navigate the job market, especially if their area of interest is the arts. He emphasized the need for planning and patience, and to remember that there are usually others who have faced, and overcome, the same obstacle.

"To some students, it's not immediately apparent what an English major or an art major can do in the workforce," he said. "But by figuring out what you want to do and talking to people who have done it, you see the way."

Bazarian agreed. "The best thing about an event like this is that it can offer a kid some encouragement. Sometimes that's all it takes to be successful."


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