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Unemployment Sets In…

Until some point yesterday or the day before it, I was really enjoying the leisure time associated with my unemployment.  I have some (i.e. some) savings.  And, although I’ve never actually had a summer off, as a higher ed. teacher I usually did something different over the summer and so I associate these months with reduced stress and diminutive levels of B.S.

Now, however…  things are beginning to feel bleak.  Summer is ending.  The stress of spending late winter and spring searching to turn my string of one-years into something permanent even if at one of the increasing number of places that doesn’t do tenure has mutated into a kindred pressure that I could just as equally do without.

While academia this year showed me: interviews for positions that weren’t open (only to fulfill “fair” hiring mandates), quite a few canceled searches, an offer to adjunct a full time load at a school where I interviewed for a full time job (that canceled the search), two community colleges that would only schedule one time slot, on short notice, on a day I’d long planned to be out of the country, and wouldn’t even have reimbursed part of the coast to coast airfare, only partial reimbursement for two coast to coast airfares for the two rounds of an interview for a different position, a telephone interview for a position that was actually an art history position although not listed as one (i.e that I wouldn’t be qualified for), and a request to do a video conference interview at my own expense (that I ended up just doing over the phone).  All that with me leaving behind a position for which funding wouldn’t be renewed and now one week before classes still doesn’t have any adjuncts to teach my former classes and will likely cancel them for having kept only one permanent art faculty (hired on at the same time as me last year during hopes that my position could be renewed) who can only teach the easier to staff drawing and foundations courses even though I my multiple media background has me qualified to teach all of the small offering of courses our department offers.

On the other hand: searching for jobs outside of academia has shown me an interview for a position at a non-profit gallery that could literally and realistically only pay about half a competitive rate (and a competitive rate that would still only be around half my salary of last year), an interview for a real stretch and one for a great, highly competitive position that I only have suspicions for why I didn’t get it. Then, there are a handful of federal government jobs at cultural institutions that apparently usually take 5-8 months to process, if you’re even invited for an interview.

So, similar to problems I ran into looking for an academic job, where because my art work uses painting, printmaking techniques, and digital media, I had trouble fitting into intradepartmental structures even though there is really nothing unordinary about my use of media; now, I appear to be overqualified with lofty “Assistant Professor” titles in one field and a directorial title at a super-small non profit, while simultaneously being underqualified without enough experience in the fields I’m applying to.  I’m having trouble finding a way to demonstrate how I fit.  I may have had what you might imagine to be a (empasize quotes) “better” job than a new prospective boss.  But, if I thought that job was better I’d still be going after it, I am not qualified for that new boss’ job, and I am in fact willing to step backward in pay and rank and even presumptions of ego to enter a field in which I can use my expertise at something other than doing battle with 18-20 year olds at periods of job security no longer than nine months.

I’m running out of options here.  I suspect that having a background in studio art carries negative connotations when I apply to jobs that stretch the facts of the daily duties of a former faculty and non-profit administrator into application in a non-arts field.  I also suspect that arts administration and gallery employers make similar assumptions when comparing art history MAs who have long wanted exactly that kind of position to a studio MFA who presumably just wants to make pictures.  Even when I did gallery work before and just after grad. school, aspiring artists always held the preparator positions (i.e. gets dirty for little pay) while aspiring art historians worked the reception desk (i.e. doesn’t get dirty but still gets little pay).  The truth of the matter, as I’m beginning to suspect, seems to be that here in 21st century America, art is something to be taught, but not necessarily produced or seen.  There are positions available teaching art to kids.  (Ugh, better than starving, but not really something I’m well cut out for.) There is also the prospect of teaching as an adjunct.  However, there isn’t a lot out there for making making money from art works, nor much in the way of supporting the arts in art centers, galleries, etc.  And, I’m having trouble seeing where people outside of the arts seem to imagine any use for art or artists, at all.

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