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Breaking In - 10 Entry-Level Arts Roles

13 May 2024

Trying to work out where to land when breaking into the creative sector? This list outlines some avenues that may open doors for emerging arts professionals.

For those who have recently either graduated or made the decision to pursue a career in the arts, it can be hard to know the kind of professional roles available at the entry-level position, which not only utilise existing skills, but can lead to opportunities in the sector.

The Big Idea has the latest jobs and opportunities available in our creative listings, as well as launching a new platform to build skillsets and connections - The Learning Network.

But what type of positions should you be looking at - that suit your current skill set and ambitions?

ArtsHub has compiled a list of entry-level roles to consider and suggests things to look out for.

Artist/studio assistant

For those with a fine arts background, becoming an artist or studio assistant can provide an opportunity to put skills to practice while learning from other mid-career and established artists.

The role also offers vital opportunities for mentorship and networking and, thus, further development for a budding artist’s career.

It is vital, however, to understand the style, personality and ethos of an artist before joining as an assistant, as working so closely with someone will ultimately influence certain aspects of your own artistic practice.

There is also a distinction between a studio assistant and a studio technician. The former can be accessible at entry-level, whereas the latter is for those who bring specific skills that the artist seeks but does not have.

Artist/studio assistant roles are not often advertised publicly unless a project is of very high production value and it makes sense to widen the net of candidates.

Otherwise, tapping into networks through peers, classmates, mentors and professors etc will increase your exposure to these opportunities.

Production assistant

Both the screen and performing arts industries require production assistants to help support and coordinate a show. In many cases, this is a fast-paced role where you need to be a jack of all trades and work with different people.

Sometimes, different departments will have their own production assistants, who perform a range of general and administrative tasks.

While these roles are seen as entry-level, there is usually a high physical and mental demand placed on production assistants – from scheduling daily operations to managing multiple project timelines.

But if you’re someone who enjoys the challenge with a “can do” attitude and thrives off the adrenaline of working on a screen or stage production, then this is worth considering as a stepping stone into the industry.

Gallery assistant

Commercial galleries often hire gallery assistants to help with exhibitions, gallery visitation, client services and administration. They are often required to act as front-of-house staff in the gallery, helping with any enquiries about the artists and artworks.

Depending on the size of the gallery, the gallery assistant role may also entail marketing and social media responsibilities, as well as writing exhibition text. It’s a good entry-level opportunity that gives you a holistic sense of operations inside a gallery, but be sure to outline what your day-to-day responsibilities will be before you commit.

Working in a commercial gallery can be useful for building an industry network, though be prepared – while being a gallery assistant can allow you to work with living artists, the role will also require customer service, sales, marketing and communications. But if you’re someone interested in the art market or the business side of things, then this role has got a lot of offer.

Museum attendant

Different to gallery assistants, museum attendants usually only take care of the exhibition side of things, including museum experience, visitor services, and workplace health and safety.

They are also custodians of the artworks on display, making sure that visitors maintain their distance with fragile pieces and helping to create an enjoyable museum experience for everyone.

A certain level of knowledge in the arts is usually preferable in this role, as attendants are often the first point of contact if visitors have a question about the works on display.

Many artists work as museum or gallery attendants as their day job. The role provides the advantage of having regular hours and stability, and once you have worked in this capacity, it is pretty easy to transfer your skills to other institutions.

Arts writer

Writing on the arts is a pretty accessible option for people starting out – all you need is a computer, a willingness to listen, a clarity of voice and a keen eye for observation.

If you want to start pitching to publications to write about the arts, then make sure you have some writing samples on hand. It’s preferable these have been published somewhere, whether that be in another publication or on a blog/website.

Different publications have their own approaches to accepting pitches or submissions, so research thoroughly before making contact. Writers’ fees can also vary, depending on the format of the submission, word count, the publication and other considerations.

Once you’ve built up a profile as an arts writer, there are a breadth of opportunities available, including writing gallery catalogues, artist profiles, industry analysis and more.

Art teaching assistant or instructor

The level of qualifications to teach art depends on the setting, but there are roles in the arts education field that are suited for entry-level applicants. This can include teaching or learning assistants at primary or secondary schools, or art instructors who are responsible for running lessons and workshops for children.

These roles are offered across visual, performing arts and literature subjects, and require knowledge and interest in the field, as well as communication and organisational skills that are highly transferable.

Many mid-career and established artists also take on teaching roles, often at universities. But having some experience under the belt early on could help future job prospects as well.

Perhaps not everyone finds working with children an attractive proposition, but perhaps through these interactions, artists may find fresh perspectives that could benefit their own art-making process.

Art technician (visual and performing arts)

Art technicians are responsible for handling artworks, packing and set-up aspects of technical production like lighting and sound. Because these roles engage in the practicalities of an exhibition or production, hands-on skills are highly valued and often training will also be provided for entry-level roles.

These skills can also benefit artists in their process, as well as allow early career professionals to gain an understanding of the inner workings of an audience-ready show.

A good art technician will be attentive to detail and an easy team player, as well as someone who is solutions driven.

Art administrator

Art administrator roles combine passion for the arts with skills in business management, communications, organisation, coordination and data entry. 

It’s not necessarily a creative position, but a role that is essential to the operations of arts organisations, both for profit and non-profit.

Art administrators usually work across departments and develop valuable stakeholder management and interpersonal skills. Due to the essential nature of many administrative tasks, there often is a demand to fill these roles, and the career outlook can include growing into a managerial position.

Video editor

Social media content creation has well and truly entered the age of video, with many organisations seeking to adapt to this trend. 

Nowadays, more people prefer to gain information and enjoy entertainment through video, rather than looking at text or still images, so video editing is a skill that could put you ahead of the game when it comes to job hunting.

Being a video editor or video content creator takes a certain level of technical skills, but creativity and personal style are equally valued.

Make sure that you understand current trends, as video aesthetics and formats can become outdated quickly and there’s nothing worse than trying to prove your credentials with something that’s already behind the game.

It also doesn’t take much to start honing your craft when it comes to video editing. Most phones can shoot quality video without special equipment, and there are plenty of free apps and tutorials that you could use to learn and experiment with.

Picture framer or prop maker

Both picture framer and prop maker are roles that require more hands-on skills, but can also offer insight to the inner workings of galleries or productions.

Candidates for these roles will need to have a certain level of technical skill and knowledge of art, but at the entry-level they often incorporate thorough on the job training that could be beneficial for future artistic projects.

These jobs offer the opportunity to learn about different types of materials, techniques and how to execute concepts into reality.

They involve working with a team, sometimes directly with customers or other artists and arts workers, and provides a foundation for other areas within the sector, such as gallery management, conservation, set design, art directing and more.


This article was originally published by our friends at ArtsHub Australia.