Art School, Internships and Careers/Interview with Chrissy Garrett of SCAD

By Carolyn Edlund

Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) is a leading art school located in Savannah, Georgia with campuses in Atlanta, Hong Kong and southern France. With over 9,000 students enrolled, they offer majors in many fields of art and design along with  innovative learning experiences. Chrissy Garrett is a Career Development Specialist there, whose background includes coaching women athletes in track and field.  Chrissy agreed to speak to Artsy Shark about the opportunities at SCAD and how students in general can use their art education experiences to their best advantage.

AS:  Do SCAD students take business classes? Are they required?

CG: SCAD offers a minor program called Business Management and Entrepreneurship.  It is not required and is open to all majors.  The majority of students who select this major are highly interested in owning their own businesses or simply acquiring the basic business skills that will be beneficial in their chosen career in some capacity.

In addition, we will be hosting the SCAD Entrepreneurial Exchange Conference during February of this year.  Some example sessions include “What is an Entrepreneur and How Can You Become One?”, “Legal Issues, Intellectual Property Rights in Art and Design”, and “Tap into Funds for Your Entrepreneurial Idea or Business”.

AS:  Tell us about student internships – how do you find them and in what area of study are most available? Are they paid or unpaid?  How do you feel about unpaid internships?

CG: With a total of 46 majors at SCAD, we receive internship opportunities in a majority of those areas.  Employers of all sizes from around the world offer internship opportunities to our students.  For some majors, freelance opportunities are available more than internships.  Although some internships are paid, we are seeing an increase in the number of “unpaid, academic credit only” internships.  The majority of students here at SCAD seek internships regardless of whether they are paid or unpaid.

Knowing the value of professional development and “hands-on” or “on-the-job experience” can afford students, I highly recommend they participate in an internship whether it is paid or unpaid.  Certainly, obtaining money and work experience are a great match (and every student intern’s dream), but I personally do not value one over the other.  Experience sells; and whether a student was paid or not paid is irrelevant in most cases.

AS:  SCAD hosts all different kinds of events to help students launch careers. Can you describe them?

  • Employer Information Sessions
  • On-campus interviewing
  • Off-campus employer visits (a variety of different majors visit studios, galleries, company headquarters both nationally and internationally)
  • Job and Internship Fair
  • Networking Receptions
  • Panel Discussions
  • Round Table Discussions (usually less formal)
  • Seminars/Lectures/Workshops (campus wide or in class)
  • Conferences (specialized events offered for some majors more often than others)

AS:  In your opinion, what are the biggest mistakes students make in preparing for their art careers?

CG: Some of the biggest mistakes students make are:

  • waiting until the last minute or not preparing at all
  • not creating their marketing materials early and maintaining them
  • minimal to no networking
  • not taking full advantage of the resources and opportunities available throughout college both on and off campus
  • not staying current with their prospective industry

AS:  Could you give a “Top Three” list of the most important things an art student should do to start their career successfully?

CG: Yes, my list follows.

1. Know Yourself. Complete a realistic self-assessment to identify your strengths, weaknesses, and everything in between in regards to technical skills, transferrable skills, and personal characteristics as well.  Have your 30 second elevator pitch prepared!

2. Develop and maintain your marketing materials. These materials include but not limited to your resume, cover letter, portfolio (digital and hard copy), website (requested a lot more by employers), teasers, and business cards.

3. Obtain as much experience as possible. Experience can come from volunteering, interning, freelancing, and/or working part-time or full-time.  Take advantage of academic projects as well.

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