People who study abroad are assumed to have been born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths.
If you go abroad to study art, the silver spoon is assumed to be up your ass.
This assumption is made because studying abroad–especially if you are coming from a developing country–is extremely expensive. So costly in fact, that even citizens from developed countries wishing to pursue higher education would need to borrow money to do so.
In my case, I have never studied art in a school. The only time I ever studied abroad before now was when I was an exchange student in Norway where I won a scholarship under the Youth For Understanding Exchange Program, and was hosted by host families.
Now that I have the luxury of going back to school to take a Masters in Arts and Cultural Management in Barcelona, Spain, it is not difficult to assume that I am one of the idle rich.
It is true that I am quite fortunate to have this opportunity, and that far from starving, I have, until around a year ago, lived rent-free in my father’s home. Living at home until one is well into one’s 30’s (I know some who are in their 40’s) is a fairly common practice in Philippine society–one that I have repeatedly tried to break away from at various points in my life.
But in fact, this schooling is funded entirely through savings that I have accumulated over the years. A significant portion of this is from commissioned art works as well as sale of stock investments. I have long wanted to study animation or art, but the schools I want to go to (the School of Visual Arts or the Vancouver Film School, where I had gained an acceptance) were beyond what I could afford.
The one-year graduate program at the International University of Catalonia on the other hand, was. But just. I have enough to cover the tuition fee, one-way ticket, and visa fees. For the living expenses however, I have enough only for a portion of my study period. Therefore, paid work is of the essence.
For more of a challenge, Spain is currently undergoing a recession. And in an economic downturn, the first to get cut from the budget are culture and the arts. And Barcelona has no shortage of creative, talented folks. You just have to go to any public space or subway, where you will be blown away by the level of talent on display. But there is a reason that the stereotype of the Starving Artist came to be–and persists to this day: Artists, more often than not, do not make money from their art. In fact, the joke is that whenever anyone responds “I am an artist” to the question “So what do you do?”, the follow up is, “And what is your day job?”
So for the past three months, I had to figure out a way to earn some money.
Use the Internet
The Internet is your friend. Use wordpress, twitter, facebook, instagram, and behance, etc, as freely-available platforms to showcase your work.
Specific to Barcelona are sites like Loquo, Craigslist, where you can see job postings and advertise your services as well, and, if you are able to teach any thing, TusClasesParticulares, which is where the above ad is from. I posted my services as an art and english teacher for kids. So far no takers.
I’ve sought work in another country through freelance sites like oDesk, at the recommendation of friends who’ve been able to earn consistently.
Show Your Work
Artists sometimes have problems blowing their own horn, as in my case. But in order to get people interested, you cannot simply describe your work, you have to show them.
In the above photo, I happened to come across a nice little bookshop which had artwork on display. Upon making some tentative inquiries with the owner (who didn’t speak any English), I learned that they have art exhibitions every month. When I showed her some of my work, she said she would be open to my doing an exhibit in her bookshop sometime next year. We’ll see how that goes. Other great venues to offer to display your work are pubs, restaurants, and offices. It goes without saying that the venue gets a commission if some of your work is sold, but it’s good to get an agreement on paper in this case.