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The creative economy driving careers

STEM isn’t the only thing that’s hot right now. The arts and creative industries are booming, offering a diverse and stimulating range of opportunities for artistically inclined graduates and job seekers.

Think you will need to leave the arts behind to make a living? Think again. While jobs growth in many sectors is plateauing or shrinking, in the flourishing arts and creative sector the curve is all upward.

Government figures indicates that more than 600,000 people work in the ‘creative economy’ – which covers everything from film and performing arts to heritage management. Indeed, the creative economy is expanding at a rate nearly twice that of the overall Australian workforce.

With this trend is likely to continue, there is significant demand for creative, artistically minded graduates who have the skills to generate, manage and deliver art to audiences.

Associate Professor Hilary Glow, Arts and Cultural Management Program Discipline Leader at Deakin University, says while the traditional arts sector is dependent to a significant degree on government funding and philanthropy, the creative industries are highly entrepreneurial, and their economic outputs are more overtly measurable.

“Australia has played a leading role in the development of this way of thinking about creativity – this idea that arts and cultural activity can be seen as an industry like any other, and that it produces direct economic benefits.”

Assoc. Professor Glow says traditional (and often government-dependent) arts and cultural endeavours are directly related to the more economically self-sustaining activities associated with the creative industries.

“All of the activities in the cultural and creative industries do form a kind of ecology; they are interdependent. The people, the organisations, the associations, the funding and so forth, all produce an environment where people are moving from one to the other to back again. The skills are fairly fluid in that people are working across multiple areas to produce really interesting and diverse outcomes that are of much benefit to Australia and Australian audiences.”

As an example of how the “ecology” works and results in creative output, entrepreneurialism and job creation, Assoc. Professor Glow cites Cate Blanchett’s career.

“Blanchett started out in independent theatre sector, came through drama school, and worked her way through all that. Now she contributes a lot back into the industry in various ways, because of how successful she was.

“She is an example of how investment in the sector, supporting all the components, makes bigger things possible.”

The current high-demand occupational areas are in fundraising, audience development, relationship management, cultural and festival event programmer, concert promotion, digital content, and social media marketing.

In smaller organisations with limited resources, an arts administrator will be involved in all aspects of coordination, marketing, delivery and management, whereas large organisations are more likely to separate activities out into discrete roles.

Major employers in the sector include galleries, museums, theatres, film and television production companies, advertising and design agencies, and government.

Dr Anne Kershaw, Senior Lecturer in Arts and Cultural Management at Deakin, says local governments, in particular, have a growing need for arts and culture specialists, with the large metropolitan councils often having dedicated team managing a wide range of cultural and creative activities.

With the rise of the gig economy, Dr Kershaw has observed an increasing number of students and graduates of Deakin University’s Master of Business (Arts and Cultural Management) program working as independent producers.

“We are seeing more sole traders or those who run a small business. They’ve got their own production or events company, for example.  For some it’s a nice way to combine their creative practice and be independent at the same time.”

Given creativity is an increasingly valuable commodity and skill across the economy – from health to hospitality – many working in the creative industries are embedded in organisations that seem light years away from the arts. While it’s anyone’s guess what kinds of organisations and start-up will drive economies in 20 years’ time, there is little double creativity will be a big part of the mix.

Deakin University’s Master of Business (Arts and Cultural Management) is offered online through Deakin Business School. The program covers general business units as well as arts-specific subjects, such as Arts Fundraising and Sponsorship, to equip students with the unique competencies and expertise required by ACM managers.

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