Most of the college students I know love the arts across a broad range of outlets and interests, ranging from professional interests to hobbies. Among them are vinyl collectors, photographers, Broadway fans, choir devotees, dancers, poets, writers, hardcore concert-goers, film geeks and costume makers. Though they often do their best to clear time and save money to fit arts events into their schedules — with the constraints of school, work and other responsibilities — it’s easy for any student to allow such opportunities to slip by, miss announcements and pass up potential discounts.
Fortunately, various Utah arts agencies — the Utah Cultural Alliance, the Utah Symphony, Utah Opera and the University of Utah’s own College of Fine Arts — have recently joined forces to increase student access and awareness to performing arts held across the state. Crystal Young-Otterstrom, executive of the Utah Cultural Alliance, one of Utah’s most well-known arts advocacy organizations, spoke about what this newly forged campaign now means for students across all Utah schools and universities. “Part of the student experience is experimenting and trying new things and new experiences,” she said. “There’s no better way to experience something totally new than to attend a humanities or arts event.”
One of the first big changes implemented by the multi-agency team is the launching of a new portal on the Utah Cultural Alliance’s website, NowPlaying.com, to spotlight student-specific discounts and resources. Young-Otterstrom remarked that after PR director of the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera, Renee Huang, approached her with the concept that Utah’s arts and humanities groups should work together to advertise opportunities to students, she felt that taking advantage of Now Playing Utah’s influence would be a crucial part of ensuring the success of the initiative. “It’s the statewide calendar and gets over a million visitors a year,” Young-Otterstrom said. “Now Playing Utah’s already a strong site with a strong following.” This innovation is unique through working as a new classifieds page which allows visitors to find other programs specific to students, such as student-exclusive internships, workshops and mentoring opportunities.
To any student wishing to pursue the arts as a career, these postings are particularly intriguing. They include an exciting range to suit artists of all kinds, from internships in graphic design at The Leonardo, arts teaching with the Clever Octopus Creative Reuse Center and stage production with the Utah Opera, to name just a few of the massive selection of niches and openings for employment that Utah’s arts industry has to offer. In fact, according to the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, a nonprofit board for financial advising, the creative industry in Utah has generated over $10 billion in annual economic impact for the state and that Utah ranks eighth nationally for percent of arts-related businesses in a single state.
Utah’s world of arts needs new, young and up-and-coming participants to keep it thriving. “Every project needs to evolve and keep up with trends and a changing marketplace,” said Young-Otterstrom. In addition to Now Playing Utah’s listings, the Utah Cultural Alliance itself is currently offering discounted $25 annual memberships to their artists’ advocacy services, which most notably includes access to mentor lists, industry-specific contact information and networking events.
No matter what any given Utah student hopes to go into, Young-Otterstrom encourages students of all fields to consider looking into the industry, attend arts events and integrate the arts into their studies. “Realizing your arts skillset is useful in a lot of different settings that you might never have imagined you would use it for,” she said. “You might end up in a career that’s not in the arts, you might end up in a career that is. But you can use that creativity, that critical thinking, that knowledge of history, that knowledge of plays, that ability to put yourself in other people shoes. You’ll be able to use that in any career, any job, any occupation and it’s a wonderful skillset to have.”
For those who feel that the arts aren’t relevant to their career paths, however, Young-Otterstrom noted that “the arts and humanities can take you to new and exciting places without ever leaving where you live. It’s inspiring, it’s challenging, it’s emotional, it’s moving.”
If attending the arts rather than joining the arts sounds up your alley, you can still take advantage of the student-arts campaign outside of a direct job search, which is now hosting its first month of student-oriented events under the nickname “Back to School Night” which will run throughout the month of September. “It’s a good opportunity for students to come and experience something new,” said Young-Otterstrom.