Professional Art Opportunities for Students at the University of Utah


Chiang Ta-Lai Landscape. (Courtesy Utah Museum of Fine Arts)

By Heather Graham, Assistant Copy Chief, Arts Writer


The University of Utah College of Fine Arts supports the departments of Art & Art History, Dance, Film & Media Arts, Music and Theatre, all of which provide a rich arts culture to the campus and surrounding area. As a student in the College of Fine Arts, there are many opportunities to learn about craft, history and perspective. The college also offers many resources for arts students, including connections that embrace students’ immersion in their medium as well as support interaction with a community of artists and collaboration across campus and artistic discipline. Some of these collaborations include formal interdisciplinary programs — such as Screendance and Entertainment Art & Engineering — and support for research, projects and creative exploration.

Through their classes, students have access to visiting scholars and artists who can inspire and share their experience about being a professional in the arts. Faculty members incorporate important concepts into their courses as well, including instruction about audition, gallery and film submission processes and mentoring students individually. Many faculty members are also well-connected in their industries and can help students make important connections.

Further, the university works closely with local professional arts organizations to support students in their academic and professional goals through work-study, internships, events and job opportunities.


The College of Fine Arts Internship Coordinator Kate Wolsey is a great resource for students. She works one-on-one with students to help them identify internship goals, prepare for the application process, create connections and build opportunities.


Artsforce, created in 2012 by the college’s Associate Dean for Undergraduate Student Affairs Liz Leckie, provides skill-building opportunities for students to use in their careers. The program hires a team of students each year to plan and execute workshops and events and connects them to real-world experiences in the arts. Students who have joined Artsforce also have access to weekly job and internship postings.

The Pioneer Theatre Company

Located on campus, the Pioneer Theatre company is affiliated with Actors’ Equity Association, which includes actors and stage managers, United Scenic Artists, which includes set designers, lighting, and more, and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

Pioneer Theatre Company also offers internships with both musical and actors training programs that encourage students to choose an industry aspect outside of what that they are interested in.

“This is helpful,” says Director of Marketing Kirsten Park, “because as you would suspect, professional opportunities for stage workers are more plentiful than that for actors.”

Each student works closely with the company manager, managing all the administrative aspects of running a theatre company, and is guaranteed on-stage time and backstage time in one production.

“Many students who have had an opportunity to work alongside professional working actors and theatre professionals, especially those from NYC, have found those connections invaluable as they begin their careers post-schooling,” said Park.

SALT Contemporary Dance

Founded in 2013, nonprofit SALT Contemporary Dance has built in-depth training programs, worked with high-profile choreographers and shared innovative productions with the local community.

SALT partners with the U on several events throughout the year to support students in their journey from campus to career. December’s SHAPE Choreography Festival invites dancers to submit work they have choreographed for professional evaluation while February’s Winter Workshop offers training and a look at the SALT experience. SALT’s largest event with the U is the LINK Audition Festival. This week-long festival invites dancers to train and work with emerging choreographers while auditioning for 12-15 different dance companies from across the country.

“It’s an incredible networking opportunity for students, and typically 30-70% of participants are offered positions,” said a representative from SALT. SALT also has a training company called SALT2 that many college graduates participate in.


The UMFA showcases an array of artwork and exhibits. Students can find internships, work-study and employment opportunities through the U Work-Study Job site and the university’s HR department page. The museum is committed to creating a working environment where employees are valued, recognized and rewarded. The UMFA also provides student resources across campus like Art Pass, Art Ambassadors program, opportunities to host programs, classroom visits, gallery tours, and a variety of programs from artist talks to art-making and Art + Wellness programs. Students can access the global fine arts collections, exhibits and other programs at the museum for free.

“Whether they’re studying art, chemistry or nursing, students will find opportunities to understand their disciplines in new ways,” said Mindy Wilson, UMFA director of marketing and communications. “The UMFA galleries are a space for students to explore, enjoy, relax, perform, bring their voice to, or participate in, depending on their interests.”

Professional connections — whether they are with the Internship Coordinator, Artsforce, Pioneer Theatre, SALT, UMFA, Ballet West or Utah Symphony — can be a valuable part of the college experience and career development for students in the College of Fine Arts.

“Like many industries, building and maintaining a professional network is very important in the arts,” said Wolsey. “Being connected to other artists, companies, and organizations is a great way for students to jumpstart their career by making the industry connections before leaving college that so often materialize into opportunity.”


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