There’s this stereotype of the artist: someone who works in a cramped studio of an attic, the room lit only by a single beam of natural sunlight, and clad in a smock splattered with paint. The artist is hungry, but the passion is there. But work–study students are doing away with this starving artist stereotype. Filling the fridge isn’t the only benefit of working in an arts related field; arts communities at Penn tend to be tight–knit and working within them is a way to both be a part of and support the community.
As a freshman, Colleen Kutcher (C ’20) found a home in Platt after attending PennArts, a pre–orientation program. With a background in theater, it was there where Colleen attended workshops in dance, theater, film, and singing. “For a week I basically lived at Platt, before I knew where anything else on campus was, so through that I found kind of a home at Platt,” she says. It wasn’t until after her freshman year, though, that Colleen found out she could be a work–study student at her first home. Now, she works in marketing, publicizing the different performances. She also helps with the upkeep of the facilities to make it more enjoyable for the students, otherwise called “Platt Rats,” who find themselves camped out there doing homework or hanging out with friends.
Despite the positive environments, arts related work–studies remain fairly obscure. As a webmaster and program assistant at the Kelly Writers House, Becca Lambright (C ‘19) says, “People are really intimidated by the Writer’s House. , or I’ll have friends who I’ll have come meet me there, and they don’t realize that it ever existed. Maybe, because they think of it as some weird, secluded artist place, but really it’s like anyone can hang out there.”
The diversity of positions is also a well kept secret, as Becca says that people “are always really surprised when I say I’m a webmaster, just because they just assume that because it says Writers House that there’s nothing tech related that goes on in it.” And it’s not as if every student working for the different positions enter knowing how to code and are interested in the arts: Becca herself didn’t know how to code in the beginning. After she was hired, the Kelly Writers House paid for her to take a course so that she could better assist the community. It’s a perfect example of how arts work–studies at Penn provide new, relevant skills for those involved. Now, she’s in charge of everything from web design, creating calendars, and helping out with the almost nightly readings.
Other students have also used tech as an entry point into arts. GSE student Lauren Matarazzo works in the Photography and Video Equipment Room. Although she’s studying education and was initially hesitant to state that she works in the arts, Lauren says, “I’ve learned a lot about the equipment that we have, I’ve also made friends with the people that work here, and now I’m actually taking a class in the fine arts department.” Having taken an introductory photography course, Lauren is able to further the skills she acquired through her work.
While arts related positions might seem hard to find and difficult to apply to real life, at the end of the day, arts–related work–study is an ideal role to combine creativity, community, and practicality.