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What Is Visual & Performing Arts?

The arts provide a creative outlet for individuals to explore emotions, culture, and society. Visual arts use tangible mediums like painting, digital photography, or ceramics. Performing arts focus on acting, singing, or playing an instrument.

Visual and performing arts encompass various specialties, including music performance, graphic design, and fine arts. Many working artists enjoy being able to create meaningful work for themselves and others.

Some find they can apply their creativity to other fields, such as interior design or fashion design. Colleges and universities offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in many areas of visual and performing arts.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 54% of artists are self-employed. They earn a median salary of $49,960, as of May 2021. The skills gained from a degree in visual and performing arts can translate to many careers, including education, film and cinematography, and graphic design.

Frequently Asked Questions About Visual & Performing Arts

What is visual arts?

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Visual arts include artwork you can see, like paintings, sculptures, or photographs. Artists use various media to convey their thoughts and emotions, from tubes of oil paint to the images in a film. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) reported there were 2.5 million artists working in the U.S. in 2017 in various roles.

Studying the visual arts offers many career opportunities. Depending on the specialization, graduates with a visual arts degree can work in cinema or as an animator. Photographers can create works of art while supporting themselves through portrait photography or as photojournalists.

Many artists also combine their artistic abilities with business to work as gallery directors, art consultants, or product designers.

What is performing arts?

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Performing arts include acting, playing music or singing, and dancing. Artists can perform by themselves or with others in a group. In addition to the onstage performers, performing arts can include behind-the-scenes roles like directors, lighting artists, or sound technicians.

Performing artists work in a variety of venues. Many musicians may work in religious, civic, or professional organizations. Actors may work for colleges, theater companies, or dinner theaters.

Many performing artists report they are self-employed. And many say they hold another job while pursuing work in the performing arts.

Is a visual arts degree worth it?

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A visual arts degree can offer a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but potential students should consider their career goals after graduation.

Full-time undergraduate students pay an average of $35,551 each year to attend a four-year university. Craft and fine artists reported a median annual salary of $49,960, as of May 2021, slightly higher than the median wage for all workers, $45,760.

According to the NEA, artists are 3.6 times more likely to be self-employed than other workers, though most enjoy the flexible schedules and independence self-employment offers.

Many artists also work full-time in another field and pursue their art as a second career. For example, the NEA found that 14.4% of fine artists, animators, and art directors work in another field.

Is visual arts a good major?

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In addition to continued artistic development, earning a degree in visual arts may prepare you for a variety of careers.

Your degree can provide coaching in your area of specialization and enhance your understanding of art history and theory. The curriculum can build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and equip you with a foundation in principles of design and aesthetics.

You may decide to combine your visual arts degree with an education degree, preparing you to teach the next generation of artists. Or, you can explore commercial art careers in textile design, architecture, or packaging design. Artists may find work in the film and theater industries, in advertising and marketing, or in publishing.

What is the highest paying art job?

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Scan the entertainment news, and you will see reports of actors bringing home millions for a series or film. However, the BLS reports entertainment professions pay a median annual salary of $49,470, as of May 2021.

Art directors report the highest median annual salary among art and design occupations, at $100,890, as of May 2021. The BLS projects an 11% growth in employment for art directors from 2020-2030, with about 11,500 openings each year.

Art directors work at magazines and print publications, in product packaging, and for movie or television productions to convey concepts visually. They select design elements like photographs and artwork, work with clients to develop an artistic approach, and develop budgets and timelines.

Why is performing arts important?

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The performing arts do much more than just entertaining people for a few hours during a play or concert. Theater, music, and dance offer audiences and performers the opportunity to explore complex topics. The performing arts can inspire others, foster interaction, or facilitate critical thought.

Studying the performing arts can build critical-thinking skills and help individuals develop self-confidence and creativity.

A 2019 report from the National Endowment for the Arts found many performing artists pursue their craft as part-time or secondary employment, with 30.3% of actors, for example, employed in other industries.

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