Making your Arts Degree Work for you

An arts degree will crack open many doors into many industries but it is up to you to open these doors fully. 

An arts degree will crack open many doors into many industries but it is up to you to open these doors fully. 

"What's more useless than having an Arts degree? Having a Fine Arts degree!"

Arts students (and Fine Arts students) have heard this and similar from the moment they decided to undertake said degrees. These cliches are usually spouted by those too ignorant to see the value in this education or those who wasted their degree and did nothing with it. Don't listen to them, your degree is what you make of it. 

In the coming week students will be getting their college offers. When I was in sixth year anyone who didn't know what they wanted to do in life was applying for an arts degree. It's been stated ad nauseum that it is nearly impossible to know what you want as a future career at the age of 17. Anyone who does know what they want to do is really, really lucky. 

I was one of those who didn't know what they wanted to do in life so I continued on with the subjects I liked in school which were English and History. Living in Limerick, Mary Immaculate College had a wonderful Liberal Arts programme with many different topics I thought would be interesting. I figured I would decide on a career in college. 

On my first orientation day in college the head of the English Department Dr. Eugene O'Brien said to us that an arts degree wouldn't open up the door to a specific job but it would nudge open an array of doors into different industries and it was up to us to kick open those doors with further training and experience. 

Finishing my degree in 2011 I still didn't know what I wanted to do.

The economy took a nosedive so I decided to hide out in college a little longer and do a Masters degree. I liked the idea of working in publishing. After finishing this degree I went on to a Jobsbridge internship at Southern Advertising as an assistant editor.

With this in mind I continued my studies, I liked the editing world and working freelance really appealed to me. I figure if I have to work for the next forty years I will damn well like what I'm doing and enjoy this life I have. As far as I know, I'm not getting another life. 

So I made my Arts Degree work for me, it gave me an insight into many different industries, broadened my mind and my horizons and when I decided what I wanted to do I pushed the door marked "Freelance Editor" open with all of my training and experience. My Arts Degree was not useless, I use it every day in a job and a life that I love. 

My first networking event

As advised by a friend I connected with the Limerick Enterprise Office and the Women In Business Network Ireland. This turned out to be a fantastic resource for any woman (or man) setting up their own business. I was then invited by the WIB/LEO to their networking event in the Castletroy Park Hotel on Wednesday March 9th. Held as part of Limerick Business Week, guest speaker Aisling Nelson from Three Thought Bubbles gave an insightful workshop on how to humanise your blog and therefore market not just your business, but yourself, better. (This blog post takes inspiration from her talk.)

I was nervous going to this event. I really did not have a clue about how to network. What was I supposed to wear, to say, to do? Armed with a stack of business cards my boyfriend got delivered just in time (thanks hun) I donned what I thought was a "business-casual-but-don't-hide-my-personality" type outfit and headed in.

When I found parking and navigated my way to the conference rooms in the hotel, I was greeted by friendly, welcoming faces from Limerick Enterprise Office. I spoke to a lovely lady named Ciara who ran the social media pages for LEO. We chatted about our work and discovered we both did our Masters in Mary Immaculate College at the same time. We swapped information and other women joined our table. More introductions, more chatting, more "what do you do" and then it clicked with me, this is networking. It is not some big scary business exercise, it is being a human being, having an interest in other people and their passions and being open about your passions too. There is nothing to it, I do it every day at Canteen, I chat to customers, we have a little banter, if we wish to know more about each other, we swap information. Simple as that and I didn't even realise it. 

Throughout the night I mingled with other ladies and I felt a sense of community with these other women finding their way in the business world. Not only did I take home the valuable information imparted upon us by Aisling Nelson, but the event dispelled the fear I had around networking. Many of the skills I developed, and continue to hone, in Canteen help me to network and market myself better. I now feel more confident in my skills and my ability to make Best Copy work for me and my clients. I would advise anyone to get involved with their Local Enterprise Board, you never know how it may help you.

Following Aisling's advice Best Copy is now on Instagram. Follow Breenymeany (Best Copy was already taken boo!) for a behind the scenes look at my work, my inspiration and the things that keep me sane. 

When artistic licence and proofreading collide…

As part of my “do more social things” plan, I went to the opening of Eoin Barry’s exhibition “The 061”. I had long been a fan of Eoin’s work without realising I already knew him as a regular visitor to Canteen and another encounter before that.

A few years ago, at the “Make a Move Festival” in the People’s Park, I remember someone handing me a piece of card saying, “Want some free art?” It is only now as I am doing some background reading for this blog post I realise that person was Eoin. His “Uisce" campaign was part of his Masters in Social Practice and the Creative Environment in Limerick School of Art and Design and involved sending a print of a drain cover to 250 unsuspecting recipients. Colour me unsuspecting.

"Uisce" i Found this tucked away in an old journal, signed and all.

"Uisce" i Found this tucked away in an old journal, signed and all.

Eoin won the 2013/2014 Limerick Printmakers Bursary Award and has been working with Limerick Printmakers as an emerging artist. His work “Cathair Grá” is visible on 45 ESB boxes scattered throughout the city with colourful designs reflecting a concept of Limerick as a city of love, a city to love, and as an example of how we can love our city.

Cathair Grá, photo courtesy of Emer Casey, Limerick Printmakers

Cathair Grá, photo courtesy of Emer Casey, Limerick Printmakers

You will also find “061” on some of these boxes, taking inspiration from popular American culture where the area code is an alternative name for your home town. Re-imagining Limerick as “The 061” brings an idea of pride into the city’s identity, a pride that can be lacking in a city that is stereotyped in the media as a wild west of gangland violence and anti-social behaviour. In the film 8 Mile, Eminem refers to his area of Detroit as “The 313” with pride. Renaming Limerick as “the 061” helps those of us living and working here to feel pride in our home city.

Limerick artist Eoin Barry. Photo courtesy Emer Casey, Limerick Printmakers

Limerick artist Eoin Barry. Photo courtesy Emer Casey, Limerick Printmakers

On a personal level, Eoin’s work helped me to see the city in a new light. I used to dread visiting the city as it could be claustrophobic, with loud, harsh noises, a maze of buildings, streets, traffic, and stress. “Cathair Grá” helped me see the city as a place of art, whimsy, and creativity. I saw there could be beauty in urban spaces and now the city is not a place I fear, but a place I love.  This is why artists like Eoin Barry are so important to Limerick now more than ever. Stunning, temporary art installations sprang up across the city in recent years bringing art and culture to everyone, inspiring lively conversations, and once again instilling pride in our city. Having witnessed Limerick city evolve from 1980s drabness into the 2000s Celtic Tiger madness, Limerick seems to have entered a period where art and culture are transforming the city. Eoin’s work, along with the efforts of Limerick Culture House and other fantastic artists and facilitators are helping to transform Limerick for the better, making it a city of welcomes, and a city we can love.

As for how artistic license and proofreading collide, there were hoodies on sale at the exhibit which bore the phrase “the 061 is where im from”. I really wanted to support Barry’s work and to have a limited edition hoody from an art exhibit to pump up my hipster-like ego, but the proofreader in me couldn't handle that missing apostrophe. I’ll admit, the text looks clear, and I respect Eoin for sticking to his guns. Maybe if I get a sharpie I can draw one on…

You can see Eoin Barry’s work “The 061” at 69 O'Connell Street, The Belltable, until the 31st January. You can check out some of his work here https://www.facebook.com/events/1678742629064685/1686330541639227/ or at www.limerickprintmakers.com   

Proof I was there.  I'm behind the bald man with the red scarf and navy coat who is looking at the camera. Photo courtesy of Emer Casey, Limerick Printmakers.

Proof I was there.  I'm behind the bald man with the red scarf and navy coat who is looking at the camera. Photo courtesy of Emer Casey, Limerick Printmakers.