Hang It, a handbook to get started in the arts
Finding a job in the arts is hard. Knowing what jobs in the arts exist, which ones you want, and how to get them, is particularly hard. Luckily, Hang It is there to give you advice on what to look out for. An online free platform built by four recent graduates, it offers interviews with those who’ve started their careers, pointers on where to find job listings, and discussions on topics of interest.
‘We all know the art world can feel like a closed club… Hang It offers a handbook written in a language we can understand and complete with a toolbox of resources.’
I interviewed Julie Bléas, one of the four founders.
A: What inspired you to create Hang It?
Julie: There is little advice available to those thinking about working in the arts. We felt there was a need for transparency and accessibility. As graduates, some of us with extensive professional experience, we were still unsure on how to navigate an early career. Six months down the line, we have accumulated a number of tips and resources from professionals to anyone getting started - whether you’re choosing your A levels or graduating and looking for a job.
One particular issue is that people don’t necessarily know what kind of jobs are out there. If we think of museum jobs we might think of curators or conservators, but not much more. It’s similar in the broader arts scene, where one might think of ‘artist’ but not of the dozens of people who work with the artist.
To remedy this, Hang It offers Meet the Professionals, a series of podcast interviews with young people currently working in the arts sector. This includes people working in museums, galleries, and auction houses, as well as freelance artists.
J: We’re excited to bring a range of new perspectives in our upcoming episodes. We’re really passionate about giving an overview of the many careers available out there — we don’t want to only interview curators and people in senior museum positions. In April we’ll release an episode with someone in the art handling and transports sector, and another one with an artist.
Personally, I’d like to learn more about jobs in arts marketing. Jobs predominantly related to online platforms are certainly on the rise, and yet I never really know what they do. (But maybe that’s just me.)
Another section is Useful Resources, which offers two glossary of terms to guide you through the art world. The fact that a ‘Helpful Art World Jargon’ tool is needed, and wanted, is quite telling: making terms such as ‘provenance’, ‘narrative’ and ‘interpretation’ available for everyone to know and use is a sign of the times in which more and more people are getting involved in important debates such as provenance research in issues of restitution, or racist interpretation in blockbuster exhibitions.
The Hang It crew also record conversations among themselves about specific topics. The first one has been on the important and somewhat controversial matter of internships.
‘We must remind young people that internships are as much for them as they are for the institution.’
J: Internships — especially unpaid — are the way many young people first obtain work experience in the arts; the skills I obtained in my internship experience are still on my CV.
That being said, as we recorded the episode we were aware of how unethical the unpaid internship model. It perpetuates the idea that you need to work for free in order to ‘make it’ and favours those who can afford to do so.
In 2018, it was found that almost 90% of internships in the art sector in the UK were unpaid. An unpaid internship costs a Londoner at least £1000 a month.
J: For this reason, the episode focuses on making the most out of an internship, whether by making long lasting professional relationships or gaining a new set of skills. We must remind young people that internships are as much for them as they are for the institution.
As a freelance writer myself, I’ve genuinely learned from the job hunting resources they’ve shared, but my favourite section has to be Beyond the Frame. Annie, Sophie, Matilda and Julie share their thoughts on concrete topics and their art reviews, and the four have recorded an outdoors visit to the London Mural Festival, an event quite relevant for our current times. I must highlight this tour because it’s brilliantly edited — the four graduates’ voices come through incredibly clearly, and I could almost see the artworks in front of me as they commented on them.
A: I was intrigued by Beyond the Frame, since it’s not strictly about jobhunting. What do you think prospective art students and professionals can get from it?
J: Beyond the Frame is an opportunity for us to be creative in our appreciation of art, for example reviewing books or podcasts we’ve enjoyed. Annie recently did an amazing video on public sculpture in London! This section highlights ways of showing interest in art that don’t involve writing lengthy essays.
We hope that Beyond the Frame will encourage people not to let academic expectations limit their artistic output. I often hold off from letting people read my work because I’m afraid I don’t have enough academic references backing up my point, but now I’m actually writing a review of a book on female portraiture that I am particularly excited about!
I recommend Hang It to anyone who’s interested in working in the arts — whether it be as their chosen career, as a part-time job, or even just to anyone who wants to know more about the arts.