Community college an ideal place to pursue arts

Photo of LCCC students viewing the artwork on display in the gallery. There are 2D and 3D pieces.There’s an idea out there that getting a degree in the arts in college is a bad idea. Some people will say it’s not a smart path to go down for economic reasons.

This view, however, is shortsighted. The arts are integrated into our lives and, indeed, our jobs. So many facets of our lives are touched by art. Think about the calendar on your desk; it probably has some artwork or a photo on it, or at least some graphic design. Do you ever listen to music while you drive your car or sit at school or the office working? Do you enjoy concerts, whether at a local venue or your place of worship? How about plays, TV, movies or art galleries? Stand-up comedy? The design of your favorite book cover, the art in your children’s books, the architecture of the buildings around you, the fashion and interior design in your home, the video games you play and even the marketing you see — all are influenced by the arts. If you’re from Cheyenne or Laramie, think about all the murals that have sprung up around the downtowns, bringing life and color to the areas. Art is a pervasive and vital part of our lives, enhancing our daily experiences and enriching our communities.

The notion that pursuing an art degree is economically unviable overlooks several important factors. Many of the previously mentioned instances of art in our daily lives are the work of professionals. An art degree opens the door to diverse career opportunities beyond traditional artist roles, including fields like graphic design, animation, arts administration, education and marketing. The skills developed in an arts program, such as creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving, are highly valued across multiple industries. Additionally, the arts and cultural sector significantly contribute to the economy by driving tourism, creating jobs and supporting related businesses. In an era where automation is transforming the job market, creative skills are increasingly in demand, making an art degree a valuable asset.

Wyoming’s creative economy, which includes art galleries, music venues, museums, film festivals and more, accounts for more than 10,000 jobs, making up 3.8% of state employment and 4.3% of state compensation. This sector is crucial for new business recruitment, retention and attracting cultural tourists who spend 36% more than other travelers. The Wyoming Innovation Partnership (WIP) exemplifies the state government’s investment in the creative sector, acknowledging the public's understanding that the arts mean economic vitality. 

And when we’re talking about a job that will encompass large chunks or the rest of our lives, let’s be real: Choosing a career in the arts isn't just about financial stability; it's about finding a meaningful existence and doing something that ignites your passion. There are many jobs that offer financial stability, but it's crucial to find a career that gets you out of bed in the morning without a pit in your stomach. If you're genuinely interested in the arts, don't discount it because of perceived financial barriers. The arts can provide a fulfilling and financially stable career path, especially if you start at a community college like LCCC. 

Community colleges offer a more affordable education, allowing you to pursue your passion while incurring considerably less debt (or no debt) than you might find at a larger institution. (Scholarships and financial aid can be a crucial factor here, as money is likely available for you to go to college.) 

At LCCC, you can immerse yourself in the arts from the very beginning. You can be the lead in a play, take the solo in your performance ensemble or showcase your work in an art gallery right from your freshman year — opportunities that are often reserved for upperclassmen or graduate students at four-year institutions. This immediate involvement not only enriches your educational experience but also builds your portfolio and practical skills early on. 

All of these experiences will take place in outstanding, modern facilities at LCCC’s campus. The Surbrugg-Prentice Auditorium, with seating for 400 people, was completed in 2021, offering state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, a concert shell and other features that make it a remarkable venue for the arts, speakers and events. Alongside the SPA is the Esther and John Clay Fine Art Gallery, a worthy setting for displaying true works of art, with its spacious and stylish decor and lighting. Whether it's practice rooms for musicians or art studios for visual artists, LCCC’s facilities allow creative students to reach their highest potential. 

LCCC’s expert faculty, able to provide individualized attention and personal guidance, are also connected to the arts community locally and beyond. In theatre, you may have the chance to meet an actor and director from New York who will help you write and direct your own play, or you may even have a conversation with a Tony-nominated actor. As a musician, you’ll be a part of performances with growing audiences and work with professional musicians who can help you realize how to take your skills to the next level. If you’re a visual artist, you can find your way into a national art competition put on by NASA or interact with an LCCC graduate now making a living as an artist. These are just a few examples of how LCCC’s programs connect you with experiences in the art world that can help you understand how to realize your post-college ambitions. 

Community colleges provide a strong foundation for transferring to a four-year institution or entering the workforce, all while saving money and gaining invaluable hands-on experience. LCCC’s faculty work in helping students transfer is not limited to the University of Wyoming, as many graduates go on to schools out of state — it’s all about finding the right program for the students as individuals. 

We’ve said a lot, but it’s all trying to make the point that if you’re interested in the arts and you want to see if there’s potential for a career, LCCC’s Communication and Creative Arts Pathway is an affordable opportunity filled with chances to express yourself while you learn and grow. 

You can visit the Communication and Creative Arts Pathway homepage by clicking here or going to lccc.wy.edu/cca. You can also contact J O'Brien, Communication & Creative Arts Pathway coordinator, at jobrien@lccc.wy.edu.