The difficulties of transitioning from university to the working world

A former TRU student turns what she loves into her job, even if it takes a lot of hard work

Courtney Dickson, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω

Elizabeth Warner always knew she wanted to work in the arts. Photo courtesy Rob Pattie

Elizabeth Warner always knew she wanted to “make things” and now she’s finding out how she can do that. Photo courtesy Rob Pattie

She always knew she wanted to “make things,” but she didn’t think of that as a viable career until later in high school.

Elizabeth Warner was always an A student who fortunately had the ability to take any direction she wanted. Though she had her options open, she said art was the obvious option for her, and there was practically no decision-making involved.

She began her journey at the University of Calgary, working on her bachelor of fine arts. She transferred to TRU in 2010 to complete her degree, where she became co-president of the Visual Arts Student Association (VASA). She was busy. but said it was worth it.

“My social life definitely took a hit, but I was happy,” she said.

Warner graduated just last spring with a medal in fine arts. She was also awarded the curator’s choice exhibition at the Kamloops Art Gallery for her exhibit “Strings,” which was on display over the summer of 2013. Her educational journey is not over just yet. Warner plans to get her master’s degree eventually.

Right out of university, visual arts professor Donald Lawrence asked her to join his team as a research assistant for his Camera Obscura project, and most recently she landed herself a position at the Kamloops Art Gallery as an instructor and tour guide.

She said that as she moves away from the university world, she’s finding it increasingly difficult to be connected with the arts community and do the things she really wants to do. She’s had to really put herself out there to find work in visual arts.

“All the time and money I have invested into my degree has helped me grow as an artist, but it is not the golden ticket into a career in the arts,” she said.

A still from Warner's video, Nicholas: December 29 1988 – January 21, 1989, which featured her marionettes.

A still from Warner’s video, Nicholas: December 29 1988 – January 21, 1989, which featured her marionettes.

Her area of expertise is a unique one – she makes marionettes. She sells them custom-made over Etsy (a shop called Shuswap Strings) and has taught workshops in making them.

She’s currently working on a exhibition that she said she’d like to see travel outside of Kamloops.

“At this point, art is more of a passion than a career,” she said.

“No matter how hard you work in school, no matter how many awards and opportunities are given to you, you are still going to have to work really hard and make big sacrifices to find a career doing what you love. I feel like there’s a certain expectation of me to do great things because I did well in school, but I really just want a job I am happy to go to everyday that supports and nourishes my practice in the visual arts.”