Name: Kelly T.M. Kilmer
Job Title: Art Teacher and Mixed Media Artist
Where: Across the U.S. and Abroad
Employer: Independent Contractor/Self Employed
Years of Experience: 10
Education: Some College, Self-Taught in the Arts
Salary: According to the PayScale Research Center, the average art teacher salary (post-secondary) in major cities ranges from $38,849 to $47,550.
Art Education Salary: Art Teacher Salary
Many people dream of being successful artists, but the requirements to be an art teacher involve more than artistic talent or skill. We recently spoke to art education teacher Kelly Kilmer who instructs classes in mixed media techniques. She emphasized that one of the requirements to be an art teacher is, of course, to really love teaching. If you want to learn about other requirements to be an art teacher, or want more info on an art education salary and art education jobs, this Salary Story is a must-read.
Kelly told told us about her mixed media workshops and the factors that affect an art teacher salary. When she’s not teaching, Kelly works on her own mixed media art projects. She truly loves to make and share art with others – another of her requirements to be an art teacher (or at least an exceptional one). For those interested in art education, this interview is sure to get those creative (and career) juices flowing!
Art Teacher Job Description:
I teach a variety of mixed media classes every weekend. I’m based in Southern California, but I often travel and teach outside of So CA. Though most of my teaching “work” is done on the weekends (with an occasional weekday or weeknight class), Monday through Friday can be just as busy as the weekend. I have a school-age child and I try to get most of my work done before he gets out of school or after he is in bed at night.
The time during the week is spent working on creating art, gathering supplies (from a variety of sources) for the weekend’s classes, getting those supplies ready (pouring paints into various containers, cutting paper and board, etc.), writing up handouts and new class descriptions, sending out class information to stores and prospective teaching locations, answering e-mails, self promotion (blog work, various online sources), etc.
I work “at home” doing any and all of the above more than 40 hours a week, not including teaching time on weekends. Time on the weekend is spent traveling to and from various teaching locations and teaching the classes.
Can you describe your career steps in becoming an Art Teacher?
I used to make and sell handmade greeting cards. I brought my samples into a local store and showed the owner what I had done. She recommend that I try my hand at teaching classes. I haven’t looked back ever since. I still do sell my artwork from time to time on etsy and through various other sites, though I prefer teaching.
When I was little, the idea of becoming an English/Language Arts teacher was something that I toyed with. After someone suggested that I teach classes and I had a taste of it, I didn’t want to stop. I love the thrill of teaching people new ways to look at things. I love the “oohs and ahhs” that people sing out when creating something that they love. My students push me into coming up with new ideas. I currently have over 300 classes that I’ve developed with thousands of unique and new techniques. My students push me and I try to continue to push the envelope.
What advice would you give to those seeking art education jobs?
You have to really love teaching. Some people are artists. Some are teachers. Some are both. You have to realize that everyone learns differently and be able to cater towards your students’ learning needs. It has to be something that you love to do and something that you are willing to give things up for. Once in awhile something happens that pushes your buttons and you need to move on and ignore that. You need to realize that you won’t make a ton of money in this business.
I make minimum wage. Last year I spent over $20,000 on supplies for my classes alone (not for me!). That’s not uncommon for me. I drive a 15-year-old car. I live in a rent-controlled apartment. We make a lot of sacrifices to get by, but I would not change what I do for anything. It gives me the freedom to be able to be home with my son during the week. I’m extremely thankful for that.
What is the employment outlook for art education jobs?
I teach primarily at rubber stamp stores and major art retreats. I’ve been looking for other locations to teach at; most of the stores that I tought at are closing due to a variety of reasons. I’m actively looking for new locations (not just rubber stamp stores) to teach at. There’s a weird bias though with some locations that just because you have taught at a “rubber stamp store” they don’t consider you to be an artist. I teach a variety of mixed media techniques involving hands on work with bookbinding, mixed media acrylic painting, etc.
It is “art,” but just because one doesn’t have an art degree or doesn’t work in a museum, you are not thought of as an artist or a true art instructor. I’ve clocked in thousands and thousands of teaching hours and have taught thousands of students across the U.S. and abroad. None of them have ever frowned upon me because I didn’t have a degree or because I’ve taught at rubber stamp stores. Everyone is an artist, everyone is creative in some way, shape, or form. I’ve worked very hard to design my classes to bring that artist out. Hopefully, I will find new locations to keep holding my classes.
What factors may affect an art teacher salary?
I’m an independent contractor. I don’t work at any one location. I supply all of the necessary materials for my workshops and that can add up to tens of thousands every year. The other thing that affects an art teacher salary is traveling expenses (gas, wear and tear on my car, etc.); I travel and teach across the U.S.
Hotel, plane and car rental costs must be taken care of as well. In the long run, I’m not making a ton of money, but I am reaping the benefits (meeting new people, interacting with other artists, traveling, and most importantly being able to stay home with my son).
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