Supporting Your Young Artist

Young Adult Artists: Living an Artistic Life

Encouraging the arts for college students


College is the first time many students are on their own. During the college years, young adult artists connect with an artistic community, develop personal and creative points-of-view, and cultivate skills necessary for a life in the arts.

Features of these ages:

College-aged students grow from their teenage musings of “Who am I?” to budding adult statements of “This is who I am as a person and an artist.” College education is as much personal exploration as it is skill development and refinement. And because independence from the family unit is an important change for college students, a community of peers is central, both personally and artistically.

The arts at this stage:


  • Professional-level training and employment can be an option for young adults who have danced since childhood.
  • Interdisciplinary coursework, where dance meets other disciplines such as music or history, challenge young adult dancers to attain a richer foundation in the art form.
  • Young adults who pursue dance as a profession are likely to have a non-traditional work life after college. Courses in personal finance and small business management can be very beneficial in building a career in dance.
  • Dance is good for young adults’ reasoning. The physical activity of formal or casual dance study may have cognitive benefits for the brain, which continues to develop through college. Partner dance, such as ballroom dancing, is a popular social activity among young adults.


  • Most colleges and universities offer students the opportunity for both formal and informal music participation. Students will find ways to make music both in and out of class.
  • The collegiate music student should develop the ability to self-evaluate his/her performance. Music instructors support students in developing this competency. In addition, students should actively give and receive peer feedback.
  • Mastering music technologies, such as editing software, will be a useful addition to the music student’s toolbox.
  • Whether as performers, composers, or audience members, college students benefit from exposure to a wide range of musical genres.


  • College-aged theater students often experiment with artistic expression. Theater is frequently an outlet for exploring ideas and issues that are of personal interest.
  • Theater students may explore and test traditional conventions and boundaries of the art form, producing work that may be highly unconventional.
  • Young artists often benefit from investigating different responsibilities within a theatrical production. This versatility contributes to collaboration and opens doors to previously undiscovered possibilities.
  • Young adult theater artists benefit greatly from observing and working with master artists.

Visual Arts

  • Art students may find that college is an opportunity to explore new ideas, skills, media, and methods, and to develop an aesthetic point-of-view.
  • Visual artists at this age are able to move past their teenage focus on the end product and begin to embrace the uncertainty of the artistic process.
  • Visual art students can benefit from getting to know other art students. This community of artists is where they can explore, discuss, and critique each other’s ideas and work.



Patti Saraniero
Original Writer

Editors & Producers

Lisa Resnick
Content Editor

Kenny Neal
Manager, Digital Education Resources


Child Development and Arts Education: A review of Current Research and Best Practices. Prepared by the College Board for The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. January, 2012

Image via Creative Commons; flickr.com user chautauquainstitution

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