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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The meaning and experience of career as it is lived by women artists Brooks, Geraldine Susan


Little has been written in the literature on women's career or identity development specifically addressing the experiences of women artists. Yet there is reason to believe that these women, by virtue of their gender and their career choice, may have a particular perspective on how career is understood and lived that differs from that of the majority of women and men who have chosen more traditional career paths. This qualitative study investigated the meaning and experience of career for eight women artists over age 40 from the visual, performing, and literary arts. The methods of inquiry and data analysis were based on a phenomenological approach. The researcher conducted three in-depth interviews with participants over a two-year period. Nine common themes, an account of what the term "career" meant to participants, and the fundamental structure-or common story-of the participants' experiences of career over their life span were drawn from the interview data. These nine themes are: (1) Sense of being an outsider; (2) Sense of validation through external recognition; (3) Sense of being obstructed; (4) Sense of being torn between the needs of self and others; (5) Sense of connection and belonging through art; (6) Sense of struggle to assume the identity of artist; (7) Sense of selfdetermination; (8) Sense of being a pioneer; and (9) Sense of harmony between self, art, and career. All of the participants indicated some degree of discomfort with the concept of career. They perceived their work as artists to be closely related to the sense of self and preferred to talk about their "lives as artists" and about "being artists," rather than about "having careers" as artists. The findings of this study contribute both to our understanding of how women artists conceptualize and experience their careers over the course of their lives and to our knowledge of how they develop their identities as artists within the context of their careers. These findings led to specific recommendations for research and practice in the area of women artists' career development.

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