Fifteen years ago, I went on a family vacation to Mohonk Mountain House in New York. It is like a fancy Kellerman’s, the resort in Dirty Dancing but with much higher-end evening entertainment.

One of the performers was Michael Cooper, a puppeteer and mime. He did a one-man show wearing a big baby head. Sounds weird but the show was mesmerizing. He was available to speak to the audience after his performance (as puppeteers are wont to do), about his work. What stuck with me was the fact that he made a point of saying that he made a very good living as an artist. Up until then, I thought only famous artists could make a good living at their art.

Most parents want their kids to be self-supporting, decent citizens who are happy in their jobs and lives. If they can give back to society as well, that is a bonus, and a feather in our parenting caps. While we want our children to pursue jobs they are going to like, we worry when those jobs look like they’re not going to pay the rent. Sadly, art jobs have gotten a bad rap. Thankfully, there is a very artistic and talented group of people who will be gathering at the Riverside Arts Center to dispel that myth.

The RAC is hosting its 2nd Annual Art As A Profession roundtable discussion for the AP art students of Riverside-Brookfield High School this Saturday. It is standing room only but is something to keep in mind for the future for your artsy child. If you work in the arts and would like to be on the panel next year, or you’d like more information about it, please email the RAC.

There will be a discussion amongst the parents, students and panel of interior designers, artists, curators, educators, art therapists, photographers, arts administrators and architects. This is a great opportunity for students and their parents to find out about careers in the arts that interest them.

Although there are no comedians on the panel, I found it interesting that while I began writing this piece someone posted an Onion video on my Facebook page about comedy classes. In it, the parents are encouraging their kid to take comedy classes, to the exclusion of all else, saying it’s an investment in his future. Apparently the editors at The Onion thought this was hilarious but I actually feel that The Onion is on the wrong side of itself on this one.

My kids have been taking Second City classes for years. My oldest son loves comedy, so I encouraged him to apply to Columbia College last year. It is the only school in the country that offers a Bachelor of Arts in Comedy Writing and Performance. We went on a tour and I was very impressed with its philosophy. It is an art school that is very focused on getting its students jobs at the end of four years. These students aren’t waiting to get discovered, they are getting themselves discovered.

I figured that a BA in Comedy and Writing would speak to my son’s love of comedy. I thought it would look good on his resume and would capture the attention of potential employers. What hiring person is going to see that degree and not want to know more about this kid?

All of my boys have taken classes at The Second City for years. I believe that, although none of them aspire to be the next Jim Gaffigan, they, contrary to or in agreement with The Onion piece, are making a huge investment in their futures. My oldest son has seen the benefit of his Second City training after a life-threatening experience recently.

He was traveling with a student group last November in Guatemala. They were shot at and robbed at gunpoint. Apparently, my son used humor to diffuse the tension in the aftermath of the robbery. Two of the organizers of his gap year program made a point of mentioning this to my husband and me during the debriefing after the incident.

Now that we live in times where higher education is so exorbitantly expensive, it is more important than ever that our kids get exposed to careers through summer and part-time jobs, internships and networking. The Art As A Profession roundtable is a free event and these professionals have kindly given their time and energy to help young RBHS students.

Shameless plug: Most other communities in the country are not as fortunate as Riverside and Brookfield to have an arts center in their midst. It would make a huge difference for the RAC to get more volunteer and financial support to keep programs like Art As A Profession going.

Kathleen Thometz is an artist and writer. She lives with her husband, kids and doodle dogs. You can experience more about her at www.kathleenthometz.com

Kathleen Thometz

I am an artist, writer, and art instructor with four children, one husband, and two doodle-dogs. I have contributed articles to the mid.com and Chicago Parent Magazine and wrote the Artist's Eye column...