Apprentice Program for Scenic Artists - NYC


Applications are now available for download. The deadline for applications is January 3, 2020, a nonrefundable $75 application/filing fee is due at that time. If a candidate passes the Trade Specific Test, they will be notified and must submit a nonrefundable $200 fee to continue onto the 2nd & 3rd part of the exam. See Exam schedule:

Application form; $75 Filing Fee; 1 Resume due    January 3, 2020

          Trade Specific Aptitude Test                                    February 22, 2020

Additional Exam Fee due                                                        March 9, 2020

            Interview/Portfolio Review                                March 28, 2020

            Practical Skills Test                                                  April 25, 2020

The judging of Part 3, the Practical Skills Test, will happen in the first week of May and the passing candidates will be recommended for acceptance into the Apprenticeship Program by the Committee. The new apprentices can expect to begin working by July 1, 2020.

Scenic artists and former apprentices Dave Hawkinson and Emily Boettcher have volunteered to take on the position of co-chairs of the Scenic Artists Apprenticeship exam, aided by Committee Chairman Will Ball and Apprentice Administrator Kelsey Harro

Questions regarding the scenic artist apprenticeship exam may be directed to Committee Chairman, Will Ball 718-935-9868, evenings.


The Apprenticeship Program is a three-year program that is sponsored by Local USA 829 as a Trust Fund. Apprentice Exams will be offered periodically as dictated by the availability of work. All applications will be received without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, G.I.N.A, disabilities, creed, marital status and arrest records. Interested parties must have the following minimum qualifications before making application to the program.

  1. Upon acceptance into the program applicant must show proof of being at least 18 years of age and have a valid Social Security number.
  2. Upon acceptance into the program applicant must have earned a High School diploma or G.E.D.
  3. Upon acceptance into the program applicant must have reliable transportation or means of transportation to job sites and related training locations.
  4. Upon acceptance into the program applicant must have the agility and physical ability to:
  • Lift 5 gallons of paint, joint compound and/or other materials on the job.
  • Work often at great heights on ladders, scaffolding, cranes, and genies (with fall protection) at indoor locations and exterior locations.
  • Work outdoors on locations under various weather and temperature conditions, in extreme hot and cold, rain and snow.
  • Work indoors, during the summer, in shops without air conditioning with temps well above 80 degrees.
  • At studios or locations you may be asked to work long days ten or more hours, with the work-day beginning at 7am or earlier.
  • Be willing to travel outside of the five boroughs of New York to work.
  5. In pre-production film work, and in scenic shops, Scenic Artists are working closely with other Locals that are engaged in using loud power tools, generating sawdust and welding fumes. Upon being accepted into the program, you will be required to be fit-tested for a respirator to protect you from unhealthy byproducts from materials used in our trade and those of other departments. Other protective equipment you may be asked to wear are safety glasses, hearing protectors, and work boots.
  6. Applicant must be able to pass an aptitude test in English (read & write in English).

The Apprenticeship Program is looking for applicants with a working knowledge of art, theatre, film and related industries, but with less than three (3) years of experience. The Apprenticeship Committee reserves the right to reject applicants possessing too much experience as a working Scenic Artist, and would recommend either the Scenic Artist TRACK A Exam or the Scenic Artist TRACK B “Open” Exam (see pages 1 and 2 above).


United Scenic Artists administers a three-part test for all applicants of the Apprenticeship Program. Applicants should be aware that there are minimum passing scores for each part of the testing process. Unless these scores are met, the applicant may not be able to move on to the next phase of testing.

Part I

All applicants will be notified by mail as to the date, time and location of Part 1 of the Exam: The Trade Specific Test. The Trade Specific Test is comprised of questions that range in subjects such as basic art, scenic art, art history, math and drafting. It is made up of mainly multiple-choice questions. You will be notified by mail and/or email as to whether you passed or failed this part of the Exam.  To prepare for the Trade Specific Test we recommend that you study the following texts:

  • Scenic Art for the Theatre by Susan Crabtree

  • Janson's History of Art: Western Tradition

Part II

If you pass Part 1 of the Exam, the Apprenticeship Committee will next notify you by mail as to the date, time and location of Part 2: The Portfolio Review and Interview. The applicant is expected to bring six (6) pieces of original artwork. They may vary from paintings, drawings and/or sculptures, however no slides will be accepted. Photographs of artwork will be accepted. We do not require the artwork to be directly theatrical, but would like the artwork to be representational. For example: a copy of a Vermeer or Fragonard would be acceptable; a copy of a Pollack would not be acceptable. The size of each piece should be no larger than three-feet by four-feet (3’ x 4’). Art work we are interested in seeing include:

  • landscapes/seascapes
  • perspective or architectural drawings/paintings
  • still life
  • sculpture or 3-D pieces under two-feet (2’)
  • copies of master paintings (bring source material with presented item)

You may bring up to four (4) additional pieces but no more than ten (10). Do not include portrait paintings or life drawings.

You will be notified by mail and/or email as to whether you passed Part 2 of the Exam.

Part III

If you pass Part 2 of the Exam, the Apprenticeship Committee will next notify you by mail as to the date, time and location of Part 3: The Practical Skills Test. Applicants will be given specific assignments to complete in a limited amount of time.

After all tests are administered, the scores from each part will be tallied and the applicants with the highest collective scores will become the apprentices for that year. The number of apprentices taken into the program will vary depending on the current work situation (high or low employment of current Scenic Artist members) and number or proposed projects.

Once accepted into the Scenic Artist Apprenticeship Program, you will have the right to attend meetings with a voice but no vote. Apprentices may take the Track B Exam to test out of the Apprenticeship Program, however Apprentices are not eligible to take the Track A Exam. 


Once accepted into the program, the apprentices will be assigned to a variety of different jobs within the jurisdiction of USA Local 829 over the three-year program. As a Scenic Artist Apprentice, you will be working in many venues such as movies, network TV, cable and episodic TV, scenery supplier shops, the Metropolitan Opera, and perhaps commercials that require a large crew. There must be four (4) journeymen Scenic Artists employed on any single job before one (1) apprentice could be considered for hire on the same job. This 4:1 ratio is always the basis as to whether jobs are available for the apprentices. All Scenic Artists work when there are available jobs, and there are no guarantees in our industry of providing steady work for anyone. The Local does not provide transportation to assigned job sites, but may offer a travel allowance for sites outside a 30 mile zone based on the current IRS allowance.


Apprentices will start the program at fifty-five-percent (55%) of the Journeyman Scenic Artist’s rate of pay, which varies depending on the contract you are working under. There are various contracts for the venues of the industry: major film, scenery supplier, network TV, episodic TV, cable TV, commercials, independent film and the Metropolitan Opera. The rate of pay for apprentices will increase every four (4) months by five-percent (5%). By the end of the three-year program, apprentices will be earning full Journeyman wages.


The basic demands of the apprentices will be to complete approximately four thousand (4,000) hours of training in a variety of specific skills. Included in these hours are seminars that the apprentices are required to attend. Homework assignments will be given for certain classes and a personal sketchbook focusing on figure drawing and architectural studies is to be kept by the apprentice. Class work and homework projects and the sketchbook are reviewed and critiqued by the instructors and committee members.

The apprentices are also required to keep a logbook of tracking sheets to record the number of hours of on-the-job training and the skills they performed, as well as a one-page weekly activity sheet. This sheet is for you to write down the work processes you did daily on a job. At the end of a workweek, you will submit this sheet to the Charge Scenic Artist who will sign it. You will then return this activity sheet and the monthly tracking sheets to the Scenic Artist Apprenticeship Administrator. These tracking and activity sheets provide us with documentation of your work experiences and training skills as required by the Trustees of the Fund.

The apprentices must attend all Health and Safety classes given by the USA 829 Health and Safety Officer. Failure to attend classes or complete assignments will lead to disciplinary action and may result in the Apprentice being dropped from the program.


There is a ninety-day (90-day) probationary period for all apprentices. The Apprenticeship Committee, Administrator and instructors will decide during the probationary period whether or not the candidate is fulfilling his/her obligations as an apprentice. If the candidate has missed three (3) seminar classes during this period, or if he/she has gotten numerous unfavorable reports from Charge Scenic Artists or seminar instructors, this would be cause for being dropped from the program. Should the Committee decide that a candidate is dropped from the program, the apprentice would be refunded the first installment of their program fee.

During the probationary period, if the apprentice decides to leave the program, the apprentice will be refunded the first installment of their program fee. Should the apprentice decide to leave the program after the ninety-day probationary period, and they have paid the full program fee, the first installment program fee will not be refunded, but the remaining program fees will. If the apprentice decides to leave or is dropped from the program at any time, all affiliation with United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, will become null and void.


The (non-refundable) fees for the Apprenticeship Exam are: $75 Application Fee and a $200 Testing Fee. Checks must be received prior to the Exam Date which will be posted in the application. The exam will show basic talent and determine entry. Program fee of $750.00 can be paid in three (3) installments over a period of nine months or in full upon application. Upon successful completion of the program the Membership initiation fee plus two quarters of the current annual dues and the IATSE application fee must be paid to USA Local USA 829 as a condition of membership.


Should you have any further questions please contact:

APPRENTICESHIP INFO: Email Kelsey Harro or call 917.408.6142 (9 am to 5 pm weekdays) regarding the Apprenticeship Program only (meaning no TRACK A or TRACK B Exam questions). 

We wish you good luck.


Mailing Address for Inquiries

The Scenic Artist Apprenticeship Committee
United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829
29 West 38th Street
15th Floor
New York City, New York 10018