By Tia Wester
Junior Caitlin Wanta is one of the more than 300 students majoring in art at the University of Missouri-Columbia. But with her medium of choice being graphic design, Wanta knows Columbia isn’t a place she can stay after she graduates. “For me, as a graphic designer,” Wanta says, “I’d have to go to the places where company hubs are, and there aren’t any of those in Columbia.”
Columbia has a lot to offer people who are artistically inclined. Art in the Park features local and statewide artists every summer, while the Boone County Art Show has both professional and amateur divisions for most artistic media. On the Columbia Art League’s Web site, one can find lists of exhibitions and classes to take. “Columbia is art friendly in the way community members can interact with art,” says University of Missouri graduate Bee Simmons. “But it’s not as friendly for art majors to find careers in the area of art.”
Wanta, like Simmons, believes that the great emphasis Columbia places on the arts is both a hindrance and help. “There are a lot of ways to showcase art, but they’re not really conducive to students,” she says, “I think Columbia tries to be like the indie kind of town. They have Ragtag with their unique films, and they have all these festivals, but the art students themselves have a hard time actually getting into any of the festivals.”
Depending on a student’s medium of choice, St. Louis or Kansas City are often the closest places for Columbia’s art graduates to go. Wanta, who specializes in graphics design and illustration, would have to go as far away as New York or Oregon to pursue her dream of working in the comic book industry, while Riley, who focuses on photography and graphic design, says that St. Louis is the most likely choice for him. Washington D.C. is high on Simmons’ list. But Simmons also believes that with the right promotion Columbia could have more to offer. “Columbia has some centers where you can come to create art, but they aren’t as well advertised and they aren’t as large as Columbia could have. And I think that a larger community could support a larger art center better.”
Photo by Tia Wester
Bee Simmons displays her art in her dining room.