The Columbian home page

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Art students can’t make it in Columbia after graduation

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.”

Simmons, who has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, has worked with three different artists in Columbia since graduating in 2007. But currently, she is working in the call center at Midway USA, a company that sells hunting gear and shooting supplies. “Because of the economy I was unable to stay with those jobs. I really enjoyed working for the artists, but it was something I was unable to do after awhile.”

Simmons isn’t the only artist currently working outside her degree program. According to a study done by the National Endowment for the Arts, artists are unemployed at twice the rate of other professional workers, and the unemployment rate would be even higher if not for the large number of artists pursuing work in other fields.

With no less than six colleges and universities within its city limits, it’s no surprise that the job prospects for graduates in certain programs are grim in Columbia. Columbia College senior and art major Damion Riley isn’t sure exactly where he and his family will go after graduation, but he does say that most college towns will be low on the list. “As far as the job market, with a degree, it’s hard because you’re competing with people that have degrees from Moberly, William Woods, Stephens, Mizzou. There’s a really strong overabundance of people because of all the universities.” Riley believes this overabundance of people would be an issue in any college town.

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.

No comments: