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Colleges prepare art majors for working world

Do art majors and business classes meet in the academic world? Sometimes they do as schools try to prepare art students for the working world.

At Mississippi College, a private institution in Clinton, Dr. Randy Miles, chairman of the art department, says some majors in that department require business classes, and changes are in the works for others as well. The department, which had 140 students in the spring semester, offers majors in art education, graphic design, interior design and studio art for bachelor of art and bachelor of science degrees.
Graduate students may earn master of art, master of education and master of fine arts degrees. The department has six instructors and 12 adjunct professors. Several of those teach campus wide in art appreciation, a class required for all graduates of the school.

“The majority of our students major in graphic and interior design because of the job market,” he said. “Those professional fields are on the business end of art and are broad. They can go anywhere.”

Both majors are required to take six to nine hours in marketing and advertising in the business department, and they take six hours of approved business electives with one of those usually elementary or business accounting. For additional preparation for the real world, these students do 200 hours of professional work as interns and report back to their professors.

“Currently, we are rewriting the program for studio art majors to add more business to it,” Miles said. “They need to know how to market their work and need to be able to run their business if they choose that route. We want to modify this major to prepare these graduates to enter the work world.”

He says that is especially important for studio art majors who do not choose to go to graduate school. The department’s advisory board recommended this modification. “Many of our studio art graduates go on to graduate school and a lot end up teaching in colleges,” Miles said. “I would like to see them be able to make a living with their art or to teach and also do their art.”

In addition to teaching, many art majors work in museums. Some even use their art to work for dentists and some to make artificial limbs, he said.

“The job market fluctuates with the economy, but there will always be a need for graphic designers. Printed material will always be around,” he said. “The role of interior designers is magnified with the economy too and we’ve have a good success rate of placement for our graduates.”

Miles proudly points to Wyatt Waters, a local gallery owner, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Mississippi College. Another Clinton painter and MC graduate, Ron Lindsey, shows his work widely.
The school has a senior exhibition every spring and helps students exhibit locally through galleries, banks, coffeehouses and other venues.

Dr. Nancy Wicker, chairman of the art department at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, is pleased with the real world applications she sees Ole Miss art graduates making.

“We write tons of letters to help them with placement and let them know all the options and positions available,” she said. “Internships often lead to full-time jobs for many of them.”

Among the more interesting jobs filled by the university’s graduates are curator for the Rock & Roll Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, director of transit art for the subway system of New York City and staff member for “Antique Roadshow” on public television. Other graduates are in regional teaching positions including the University of Memphis, the Memphis College of Art and Delta State University.

“The student art organization is trying to bring back three designers who are working on the East Coast to do some workshops at the university,” she said. “We make a point of having working professionals speak to the students to show they’re not just starving artists.”

Wicker wants the art students to be aware that a full slate of work doing a variety of things awaits them in the business world.

Although business classes are not required for art majors at Ole Miss, many do take at least a few, and Wicker says it’s fairly common for graphic design and art history majors to minor in business.

“It’s up to the student what direction they go, but we do encourage them to take some business classes,” she said. “We want them to be exposed to as much as possible.”

Last spring, there were 240 students in the Ole Miss art department majoring in art history, art education, art studio and graphic design to earn bachelor of art and science degrees and master of arts and fine arts graduate degrees. The department has 10 professors and 26 adjunct professors and graduate assistants.

The professors help the students find places to show their work. Currently relocating from Bryant Hall to remodeled Meek Hall, the art department will soon have its own gallery there plus a foundry.

“It’s been an exciting ride in the 18 months I’ve been here,” Wicker said.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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