By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – You can forget that old “starving artist” cliché.
The stereotype that students pursuing a fine arts degree are destined for a life of poverty simply isn’t true in today’s work environment, according to Christy Kosmicki.
“Right now, businesses are looking for creative people,” said Kosmicki, a lecturer in the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Department of Art and Design. “A lot of businesses see that necessity, and it’s creating a huge market for our students to excel in and gravitate to as far as careers.”
Not only can students pursue their artistic passions, they can make a good living along the way.
More than 100 students from a dozen Nebraska high schools were on campus Wednesday to learn more about these career options and UNK’s fine arts programs during Imagination Day. Hosted twice a year by UNK’s Department of Art and Design, the event gives high schoolers a chance to interact with UNK faculty and students while exploring various art techniques in a hands-on environment.
Kosmicki, a former high school art teacher who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art education from UNK, said the event is an excellent opportunity for high schoolers with an interest in the field.
“It creates a comfort level and it helps them say, ‘I can see myself being here. I can see myself doing this,’” she said.
Imagination Day included a panel discussion with current UNK students, who talked about careers in studio art, art education and graphic design, as well as workshops in areas such as photography, letterpress printing, glassblowing, computer animation, painting, stenciling and sgraffito.
Participants also heard from Kyle Sayler, a UNK graduate who owns Sayler Screenprinting in downtown Kearney.
Sayler talked about his lifelong passion for art and the impact UNK had on his career.
The 31-year-old Kearney native started making T-shirts in his parents’ basement before enrolling at UNK, where he studied visual communication and design.
“The awesome thing about UNK is you have this community of artists, and that really helped me grow,” Sayler said. “You’re all learning from each other in this creative atmosphere.”
Sayler launched his business out of a garage in 2008 before opening a shop in 2015. Now, Sayler Screenprinting is one of the fastest-growing custom-printed apparel and embroidery businesses in the Tri-Cities area, with 15 employees and customers across the state.
“It’s honestly been a dream come true,” Sayler said.
Shyanne Foster, a K-12 art teacher at Maywood Public Schools, brought eight seniors to Imagination Day so they could experience “a different side of art” and university culture.
She wants her students to recognize art’s importance and all the opportunities available.
“The video games they play at home – designers made those. The T-shirts they think are super cool and awesome – designers made those,” Foster said.
“Art is everywhere. You can’t turn a corner or take a step outside without having to appreciate art is some way, shape or form.”
For freshman Cassidy Stelling, Imagination Day helped sell her on UNK. She attended the event twice as a Kearney High School student and served as a volunteer on Wednesday.
“It helped me decide that I wanted to come here because I saw all the opportunities UNK had to offer,” the visual communication and design major said.
UNK’s Department of Art and Design offers bachelor’s degrees in art history, art education, studio art and visual communication and design. Students can minor in 2D and 3D art, art history, illustration, photography and visual communication and design.
These programs prepare graduates for careers in a variety of industries, including marketing and advertising, graphic design, website development and education, as well as professions such as photography, set design, art appraisal, gallery curator and professional artist.
Even Foster, who graduated from Chadron State College, was excited about the possibilities.
“I honestly wish this would have been my college choice because of the fine arts department,” she said.
The following high schools participated in UNK’s Imagination Day:
Grand Island Northwest