In Oxford, emerging artists have opportunities through education and through local organizations to establish themselves within creative careers. While art fields seem dependent on large scale success, local level work provides artists with ways to experiment with their work.
While the art program is not as large as other schools at the university, it has a gallery within Meek Hall that displays students’ work.
“There’s not really diversification of teachers,” senior art student Jake Brown said. “So sometimes it’s good if you find someone that really cares about what they’re doing…(There are) some people that are actually working professional artists, and some people are just teachers, and you can tell there’s that gap sometimes.”
Brown now focuses his talents with drawing and painting after he dabbled in digital art. He describes artists as entrepreneurs.
“You could make, in some people’s eyes, really bad art, but you could still be financially successful, or maybe you’re just targeting the right audience,” Brown said.
Earlier this year, Brown displayed his work at Uptown Coffee and The Edison art gallery. His work was also included in Yoknapatawpha Arts Council’s Art Crawl in October.
The arts council hosts many events that encourage local artists who are trying to grow their businesses.
“Our goal is to engage the community and create opportunities to interact with art artists, to be part of the creative process,” arts council director Wayne Andrews said.
Along with supporting local creatives, the arts council adds to Oxford’s tourist economy. According to Andrews, 223,000 people attended art events in Lafayette County last year.
The arts council provides administrative support along with providing the location and tables for all 22 vendors at this year’s Holiday Art Market.
While this market was part of encouraging artists business growth, organizations like Maker’s Market are undergoing changes that could decrease artist presence in Oxford.
Maker’s Market, a monthly multi-vendor site, is run by the artists that participate in the event. The leadership recently changed, along with a change in venue. In the past 10 years, the market has been allowed to use the Courthouse lawn until a review of Facility Use Policy that occurred in March. The policy does not allow the sale of commercial goods by private individuals.
After that, the market rented the lawn for further use until October. After the short period of purchasing use of the lawn, the organization did not have enough vendors to remain in front of the Courthouse. The event moved to the Powerhouse.
The event did not happen because of what artist Emily Rennie attributed to lack of advertising in the change of venue and technological problems through their social media.
“The YAC has been wonderful and offering their help and their assistance and helping us stay on our feet and giving us locations to hold our markets,” Rennie said. “Which is great. It’s just hard to get foot traffic to (the Powerhouse).”
Many of the artists involved with the market expressed their discontent with the venue change because of the exposure the Courthouse lawn gives to the market.
“If you have people who follow you and they come to look for you specifically at every Maker’s Market, unless you happen to know those customers personally to let them know that there’s been a change of venue, you have to rely on social media and posters or word of mouth.” Rennie said. “As great as social media is, you can’t reach everybody. And a lot of our people, a lot of our customers were just people who were on the square that day.”
Brown added that financial stability for artists varies. Artists may be able to find a patron to fund their work dependent on their art. He also commented that different people may have varying opinions on art which could add to the difficulty of stability.
“Usually they say that like, the better you are, the more chances to become successful,” Brown said. “It’s kind of weird, because if most of the really, really successful stuff is really avant garde and no one knows it until it’s too late.”
Local artists can also find exposure put on by events like the arts council, along with finding their style through the many classes that are held by the council.
The Maker’s Market schedule for 2020 will be released through their social media and websites soon, along with their new and hopefully permanent venue. Market leadership is planning on meeting with local government to attempt to regain the Courthouse lawn. In the meantime, the Maker’s Market will be looking for a new venue.
Also, the market will limit its amount of events throughout the year, only putting the market together during high-traffic and high-profit months.
Despite difficulty in art programs and local events, artists throughout Oxford and Lafayette have continued to showcase their art and plans for the future.