Mississippi State University may be best known for it’s agriculture and applied science programs, but they also have an art school.
The competitive program offers concentrations that include drawing, ceramics, painting and graphic design. Students are pushed to learn and grow, becoming better artists, but some say the program doesn’t get as much attention as others.
Neelly Plunk is a junior art major from Olive Branch with a concentration in graphic design and marketing minor. She created art in high school, but always thought of it as a hobby. When she enrolled at MSU in the fall of 2016, she chose international business as her major, but soon realized that wasn’t the career path she wanted to take.
“I wanted to be prompted to create and grow in my skills, so I changed my major to art,” said Plunk.
There is a required year and a half in which art majors are obligated to take foundation classes, beginner courses, before declaring a concentration. Plunk focused on completing these courses until she could apply to the graphic design school. Throughout her time as a foundation student, Plunk has learned in what mediums of art she likes and dislikes working.
“I’ve started kind of figuring out my style of things,” she said, “but I haven’t developed that fully. I am super excited to discover that, because everyone has a different aesthetic.”
Within the first two years of being in the art program, students take many classes to weigh their options for a concentration. This allows them to discover what types of art they are best at and most interested in, and they can begin thinking about how to create unique art.
“I take a different approach to working out the issues when it comes to creating pieces,” Plunk said, “especially in my 3D design class. I feel like I attack a lot of the assignments in different ways than others.”
Alexandria Johnson, an art major from Port Gibson with a concentration in photography, had a similar experience at the beginning of her college experience.
“I was a secondary education major, and I realized I wasn’t passionate about that field of study anymore,” said Johnson, “so I researched other majors at Mississippi State and decided to try art.”
She said she never knew she could draw or design things until trying art as a major. “I believe my passion and love for art makes my work different from others,” said Johnson. “I do my best and give my all on a project.”
The MSU art program holds several art shows annually so students can showcase their work. Plunk recently participated in a show specifically for a graphic design typography class. It was held at a local coffee shop, and students were expected to study the origin of a certain font and create a storefront for it. In a creative twist, students were also ask to make their art pieces edible.
“Mississippi State holds a lot of art events, mainly being student and staff art shows, and we also have different artists come out each year and talk to our art students, ” said Johnson.
One of the latest was specifically for foundation students to showcase their work before they declared a concentration.
“It is a really low key show where basically every foundation class from this semester had to put out their pieces for the semester,” said Plunk. “It shows off growth of pieces throughout the semester.”
Art at other schools, including the University of Mississippi, can be appreciated compared to more popular majors, such as business or accounting.
“Artists don’t get the true recognition they deserve,” said sophomore, Kailee Ayers. “We create so much, but no one will ever see the tears shed, the hours of work put in, or the journey it took to get those people where they are at today. I think it’s important to inform the public of just how crucial artists are and always will be to society.”
Ayers was a UM art major, but recently changed her major to IMC.
“The main success of the Ole Miss art program is the professors,” she said. “They encourage each and every student to just do their best. I believe where it falls short is funding. We have to pay an extra $250 for each art class we take for the professors to pay for our supplies, but usually that doesn’t cover it all, and I don’t think that is fair to students.”
Johnson said MSU professors are also supportive. “The professors push as hard as they can to become the best artists, but most importantly, their love and passion for art is what helps us and gives us hope at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Plunk, who was recently accepted into the graphic design school, said she has been challenged by the program.
“I get pushed outside of my limits a lot, which is scary,” she said, “but when I do accomplish it, it is really fulfilling to create something when I thought I couldn’t.”