CSU fine arts students put their degrees to practice

Erik Petrovich

[new_royalslider id=”348″]

The main feature of a longboard, to those who do not ride, is hidden beneath its deck. The artistic element of a board is often the most important factor for first-time buyers and casual riders. Despite hardly ever being seen, someone has to create that artwork.


Colorado State University senior Austin Armstrong is doing just that. After running a profitable t-shirt company using his artwork for a year, Armstrong is in talks with Denver company Burn Board Co. to have his artwork featured on their longboards. Armstrong uses pen and ink in his artwork, which will be adapted to fit on the bottom of the boards.

Armstrong is not the only fine arts student breaking the stereotype of the useless art degree.

“I encounter people who roll their eyes and ask, ‘What are you going to do with a fine arts degree?’” said Taylore Landry, a CSU fine arts student concentrating in fibers. “There’s actually so much for me to explore that I’ll have something to do forever.”

When it comes to cost, the debt every student takes on after graduating is an especially daunting factor in deciding what classes and degree to pursue. Landry said there are motives behind creating art that are not financially-based and help heal some people.

“It is an individual, personal necessity for me to create,” Landry said. “It comes to me naturally.”

Matthew McHugh, a fine arts major with a concentration in drawing, said he believes that the attitude of trivializing the arts is a recent mindset.

“Simple aesthetic choices have gone into every object we see around us, and yet these influences go unnoticed every day,” said McHugh. “Art plays a much more important role in society than most people even realize.”

McHugh publicizes his artwork on his website and uses primarily charcoal as his medium of choice. He said he uses charcoal because it works well with large projects and he likes how it creates contrast in his drawing.

“(The arts) can be used to create a sense of true aesthetic that is essential to human existence beyond survival and functionality,” McHugh said. “Appreciation for beauty beyond functionality is part of what makes us human.”

CSU fine arts alumni have gone on to make their degrees work for them and turn their creativity into a full-time occupation. Dean Thompson, a printmaker based in Loveland, graduated from CSU in 2007 and now runs copperplatepress.com, a website that promotes his copper prints. Thompson compared being an artist to owning a small business.


“What a lot of people don’t understand is that as an artist, you are in business with yourself,” Thompson said. “You have to keep producing work, whether you’re selling it or not, because people want fresh material.”

Being an artist is time consuming, and it comes with constantly changing levels of success. In the face of hardship, Thompson said the key to being successful with art is to stay ambitious and have a drive.

“An art degree is only worth the paper it is printed on if you don’t step up there and provide the hustle,” Thompson said. “If you finish your art degree and wait for the world to come to you, it isn’t going to happen.”

Collegian Reporter Erik Petrovich can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @EAPetrovich.