For college students, it can be rare to know exactly what you want to do from an early age and continue on that road. One college student knew that he wanted to become some type of artist. Although thinking and actually doing what he wants are two different things, he has taken multiple steps toward his dream career.
Marcus Fingerlin, a senior in the art department at Colorado Mesa University, currently holds the position of Student Art Director. He organizes gallery shows, which involves setting up, tearing down, making sure the students involved are in attendance and ensuring the event runs smoothly. He is majoring in art with an emphasis in ceramics, and he also runs the Clay Club.
Fingerlin’s inspiration to pursue art began when he was young; his mother teaches art at an elementary level and kept art books displayed around the house.
“The main inspiration for me was a giant Georgia O’Keeffe book that she always had around. I would flip through it and thought it was so amazing… the colors, the abstractions. Whenever I’m making art, I think about that book,” Fingerlin said.
As his passion for art grew, he pursued other venues to develop his style and learn about the field. While at a summer internship with Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, he discovered another means to pursue art through teaching, which gave him the skills necessary to succeed in his current role.
“I actually lived where [Georgia O’Keeffe] lived. I was a tour guide, so I had to learn everything I could about Georgia O’Keeffe, and then I taught people about it every day,” Fingerlin said. “I was lucky because it was a great experience for a whole summer.”
During his prospective college search, Fingerlin looked at art-focused schools such as the Sante Fe School of Art and Design and Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. However, the schools did not offer the high level of ceramics facilities that Fingerlin found at Colorado Mesa.
“I had already known since I was a senior in high school that I wanted to be a ceramic artist.”
“My mom convinced to come visit [CMU] because my sister was already going here. Once I saw the facilities up here, with the giant kiln, I decided this was the place for me. The rest is history,” Fingerlin said.
He says the art department professors have a special attention to student learning and development, and their high levels of experience also give students a diverse range of perspectives.
“We actually have internationally-known artists here, teaching us how to make art. I think that’s what really stands out to me, but it’s also personal care. They care about you on a one-on-one basis,” Fingerlin said.
After an application process and navigating multiple connections within the art department, Fingerlin took on the role of Student Art Director and spent the fall semester learning the logistics of running a gallery show. In the spring semester, he plans to relay his knowledge to younger art students as they prepare to display their work at student galleries. The shows take place at CMU and provide students with an educational opportunity to both display their work and learn to operate a gallery show.
“It’s focused around the students, first and foremost, whether it’s showing them who’s out there in the world, making art, or giving them a chance to exhibit themselves,” Fingerlin said. “The goal for the gallery in the spring semester is to give the students a chance to be the gallery curator. My personal goal is to become a teacher to the other students for the spring semester. You learn in the fall and then you teach in the spring.”
Fingerlin enjoys his position, but he also hopes to implement changes within the department, especially in regards to definition and structure. He hopes to have students turn in their work before a more concrete deadline for gallery shows, and he also hopes the gallery will take a turn toward more professionalism when showcasing student artwork.
“I am very grateful to the college for giving us the opportunity to have a gallery. It’s a great educational tool. That being said, I would also say a look at a better location would be a good change, as far as marketability. A storefront on Main Street would be better,” Fingerlin said, noting that it would improve attendance and student exposure.
He also hopes to change the role of Student Art Director and how new students are introduced to the position.
“When I came in, I was kind of blind. I was trained on how to take care of the gallery, but as far as the exact guidelines, there was never an understanding. I think one way to solve that would be a better definition of what this position is about,” Fingerlin said.
He says stricter deadlines for artist submissions for shows and exhibitions would also reduce stress and unnecessary hurry prior to gallery openings.
Fingerlin plans to attend graduate school after earning his bachelor’s degree. He hopes the future will hold a job as a professor, but his end goal for his career is to have his own studio and work full-time as an artist.
“Saying you want to be a ceramic artist and actually doing it are two very different things,” Fingerlin said. “I think in high school, Little Marcus was thinking, ‘I want to be a potter or a sculptor,’ and he didn’t realize the extreme amount of work it really takes. I think that’s what this place has taught me: how to actually be an artist, and what that is: showing up, making work, doing the grind.”
Fingerlin continues to work toward his degree and is currently preparing for a ceramics showcase of his own. Many of his projects are still in the beginning stages, but he has solid plans for his abstract pieces, including what he wants them to represent and how he hopes they will impact his audience. He holds an intense gratitude for the art department faculty for providing him with the knowledge and resources he needs to pursue his dreams.