Jessica Medeiros may have not known it at the time, but getting laid off from her job as was a blessing in disguise.
After working as a photographer for a company that went out of business, Medeiros was at a crossroads. She could go find another job, or she could pursue a career in art, a passion she had always held but had been detoured from its prospects by the fear of not being able to make a living in the field.
“I have always had to have a creative output. I did photography for a while and even created sculpted cakes, but it never seemed like enough for me,” she said. “My decision to obtain a bachelor’s degree and study art was derived from that need for creativity, but spurned on even more so by my desire to learn and better myself.”
“I decided that making a living as an artist is possible. I researched and discovered a variety of different careers that would allow me to thrive as a creator, while still being able to afford a living,” she added.
With that in mind, Medeiros made the leap and enrolled in the studio art program at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith in 2013.
Five years later, Medeiros says it’s one of the best decisions she’s ever made, after UAFS has helped give her an education to become a flourishing local artist.
“The professors are all extremely engaging, and now that we have the Windgate [Art & Design] building, we have access to our space and supplies and have more space to work, so we can expand on what we’re doing,” she said. “The program has expanded my horizons as an artist. There’s different things you have to learn, like how to curate a show, and I’ve been involved in almost every student show/exhibition that has been on campus for the past four years. Then I’ve also got to help install visiting artists’ work and meet the artists. It’s just been amazing.”
Medeiros’ opportunities at UAFS included painting a mural alongside other art students as part of The Unexpected, exhibiting her work in downtown Fort Smith, and practicing printmaking in the university’s letterpress studio. Through her work in the studio, she earned a scholarship to go to the Penland School of Arts and Crafts for a two-week printmaking course.
Her time in letterpress studios has led her to want to buy her own letterpress.
“Words have such a profound meaning to people, because that’s how we associate and communicate,” she said. “The old-school way of printing has more meaning with it. Combining it with imagery makes it visually more interesting.”
And even though she does worry about the feasibility of being a career artist, the studio art program has taught her how to market herself. Her capstone course tasked her with creating an electronic portfolio, an artist website, and business cards. Not only that, but she was also able to showcase art recently in the “Paint/Draw” pop-up exhibition at The Bakery District in Fort Smith.
“I received a good foundation for what to do after graduation, like how to market myself and applying to art shows,” she said. “Coming to school, not only have I gotten to explore more about art, I’ve gotten to learn a lot more about the business aspects of it. This program has propelled me forward. I definitely think I can make money now with the prints and different art that I do.”
For more information on Medeiros’ art, visit www.artistjlMedeiros.com or follow her on Instagram @artistjlMedeiros.