TMW talks to local artist about life after college

By Tom Poulos

To gain some insight on what art
students face after graduation, The Mac Weekly’s Thomas Poulos talked to Michael DeGidio, recent graduate of St. Mary’s
University of Minnesota, where he double majored in Art Studio and Graphic Design.

The Mac Weekly: So what made you want to be an art major?

Mikey DeGidio: What made me wanna be an art major? Um…during my junior and senior year of high school I didn’t really know what I was good at yet. Everyone was into sports and into other things. I didn’t really now what my calling was, as I like to think of it. I had this art teacher named Miss J who was fantastic and she said just express yourself and do it through art and I found that I was actually pretty good at it. I took a photography class and a painting class and found that I was really good at it and everyone was complimenting me on how good and creative I was. I remember we had one project where we had to take a popsicle stick and make it into something and I made it into an Eiffel Tower. I broke up all the little pieces and I took a week of taking little splinters and putting them together and it turned out to be so cool. I dunno, I’ve always remembered that I can take something and make it into something great and really creative.

I went to a really small private high school in the East Side of Saint Paul and there wasn’t any budget for anything. And then I got to college and I checked out their art department and their art department was fantastic. And they had tons of material and you could do whatever you wanted. And I took a bunch of art classes my freshmen year and thought, maybe I’m gonna look at college as exploring my creativity. And that’s something that I took and I ran with it
You know, I was gonna be a business major. My dad was like, Why don’t you just get your business major and take over the family restaurant (that we own in downtown Saint Paul). So I rook explored my creativity and I went with it and I ran with it and it’s something that I’m really glad that I did.

TMW: What kind of art do you specialize in?

MD: Everyone always asks me that and I really don’t have an answer because I like it all. I like printmaking, I like ceramics. I’ve never really found any art that I’ve really disliked or not enjoyed doing.

I’m not a strong drawer.person that draws, I hate that word. But it’s definitely something I want to improve on. I think that as an artist you’re gonna know your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to art. Definitely my weak point is drawing. It’s just tough for me but it’s something that I want to overcome and it’s something that I want to put into a good form in my own way. I tend to be a little bit of a perfectionist.I’m not a bad drawer but it’s definitely not my best.

TMW: Is there a form you think you are stronger at than others?

MD: I really like photography. I really like to paint. I think my photography and my painting are a little bit more contemporary, a little bit more abstract, something that will sell on the market today because we’re in this world of contemporary art and bright colors and bright things that can send a message in a more indirect way, rather than a portrait or something along those lines.

TMW: How has your relationship with art changed since you’ve graduated?

MD: Well, I just don’t have the resources for it I guess. I’ve been out of college for over a year now and I guess it’s just tough when you get out of college because in college your resources are right there. You can go to the studio whenever you want. You can do whatever you want when you want. And when you graduate from college it’s taken away from you. And art supplies are not cheap. They are not anything that someone just out of college who is working a restaurant job wants to go and buy.

I think that my relationship with art has not mentally changed but on a more physical, “am I doing it as much as I should be?” way, yes it has. But I won’t forget the techniques and the tools that I learned in college. I won’t let that go.

TMW: Do you feel like the techniques and skills you learned in college have helped you in other ways?

MD: I think that when I started college I wanted to explore my creativity. I definitely did through art but also think it’s reflected me in an on-the-job way, in an every day way. I think it’s helped me think outside of the box. I work in a restaurant, and it’s a brand new restaurant. And I’ve done some things that they like and that they use. I set up the tables and every time I set up the table I picture it as a piece of art. I would love to bring in a camera every time I bus a table because every time I bus a table it’s different. There are glasses and there are napkins and there are sugar packets and there are all these different kinds of things. I think it’d be cool to make a coffee table book of dirty tables and just take pictures of all the different kinds of dirty tables and see what kinds of messes they have. It’s so crazy how people leave things the way that they do. It’s just really cool.

TMW: What kind of advice would you give to an art major about to graduate?

MD: Don’t let it go. Just because you don’t have the resources like you do in college, don’t let your creativity slip away. As you get older and as you get further and further away from college and the years pass on just always remember that you are an art graduate. It’s something that you and others should always respect. Art is so many different things. It’s from putting your clothes on in the morning to the way you comb your car to the outfit you pick. There are so many different forms of art. It’s not just putting paint on a canvass or snapping a picture through a camera. There are so many different levels of art.

TMW: Do you hope to have a career related to art?

MD: I would like to just be an artist, but there’s just no money. I know that if you do choose to go into the art world and become an artist.if you decide to take your career with the art world, then you’re career as an artist doesn’t really begin until 35 or 40. I need to make money until then. And some day.well right now I think I’m taking a little break. Some day I would like to have a job where I make money and then make art on the side. It’s not something I want to have my career be but it’s always something that I wanna be passionate about and something that I always wanna do on the side.And if it sells, then it sells and if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. Maybe some day when I pass on it’ll be something good. Most famous artists become famous after they die.

TMW: Would you like to become famous?

MD: I think it would be cool to become a famous artist. I think there are a lot of crazy artists out there and I think I could bring something different to the table. My art professor-the head of the art department where I went to college-he respected me very much because I thought outside the box but I always brought a stable mind of creativity to the table.

TMW: What do you say to people you say art is a useless major that won’t make you any money?

MD: I didn’t do it because I wanted to make a lot of money today. I did it because it’s something that I loved and something that I was very passionate about and something that I wanted to do more and more. I think in college you should do something that you believe in and that you’re passionate about. I think someone that’s very interested in biology should love biology because it’s what they’re gonna do for the rest of they’re life.
TMW: Do you think it’s necessarily for the rest of their life?
MD: Well, not necessarily for the rest of their life. But it’s definitely a degree. You know, I talk to my uncle all the time and he still to this day-he’s 45-and he still gets asked what his major is. So I think that it reflects who you are and what you are in a sense. Not completely, but it has a certain representation in your life.

TMW: Anything else?

MD: I could talk about where the art world is today
. Everything is so-not just painting and photography and that kind of stuff, but fashion and music and all of the arts-everything is just so quick these days. If you wanna be good you have to stick. I think its very hard today and this past can climb to the top of the latter quick but you can fall down as fast as you got up. It’s very competitive. There are a lot of people out there who are struggling artists and there are a lot of well-funded artists. It’s just crazy to think about how many people are out there really do love art.