After graduating from OSU Institute of Technology’s School of Visual Communications in 1992, Dana Jones spent the next 13 years working at design firms and advertising agencies big and small before leaving her commercial art career behind.
“I got married and decided to take a break from working. I still did freelance every once in a while, but I focused on raising my family,” Jones said.
Three years ago she decided she wanted to pursue art again, this time on her terms so she enrolled at Rogers State University with plans to pursue a bachelor of fine arts degree.
“I didn’t have confidence in my skills, I thought I would really have to work to keep up, but I found I was setting the curve,” she said. “After being back in the classroom I realized I already had what I needed.”
Jones has opened her own studio in Broken Arrow is now a full time artist. Her first gallery show at her alma mater opened Tuesday night in the Conoco Gallery in the Student Union and her pieces will be on display, and available to buy, through Oct. 30.
James McCullough, dean of the School of Visual Communications, said gallery shows on campus are a nice opportunity to showcase how alumni have transitioned from commercial artists to fine artists.
“Art was always their passion. They took that passion and were able to turn it into a career,” McCullough said. “People put our students and alumni into a box— they’re designers, not artists. What do they think designers are? Both demand creativity, both demand artistry.”
Jones said she’s always been an artist and took every art class available up through high school. She enrolled in OSUIT after talking with co-workers, friends and employers who praised the Graphic Design program.
“With years of working in graphic design and advertising, I learned a lot about business practices that were outside of the art aspect of my job. As a small-business owner, to understand the importance of branding and marketing and having a cohesive design, that’s something the graphic design program prepared me to do that most fine art programs don’t. I still have a very high regard for the program,” she said.
McCullough hopes other students see the opportunities a Visual Communications degree opens to them, both commercially and artistically.
“It’s great to show our alumni off and let students see here’s the possibilities and here’s what you can do with your art,” he said. “The skills we teach our students to help other people and their clients, they can then turn around and do that for themselves.”
For Jones, it’s been a nice change to create works just for herself.
“The freedom of expression. I have complete autonomy in my work. In commercial art, you’re looking to fix a problem for a client. Fine art is open to what I want to do,” she said, but she’s glad she took the path that took her through OSUIT first. “It’s very hard to make a living as a fine artist. If having a steady income is what you want or need, study graphic design or photography or computer animation.”