Many local artists turn to platforms like Art After Dark to display their work once a month for the public to see. But some Cal Poly students take to Instagram, an endless exhibition, to grow their network, community and artistic confidence – and for a select few, even their resume.

“Artstagrams” are a tool to network and sell artwork for students like art and design sophomore Lauryn Sugai. Sugai began sharing her work on her “Artstagram,” @laurynsugaiart, in 2018 after a professor encouraged her to try reaching a broader audience.

Since then, Sugai said she has received messages from students hoping to commission work and brands such as Kate Spade. According to Sugai, her Instagram landed her artwork a place to display at Kuma, a Los Osos sushi and ramen restaurant. She said the opportunity has been her most exciting and humbling chance to date. 

“This is a huge opportunity,” Sugai said. “One hears about networking opportunities, but the fact that he saw my pictures and reached out was really amazing.”

As an artist himself, Kuma’s Kitchen Manager Jerry Appling said that he and his boss, Brian Englund, wanted to show appreciation for the talent of the San Luis Obispo community. 

“A piece of art can move a person in ways they can’t articulate,” Appling said. “We [at Kuma] respect the power of art and want to have that represented in our vibe at Kuma for all to see.” 

Art and design sophomore Olivia Andersson is concentrating in studio art said that her “Artstagram” helped her grow more comfortable with the vulnerability of sharing her art with an audience. 

“Since having this account, I’ve felt so happy showing my art to the world no matter what size the community of viewers is,” Andersson said. “It’s helped me form a kind of portfolio and guide me in discovering my own style and aesthetic as an art student.” 

Andersson said she also uses her art account for bonding with fellow artists at Cal Poly and around the globe. 

“This account shows me how each artist’s work is so incredibly different from my own and inspires me to explore new realms of the art world,” Andersson said. “It keeps me connected with the bigger picture and with my classmates who also have accounts.”

Anderssson described her account as her own exhibit to curate herself, similarly to how art and design junior Kat Schroeder put it.

“I realized I needed an online presence and an easy way to show people my portfolio, and Instagram was a free space with a built-in audience,” Schroeder said. “[It] lets me see how others are creating and marketing their art, lets me ask questions and give advice, provides a sense of community and gives me a lot of inspiration for my own work.”  

Art and design students said their social media presence are ways to document and motivate artistic processes. 

“No matter where you go to school, even if you’re at an art school, it’s very difficult to enter into a field that is so saturated with work,” Sugai said. “Everyone can make art, so it’s really difficult trying to make yourself stand out.”

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