ShopColumbia thrives with students, Chicagoans

By Thomas Pardee

A month after opening its doors, Columbia’s latest effort to help spread homegrown artwork across the campus and city is thriving, organizers said.

ShopColumbia, the recently opened boutique located on the first floor of the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave., sells a variety of work created by current Columbia students and faculty. Since its launch on Oct. 16 as part of the college’s “Talk the Walk” curatorial tour, its managers said it has attracted attention from both students and Chicagoans at large.

“We’re getting a lot of foot traffic,” said Anna Mary LeBlanc, ShopColumbia’s coordinator. “A lot of the smaller items like greeting cards, jewelry, purses, scarves and hats have sold well. But at the same time we’ve gotten people that are not from the Columbia community purchase some of the larger items, like framed prints, loose prints and other photographs.”

Students from many departments are actively using or factoring it into their plans for future projects.

Kelly Schulz, a sophomore fine arts major, said ShopColumbia serves as an artistic inspiration for her, and already has her thinking more practically about her own marketability.

“I’m going to bring in a disk of my artwork and see if it’s what they’re looking for. I think ShopColumbia is an awesome idea.”

Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs, said the public’s response to the shop has exceeded his expectations.

“[The shop] has come together so quickly and been so well-received,” Kelly said. “I think over time it’s going to become a destination on campus.”

LeBlanc said the store has encountered fewer problems than expected. She said within six months she hopes the store will have ironed out its “behind-the-scenes” hang-ups, like its cumbersome computer database that tracks sales and payments.

Kelly said the store serves as a way for students to understand the market and even as a focal point for those outside the Columbia  community to understand the college.

“What are these crazy art students doing? What do they create? It’s a way to provide a public presence and to boost public interaction,” Kelly said.

LeBlanc said few other stores like ShopColumbia exist.

“We’re one of the only stores that shows currently enrolled students’ work that isn’t produced for a class,” LeBlanc said. “We’re helping the students from a business perspective, instead of just a production perspective. This is how you market your work to galleries and price for audience. This is how you package your goods.”

VIDEO: ShopColumbia

Video by Thomas Pardee