Fine Arts Student on Her Love of Art and Her Columbia Experience

Aleida Zapata talks about access to fine art and expanding her craft through embracing new technologies

Aleida Zapata has been in love with art since she was able to hold a pencil. Now a Fine Arts major at Columbia College Chicago set to graduate in 2022, she tells us how open access to free galleries in her hometown of Houston, Texas helped expand her appreciation for fine art leading her to pursue an education and career in the field, and about her Columbia experience.

When and how did you come to know that you wanted to study Fine Arts?  

I have always loved art ever since I could hold a pencil, I would just spend all my time drawing anything I could. I began drawing portraits very early on and just continued to do that as I grew up. Once I got older, I was able to visit museums and learn more about art. Growing up in Houston I had access to a lot of free galleries like the Menil Collection, and the Rothko Chapel, as well as the Museum of Fine Arts to help introduce me to contemporary and fine art and it helped me expand my understanding of what art could be and the art that I wanted to make. By the time I was 16, I knew that I wanted to be involved in fine art one way or another but didn’t truly decide to become an artist until I started college back in Houston.  ​ 

Why did you decide to study at Columbia? What has been your experience at Columbia so far?  

I came to Columbia honestly just to test the waters. I didn’t really know if school was for me for a while, but I knew that if I wanted to be challenged artistically, I would need to. I had friends that came to Columbia after we had graduated high school and they had been telling me about the work they were doing and what they were learning. All these ideas and technologies were things that I didn’t know existed and that excited me. I just threw myself at every new idea that I didn’t understand but found interesting, that has been the most challenging and rewarding thing about my Columbia experience. Having access to these materials and technologies, as well as all the great professors I have had, shifted my art practice from being strictly drawings to mainly digital sculpture.  

Are you a part of any student groups?

I am member of SoFA (Students of Fine Arts) here on campus. With SoFA we do a lot of things centering around fine art and the fine arts community at Columbia. We do studio visits, have artist talks, and talk about our own work and each other’s. It’s a great way to build a community with likeminded artists who share your passion. 

Please tell us about some of your favorite projects you have been involved with as well as any projects you are currently working on.   

I think my favorite project was for my 3D modeling class last spring where I got to really experiment with digital sculpture which led to the series of digital work that I am currently working on.  

What advice do you have for prospective students or students who want to study Fine Arts?  

Talk to your professors! They are great resources and if you want to explore something outside of class, they will help you push yourself!  

What are your plans for after graduation?   

As of right now, I am planning to do work as a preparator in museums and galleries around the city. As a preparator, I get the chance to install artwork and exhibitions, but my favorite part of it is getting to see great art out of the context of viewing it within a gallery or museum and being able to place it in that context. I also plan on getting a studio with a friend to continue my own practice and explore new ideas. 

Anything else you would like people to know?  

You can find some of my work on Instagram @aaleileida.   



Daisy Franco
Communications Manager