UNO art student’s journey from Columbia to Omaha

Photo by Adriana Montano

Will Patterson

Adriana Montano, a University of Nebraska at Omaha student majoring in studio art, describes her path to becoming an artist as “nonlinear.”

“It has not been a linear path,” Montano said. “I think a lot of us haven’t had a linear path into art.”

Montano has had a unique journey that has led her to Omaha. She was born and spent most of her childhood in the South American country of Columbia. Her family had to flee the country as political refugees due to an increasingly dangerous situation surrounding her family’s political careers.

Despite her father’s decision to send her and her siblings across the world, Montano remained relatively unaware of present dangers in Columbia.

“My parents really sheltered me from that, which is nice, because you don’t really want to know that as a child,” Montano said.

When Montano was 14 and 15 years old, she lived in Europe with her aunt and uncle who lived near Brussel, Belgium. Her experiences here helped spark her artistic interest.

“My eyes were opened to the world outside of my little bubble,” Montano said. “Wherever you look in Europe, there’s statues and murals and whole different worlds so close to each other.”

After spending several formative years in Europe, removed from formal education, she came to Florida with her family.

The lost years of education did little to slow Montano’s success in the U.S. She was surprised with how well her Columbian education prepared her for the American education system. While Montano felt she was a “C” student in Columbia, she discovered her potential as an “A” student in America.

Montano attributes her success to a few different factors. These include discovering an academic drive after being moved around and how much easier American schools were.

“I already knew all the math and sciences when I came here. The level was so behind here,” Montano said.

After high school, she planned on attending a university and was even offered a full-ride opportunity through a Florida university, but her family was fearful of letting Montano live on her own. Her family’s experience with past violence and threats cultivated a belief that she should stay close to home after graduating high school.

Ultimately, she attended a nearby community college to rack up general education credits before moving to Washington, D.C. for work.

After finding her way to Omaha, Montano found the man she would eventually marry before beginning her education at UNO. Here, she has become an active participant in the arts community.

Last week, Montano participated in a show at KANEKO, which gave student artists a chance to demonstrate their evolving talents. Her groups walked away with a silver prize for designing, researching and developing a brand design for a hypothetical hard candy.

Montano praised the speakers at KANEKO that emphasized the importance of diversity in all artistic fields.

In the future, Montano sees herself at her dream job—creating art for organizations dedicated to political causes. Previously, she worked at Planned Parenthood because she believes their cause is worth supporting.

Activism is an integral part of Montano’s past artwork, and she hopes to continue that theme throughout the rest of her career.

“We have a choice to create art that influences the masses. It takes one poster, one sticker, one post to go viral,” Montano said. “And you never know who sees it or who you’re going to inspire.”