Public Engagement

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Public Engagement is about propelling students into real world situations that tap their creative potential. We work with community partners to solve and address real, complex problems in our project and problem-based courses. Utilizing project planning and best practice collaborative leadership models, our students take action as citizens, artists and designers. As a result, each student gains the entrepreneurial skills and confidence to directly impact their culture and society during and after college. Considered one of the first programs of its kind in an art school, MECA has been weaving this interdisciplinary and rewarding pedagogy into its curriculum for more than 25 years. Additionally, students can easily minor in Public Engagement as a complement to their major studio choice. Together, we learn the skills of co-creating, designing, building and activating our world to make it better for all.

Maine College of Art - Public Engagement from Maine College of Art on Vimeo.

MECA's 25-year history of Public Engagement partnerships is vast, deep, and diverse.  We are grateful for what we have learned and co-created with them.






In 1986, MECA was one of the first art schools in the country to launch a course that integrated art, real world problems, and community partners into its teaching curriculum.

Now, 25 years later, we are still at it.

The Public Engagement program at MECA has an extensive track record of solving problems and creating collaborative community partnerships. Under skilled and thoughtful leadership, the initiative has successfully implemented service-learning as a pedagogical tool. We utilize best practice partnership principles, reciprocity and guided project planning. Our faculty and staff are practitioners and leaders in the field, and have received numerous awards for their work. At MECA we do Public Engagement well, take it seriously and have an incredible lineage to boot.

Leadership Highlight include:

  • 1986 - 2001: Regina Kelly (Khenmo Drolma) created and led ART IN SERVICE
  • 1995: Priscilla Dreyman served as Director
  • 1996 - 1999: Liz Sinclair served as Director
  • 1999 - 2001: John Mangum served as Director
  • 2001 - 2007: Jennifer Christian created and led CREATIVE COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS
  • 2007 - 2012: Christina Bechstein, Elizabeth Jabar, Maryli Tieman, Erin Hutton, Kate Hassett, Jess Sheldon, Jennifer Livingston created and led PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT program
  • 2011: Public Engagement Minor Launch.



For more information please contact the Office of Public Engagement at 207.699.5064.


What is the Minor of Public Engagement?
A four-year curricular pathway that allows students to obtain a Minor in Public Engagement. Public Engagement Minors will gain experience working collaboratively with artists and organizations outside of studio practice.

Who’s It For?
Any MECA student who has successfully completed the First Year BFA Program or its equivalent and has achieved a 2.5 GPA or higher may apply to this program.

How does a Minor in Public Engagement help me to become a successful artist or designer?
Course work in Public Engagement prepares students for life after graduation. In a pre-professional setting, students learn skills for a variety of careers in self-actualized projects, organizations, art institutions, graduate study, and expanded notions of entrepreneurial studio practice.  This is accomplished by working on real projects, taking on real problems and interfacing with real community members through courses and the required internship and other experiences. The level of engagement, outcomes and processes that you will gain is exciting and somewhat boundary-less. As a Public Engagement Minor, you will be prepared to make your way in the world.

Our students have and are working as creative activators in, for, and with the world.

What are the learning outcomes?
They are vast and include but are not limited to:

  • Gain skill in working in interdisciplinary teams with multiple modes of art making /studio practice/methods in a project.
  • Learn project planning; identify tasks, timelines, goal setting and outcomes for their work, including identifying areas of challenge and creating action plans.
  • Learn professional communication skills and implement these skills throughout their course work, including public speaking, opening and closing a project, and conducting project assessment meetings with faculty and community partners.
  • Learn and practice reciprocity through facilitated conversational dialogue methods between student artist/designer and community partner.
  • Understand the importance of roles and perform their roles and responsibilities in a project team.
  • Learn the value and need of creative work and how art/artists contribute to the life of the community, and be able to define the role of the citizen artist/designer in the world.
  • Learn and be able to identify professional models of artists and practitioners in the field of art and public engagement/pubic art/collaboration/social practice and how these areas overlap with the major areas of concentration at MECA.
  • Learn how academic/studio course work is applied to a recognized community need.
  • Study and apply problem based project models and be able to identify the community partner needs that will be met in the project.
  • Learn about and participate in a community workshop model as part of the project; and invite community members and the MECA community to a collaborative, co-making, teaching experience.
  • Learn to work outside the institution in a variety of contexts, while engaging in opportunities to engage art practice as a creative problem solving act and skill.
  • Learn about and participate in collaborative practice and collaborative leadership models throughout their work while developing student leadership skills.
  • Build writing skills through project assignments, including presentations, project blogs, catalogs, and exhibitions.

How much time does it take?
The Public Engagement Minor means hard work, but the majority of classes can be woven into the major, allowing the minor to be completed as an integrated part of the major, at no additional cost.

I want to partner with MECA’s Public Engagement Program, who do I contact?
Please contact us in the Office of Public Engagement at 207.699.5064.