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Art provides a platform for conversation and conversation is vital in the beginning to change the world.
Kat Miller, a senior in MECA’s Photography Program, has been working on a series entitled On the Cusp of Womanhood. Her work is featured in Girls, Interrupted, a three-day, all-female exhibition in London presenting uncensored works of illustration, photography, paintings, and sculptures created by 19 stereotype-defying artists, from underground and emerging art scenes all over the world. The exhibit is hosted by Creative Debuts, a platform for emerging artists that seeks to make art more accessible.
Kat’s photography uses dreamy colors to examine the juxtaposition between adulthood and child-like youthfulness. She seeks to capture young women’s tensions in themes of abilities and nostalgia for youth, as well as an idealistic perfect world.
“If women will not be given a place in art, we will create our own. This is our space, for women to show completely uninterrupted.” —Florence Given, Curator
The following Q & A with Kat is reposted from Brick Magazine.
How/do you think art can change the world?
Art provides a platform for conversation and conversation is vital in the beginning to change the world. With social media, art can now spread across the globe in a matter of minutes. We are currently able to see artists creating from their own experiences that are entirely different from our own; that to me is so powerful. It is our job to try and understand the different experiences that we may not be able to relate too. Art is a beautiful way of bringing these different experiences together.
What are your hopes and dreams for 2018?
My biggest hope for the New Year is to become more connected with the feminine energy that surrounds all of us. I want to travel and connect with other artists from all over the world. And of course, read some good books and drink more water!
The following Q & A with Kat is reposted from Refinery29
What are the main themes in your art?
I’m very interested in the juxtaposition between stepping into adulthood while remaining youthful and childlike. My photos attempt to capture the tension young women feel from their inability to sexualize their body without remaining childish and their nostalgia for their idealistic fantasy of a more perfect, virtuous world.
Tell me a bit about your piece on show…
For a couple of years, I was photographing my three best friends while they were in their last year of secondary school. I was struggling with the idea of becoming a woman when I still wanted to bathe [in] the girlhood I had created. When we all moved away from each other, I began photographing acquaintances. It was time to introduce new perspectives of womanhood into my work. I met with the beautiful Zahara on an early summer morning. Before this particular photo was taken, we had been talking and becoming more comfortable around each other. I had her lay on the grass to display her curves in an unconventional way. This was the photograph that felt like a new direction in my work. I am only in the beginning of navigating this transition.
How much does your gender feed into the work you do?
My art tends to be a personal navigation of what being a woman means to me. I am certainly in the transition between girlhood and womanhood and it often feels confusing. I want to be a woman but more than ever am realising how magical being a young girl was. My work often allows me to create a space where I have both of those things.
What does having your art uncensored mean to you?
How free I am to be a woman who is photographing other women without male restrictions. It creates more vulnerability for both myself as the creator and for the person who is willing and wanting to be photographed.
“I think people can be shocked to see artists making work about women that isn’t for the purpose of the male gaze”.
Why do you think art for and by women still has the power to provoke shock?
I think people can be shocked to see artists making work about women that isn’t for the purpose of the male gaze. Women are so often manipulated for consumers, to sell a product or appeal to specific ideals. Women making art about the taboos of womanhood are only shocking to those who refuse to accept these ‘taboos’ as normal and beautiful.
Why do you think there’s a need for all-female art shows?
They’re so powerful and needed after centuries of male-driven art scenes. However, having a strong collaboration between all genders in the art world is equally as important.
Do you think now is an exciting time for women in the art world?
Absolutely. Now more than ever, women are beginning to feel more comfortable to stand up for themselves and many female artists are taking powerful and effective stances through their art.
View more of Kat’s work here.
I have a moment of happiness, whether it’s a student finally getting what value is, or seeing their reactions to new materials during a demonstration, that’s when I’m surprised— it’s an amazing feeling and a constant reminder that I made the right choice in becoming a teacher.
As the Master of Arts in Teaching program enters its sixth year, recent graduates have begun their careers working side by side with seasoned alumni. Fern Tavalin, Department Chair, posed several questions to Ceri Nichols ’15 and Emily Rupe ’17 to find out what it has been like for them. Their written responses tell a compelling story.
1. Tell me a little bit about your teaching job.
We teach at Greely High School, which is located in Cumberland, Maine and serves both Cumberland and North Yarmouth residents. The school has about 675 students, and the two of us make up the art faculty for the high school. Ceri is full time and teaches Foundations of Art, Painting, IB Visual Art 1 & 2, AP Studio Art and Art II. Emily is part time and teaches Foundations of Art, Art II, and Digital Art and Photography. We both have advisories that all meet together on a daily basis, and Emily is the advisor of Art Club and Photography Club. Our department is a unique one that consists of Visual art, Music, Theatre, Health, PE and Special Ed. We meet on a bi-weekly basis to discuss school wide information as well as our discipline-specific issues. Our rooms are rarely empty, even when we have prep time.
We have a block schedule that consists of four 84 minute classes. Most classes consist of some sort of demonstration or introduction, often connecting to art history or contemporary art, studio time, and sometimes critique. We both teach Foundations of Art and Art II, and have worked to create a shared curriculum that ties directly to the Maine Learning Results. Something that we both enjoy, in addition to structured objectives, is the ability to make the curriculum our own. Most of the projects that our students complete in those classes result in a very similar product, but the process of implementing these lessons is where we are able to be creative and flexible. In these classes, we teach through the Elements of Art and Principles of Design and a variety of media including drawing, painting, printmaking, clay, and mixed media.
2. To what degree was being an MAT from MECA considered in your hiring?
Ceri: The art teacher on the hiring team was in close connection with Kelly McConnell, who played a big part in the recommendation process. MECA has a great reputation when it comes to preparing their teacher candidates for jumping into a teaching job. One of the things I was told really helped my application and interview was the visual aid I created and brought for the team which highlighted work I had done throughout the 10 month MAT program and included my teaching philosophy.
Emily: Ceri was on the hiring committee in search of a new art teacher last year. Kelly McConnell offered recommendations for MECA alums which made a big difference, especially when it came down to finding a teacher that shared the same educational philosophy and background. Knowing that we had the same background felt great, because it gave us something to connect with but also because in such a small department, making decisions together is inevitable and having similar experiences gives us an automatic team mentality.
Ceri: I was also just really excited by how organized Emily is, I knew we would get along!
3. What are some things from your experience at MECA that you found helpful as a beginning teacher?
Concrete observation was something we learned how to do in the Summer Institute with Fern and it has come in handy when reporting on students’ progress and accommodation success for their IEP or 504 meetings. Our prior knowledge and comfort regarding concrete observations is something that will also be beneficial when Greely begins the peer mini-observation process this spring, where teachers will be observing their colleagues and offering feedback that is tied directly to the Danielson Framework.
Ceri : When writing a standards based curriculum from scratch, having the experience in planning units and scope and sequence development has been great. It’s given me the confidence to think big picture, and make decisions, and I’ve really grown to enjoy it. In addition to that, creating standards based rubrics is coming quite naturally to me now that I’ve had years of experience doing it, starting with MECA.
Mentorship during student teaching has been a great resource as a new teacher. We both have used our mentors to help us through the beginning stages of starting our careers. They’ve been so helpful with problem solving and advice. We still think of them often.
Ceri: Photo Documentation is a wonderful habit to have in the classroom. It helps with reflection, and is really great with jogging my memory when I’ve gotten lost in the whirlwind of the school year. It also helps to have photos when yearbook asks you for them, and when we have our Tribute to the Arts day and show a slideshow of our students and their work.
4. What is it like for you to mentor/be mentored by a fellow MECA alum? Are there some aspects of your training that make it easier to talk to each other?
Ceri: It’s great to know the same local resources and share some of the same experiences from the program. Working with someone who has the training in standards based learning is great because it is such a significant part of what we’re doing right now at our school. I also think that learning to look at teaching as an ever-changing process that only gets better with reflection is really great. It makes the environment feel easy and challenging all at the same time. Like we’re both ok with adjusting and reflecting and growing. It makes it fun.
Emily: The MAT program really stressed the importance of collaboration and maintaining a team-work mentality, and the fact that both of us have that skillset and interest is something that has made working together really enjoyable. I think that our communication surrounding both summative and formative assessment that is directly tied to standards is very clear, and Ceri has been really helpful in mentoring me as I entered the dual grading system that Greely uses. This is a huge transition in terms of assessment for the HS this year, but I feel confident in my grading because of my education and Ceri’s shared knowledge.
5. Describe any surprises about teaching that you may have. (Your chance to brag about you and your students regardless of MECA education)
Ceri: For me, when I’m in the middle of my day, surrounded by students, supplies, emails, and to-do lists and I have a moment of happiness, whether it’s a student finally getting what value is, or seeing their reactions to new materials during a demonstration, that’s when I’m surprised- like “this is my job?” or “am I really getting paid to do this?” It’s an amazing feeling and a constant reminder that I made the right choice in becoming a teacher. One of my fears was losing the time to make my own art, and yes at times (like any time in May) it’s impossible to fit it in, but even just making example pieces can feel really good. And the students’ work is inspiring! I get a lot of ideas from them. Plus, teenagers are just great, most of the time.
Emily: Everyday I’m surprised by how much my students are teaching me, things like a new perspective to offer when demonstrating materials or content, or the best way to facilitate them towards achieving success within the classroom. Some of my students are so passionate about art or eager to incorporate their own interests into their artmaking. They’re introducing me to tools and techniques to plan and make art with that I would not have automatically included in my classes – like programs to create digital illustrations with, or ways to merge civil engineering computer programs with ceramics and watercolors. I’ve just embraced this role of being a co-learner, and it’s definitely helping to improve my connections with students in the now, and will absolutely be guiding my planning and instruction in the future.
Masthead image: Ceri Nichols ’15, left and Emily Rupe ’17, right.
I'm hoping the students will feel empowered by seeing the value of their artistry
Most students graduate from MECA’s Master of Arts in Teaching Program and seek traditional employment as elementary or high school art teachers. Leonetta “Lia” Petriccione MAT ’15 had other ventures in mind. After substitute teaching in her home state of Montana, Lia joined the Peace Corps. Following a rigorous screening process, she found herself teaching at the Wa School for the Deaf in a rural area in the far north of Ghana in West Africa. Lia’s own entrepreneurial spirit, deepened through her MAT Alternative Settings coursework and the values of MECA’s Artists at Work Program, has reinforced a practical component to her teaching. She sees potential in the vocational program, and her goal is to help realize its business potential.
Letter from Ghana by Lia Petriccione MAT ’15
”Things are going well at my new school! I teach both primary art and the vocational home economics class. When I arrived here, I was happy to see they had a solid vocational program up and running. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I was asked to come here and teach art at the primary level. I do, but I also saw a lot of potential in the vocational department and I wanted to get involved.”
“There is a group of students who weave traditional Kente cloth and then the sewing class makes bags and dresses with it. They also embroider beautiful tablecloths. Their work is of really high quality. Sadly, their crafts have been sitting in storage.”
“I saw potential for this to become an income-generating project. The school owns a container store right outside of the gate. We are currently working with the headmaster to have it cleaned out and prepared as a roadside shop to sell the student work. We are recruiting the technical skills class to make a sign for the store as well. I have reached out to fellow Peace Corps volunteers and sold a few items through them. At some point, I hope the sales network expands even further. I’m thinking about writing a grant to build them a new vocational building. The space they are using is not large enough to store their products and work at the same time.”
“People who are deaf face big challenges in Ghana, especially women. To support sustainable capacity, I’m also planning a Let Girls Learn leadership camp for the deaf. I’m hoping the students will feel empowered by seeing the value of their artistry. Having a source of income and pride in work allows for independence and a brighter future.”
Header Image: Grace with Lia Petriccione MAT ’15
Elizabeth A. Jabar wrote “If You Want Creative Solutions, Start with Creative Partnerships” for Maine Audubon’s Habitat Winter 2018 issue. Read the entirety of her article here via PDF.
Elizabeth serves as Chair of the Printmaking Program at MECA, where she is also Associate Dean and Director of Public Engagement. She is a feminist printmaker who explores a range of personal-political issues in her work, including cultural identity, representation, equity, and maternal ethics.
“If You Want Creative Solutions, Start with Creative Partnerships”
How does art facilitate advocacy?
How might the citizen activist and the citizen artist work together to help us all be more effective in achieving our goals for the planet?
Can the experience and symbolic gestures brought about by art transform the world?
These questions are at the core of the Public Engagement program at Maine College of Art, and they guide our partnership work in the community. From the beginning of MECA’s partnership with Maine Audubon, it was clear that our two organizations hold shared values, including inspiring and empowering leaders, activists, and messengers focused on addressing pressing issues. The “citizen activist” and the “citizen, artist, designer” are critical to successful advocacy and education.
Contemporary artists are working in the studio, the classroom, and the community. Within these contexts, artists are building platforms for public engagement, dialogue, and social change. Essential to this work is building long-term relationships and connecting our art practice to the larger concerns of the world. By extending the campus into the community, we facilitate opportunities for students to co-create socially engaged art projects with new communities. In this framework, students begin to see how the practice of artists and designers is expansive and dynamic, and how the way we work and where we work is evolving.
This fall, students in Professor Michel Droge’s Public Engagement courses Nature Lab and Field Guide to a New World collaborated with Maine Audubon to research local conservation and environmental issues. They studied the role of the artist as cultural mirror, maker, and activist. Students produced prints and books that use the tradition of combining fine art and scientific research. The handmade field guides pay homage to the legacy of John James Audubon, Henry David Thoreau, Winslow Homer, and others in their use of illustration, field documentation, and writing to capture and reflect nature. The block prints echo the style and technique of Russian and Chinese propaganda posters while delivering calls to action on behalf of environmental issues.
For the students in these classes, this space of discovery and questioning was nurtured through active field study and research in the landscape. “Students learn to engage with the land to understand things on a visceral level,” says Droge. “They experience the environment directly and feel it. It’s not an abstract concept. They see how their work can aid the institutions we work with and enhance the work they do. As a result, they see the issues and the solutions and their impact. That’s an amazing form of activism. Once they feel that, they never lose it.”
Ours is a timely partnership. When I consider the scale of human need and global uncertainty right now, I ask, “What is the role of the artist and the value of creativity in the ever-changing landscape marked by profound human need, environmental crisis, and rapid social political change?” I believe the answer is in the question — that it is through creative action that it is possible to solve the world’s most pressing needs. To accomplish this work, we need artists everywhere.
MECA student Matanah Betko ‘20 suggests that “it is important for the artist to present an idea for moving forward. It’s not hard to make people feel bad, but is very difficult to make people move.” Adding artists into the equation opens up unseen possibilities, because artists bring creative processes and new models of thinking into problem-solving. These new models shift perception through active participation, social experience, and experimentation. By working collaboratively, student artists and community partners forge the authentic relationships that are necessary for making real, lasting social change.
Within this framework, we can see the power of collective action and awaken our creativity to solve real-world problems. This “co-creation model” amplifies the social aspect of socially engaged art by making work with, by, and for others. It guides all our work in the Public Engagement Program. Working collaboratively to address complex issues requires us to take our time, be reflective, and be deliberate. These conditions support the mutual goals of facilitating social action while also creating space for the questioning and mystery inherent in both artmaking and nature.
Maine College of Art and Maine Audubon have a shared view of Maine as a place of natural beauty, and a source of inspiration and inquiry. Our common task of expressing the value of the local, as well as a serious commitment to repairing the world we share, brings the heart of our partnership into sharp focus: we can realize the long-term goals of conservation and stewardship of all aspects of our community through strong partnership.
Strong partnerships are similar to a thriving ecology. They require attention and care of the interrelationships within an environment, and an ability to see the totality of relations, guided by reciprocity and inclusivity. As caretakers of our environment and community, we must bring this way of seeing and being into all aspects of our lives. As MECA student Renee Michaud ‘20 explains, “I can step back and see the whole picture and recognize that I play a part. This feeling is similar to when I am making a painting and all the little pieces of paint combine to evoke a form. We are all contributing to the palette, and together we create a better composition.”
Collective action with our networks and communities is necessary to take on complex challenges and develop strategies for purposeful innovation and social change. There is a great need for artists and citizens who are willing to create spaces of risk where we can reach across boundaries and build bridges to imagine our collective future. My classroom is where I begin.
Article and photography reposted from Maine Audubon. Photographer: Ariana van den Akker/Maine Audubon.
Art is a form of empowerment, solidarity, and a means to find peace in this world.
While most graduates prefer teaching jobs in PK-12 schools, Matt Braun had a different idea. He chose to move to Mumbai, India to begin his career at Ascend International School, an interactive laboratory for learning that reflects many of the same values as the MAT Program: inquiry, high expectations, community of learners, collaboration, and an appreciation for cultural richness.
Matt enjoys his position at Ascend, but is especially passionate about his afterschool volunteer work at the Dharavi Art Room. Dharavi is a neighborhood in Mumbai that has been labeled the largest “slum” in Asia with over one million people living in less than a square mile. The Art Room provides a safe place for children to play, learn and express themselves. They explore personal and neighborhood issues through artistic mediums, widening the communication between disparate groups within the larger community.
What better way of promoting the mission of the Dharavi Art Room than through printmaking? That’s where Matt and his artistry come in! Matt has spent his adult life as a printmaker and art activist. Having facilitated printmaking projects with students in Nepal prior to enrolling at MECA, he deepened his knowledge of teaching and learning while completing the MAT program. The college’s value of community engagement shines in Matt’s activism.
Printmaking, the process of creating multiples, has a long history of making art accessible to all and spreading it to the masses. During an upcoming project, children from the Art Room will explore printmaking as a way to share their own thoughts and stories. Each child will learn about the printmaking processes, explore mono-printing and create their own original linoleum relief prints that will result in a group exhibition. They also hope to put together a book documenting the workshop and the artwork created during this project.
Matt would like to assemble printmaking kits for the Dharavi Art Room that include linoleum plates, water based inks, carving tools, brayers and other materials for the workshop. To achieve this goal, he has stablished a funding site to help defray costs. Funds will also be used to help support a group art show where the children will be able to exhibit their artwork.
I never anticipated how much my college students would love going to a place that felt like a home and a family. They missed being surrounded by older, nurturing elders… The exhibition was a beautiful mix of wheelchairs, walkers, and wild hairstyles. The way our communities came together in this class and exhibit was phenomenal.
Article originally published in The Cedars Magazine.
Local Art Students and Seniors at The Cedars Fore a Connection Through Art
“Where can I be an aging artist?”
“Where can I be true to myself”
Kelly McConnell, an artist-educator at MECA, found herself pondering these questions while observing an Opening Minds Through Art (OMA) session at The Cedars.
OMA, led by artist-in-residence Pamela Moulton, is an innovative intergenerational art therapy program that allows seniors with dementia to create, and communicate, with abstract art while training physical therapy students at the University of New England for careers in elder care. Kelly was energized and inspired— and determined to find a way to forge the same kind of bond between seniors and her own art education students at MECA.
The Cedars Learning Community™ and the students at Maine College of Art develop an innovative, intergenerational approach to teaching art to seniors that transforms the way we see aging—and each other.
Kelly McConnell’s popular Public Engagement seminar teaches students at MECA how to teach art. Her pupils practice these skills in a real-world setting, typically a secondary school classroom. But after seeing OMA in action at The Cedars, she had a bold idea: asking The Cedars to host her seminar.
Developing community partnerships and educational opportunities is a core objective of The Cedars Learning Community™, so The Cedars eagerly signed on.
“I so appreciated the spirit of the leaders at The Cedars to do things that are things artists do— sit with uncertainty hover in the unknown, explore,” she says. “It was a leap of faith for everyone.”
Kelly’s collaborative, emergent approach to teaching meant that everyone involved— students and elder artists— could, and did, shape the direction of the course and the work. The elder artists practiced art techniques and the MECA students practiced teaching and social outreach strategies, but that was just the part of the knowledge shared and gained.
“We asked the elder artists what they hoped to get out of the class,” Kelly recalls. “They told us ‘at the end of this class, I hope we will be friends'”.
Over the next seven weeks, the elder artists and the art students did become friends.
“The elders and students grappled with big questions about the nature of art and their roles of artists,” Kelly says. “They could also ask each other about hair colors, nose rings, and their job prospects after graduation.”
The course culminated in a First Friday exhibition at MECA where students, seniors, their families, and The Cedars community gathered to celebrate a bold vision of community, aging, and art.
“Art didn’t mean anything to me until older years. It became a part of my life and I have the time. Art means not to be afraid of making a mark on the paper, and it doesn’t matter if my neighbor says it’s art. I am the artist! Art is about not being afraid to do what I want as an artist” — Lauretta, Elder Artist
We’ve assembled a great group of people, of identities, and of histories to be represented. The value of the show is in the dialogues it will create, among the artworks selected and among the artists and viewers. I have learned something from each of the participating artists and I look forward to sharing their work with you. — Nat May
In October 2017, the Portland Museum of Art announced their participating artists for the 2018 Biennial exhibition. The Biennial will be open January 26 to May 30, 2018.
This 10th Biennial is intended to highlight artists with meaningful connections to Maine, with a focus this year on the influence and presence of Wabanaki artists. The PMA chose Nat May, former Executive Director of SPACE Gallery, as the guest curator for the exhibition.
Maine College is Art is proud to have a number of artists from our community featured in the exhibit. Congratulations to:
Gina Adams ’02, Stephen Benenson (Adjunct Instructor of Foundation), Anne Buckwalter MFA ’12, Jenny McGee Dougherty ’05, David Driskell Hon. DFA ’96, Daniel Minter (Assistant Instructor of Illustration), and Joshua Reiman (Assistant Professor of Sculpture and MFA).
The Public Engagement student exhibition Art & Audubon: Collaboration in Conservation opens on Friday, October 27, 5–7pm at the Gisland Farm in Falmouth. The exhibition features work from the classes ‘Naturlab’ and ‘Field Guide to a New World’.
The Public Engagement program helps propel students into real world situations that tap their creative potential. These foundation classes collaborated with the Maine Audubon for a call for action to Environmental Conservation in Art.
Article and photography reposted from Maine Audubon. Photographer: Ariana van den Akker/Maine Audubon.
Art and Audubon have a rich history. This dates all the way back to John James Audubon, whose wide acclaim as a painter helped raise awareness about these species and inspire international bird conservation efforts. Maine Audubon continues to draw on this legacy by featuring the work of local photographers and painters on the walls at our education centers, in the pages of our guides and reports, and for sale in our retail stores.
Our relationship with the Maine College of Art (MECA) is an important part of that commitment today. Many MECA alumni have made wildlife conservation a focus of their work. Several have also partnered with Maine Audubon. Jada Fitch ‘06 illustrates our children’s books and other projects; Chris Patch’s ‘97 migration installation anchors the “Modern Menagerie” at Portland Museum of Art; and Hannah Rosengren’s ‘15 pollinator graphics helped illustrate our early “Bringing Nature Home” materials.
Two years ago, Maine Audubon Education Director Eric Topper was invited by Annie Seikonia, founder of the Portland Pollinator Partnership who also works at MECA, to attend a MECA presentation. MECA students were presenting mock grant proposals about pollinator conservation they had prepared in a math class taught by Bob Jenkins. It was clear that MECA wasn’t just producing art and artists, but forging leaders, activists, and messengers focused on addressing pressing local issues.
Next, Eric met with MECA’s Director of Public Engagement Elizabeth Jabar. Elizabeth explained her additional goal of developing deep, ongoing relationships in Greater Portland for instructors and students. Then he connected with MECA instructor Michel Droge, an accomplished contemporary artist in her own right. Much of Michel’s art focuses on serious and sometimes dire environmental themes such as climate change and impacted landscapes. She was teaching a course for second year students that fall, and thought of Maine Audubon as a rich source of subject matter and inspiration for students to create woodblock prints in the tradition of Chinese propaganda art — bold images and colors, few or no words, and designed to evoke action.
Eric collaborated with Michel, working with that class (and again with another this fall) to teach them about Maine Audubon’s mission and work and to help them select themes for their prints that align with our conservation priorities. In return, Maine Audubon has been the beneficiary of these powerful student products and the messages they convey. We also worked directly with Bob Jenkins’ math class last spring, providing content around which to base their mock grant proposals.
This fall, Michel Droge has repeated the Maine Audubon woodblock print project with a new group of second-year students. In addition, she developed another class for first-year students in which they produced handmade nature journals and field guides after visiting and learning about Maine Audubon. The results and products from both classes are stunning, and yet another example of how much “the next generation” of conservation leaders and activists has already accomplished and contributed today.
Two classes of incredible MECA student work will be displayed in the gallery at Gilsland Farm beginning this weekend, with an opening reception on Friday evening, October 27. Please join us in appreciating this beautiful art, congratulating these amazing young people, and celebrating this vital community partnership!