140 Years of Art & Design 1882 - 2022

Maine College of Art & Design's Timeline

1882: Portland Society of Art founded
1911-1914: First official curriculum launched, including Painting, Drawing, and Design
1914: Acquired Charles Q. Clapp House at 97 Spring Street
1917: First certificates awarded for two years of study
1920: First diplomas awarded by School of Fine & Applied Arts
1924: First diplomas awarded for 4 years of study
1934: Name of school changed to School of Fine and Applied Art, with Commercial Art courses added
1950s Printmaking added to the curriculum
1965: Major studio areas of Painting and Sculpture established
1968: Photography and Ceramics departments established
1970: Metalsmithing & Jewelry studies established
1972: Name of school changed to the Portland School of Art
1973: NASAD accreditation received
1975: First Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees awarded in Ceramics, Graphic Design, Jewelry & Silversmithing, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture
1978: NEASC accreditation received
1981: Baxter Building acquired
1982: School separated from Portland Society of Art
1992: Name changed to Maine College of Art
1993: Porteous Mitchell & Braun department store building purchased
1996: 4th and 5th floors of Porteous Building completed
1997: Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA opened, 1st floor of Porteous completed
1998: Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art established
2001: New Media, Illustration and Woodworking & Furniture Design majors established; Joanne Waxman Library relocated to 2nd floor of Porteous Building
2004: Illustration and Woodworking & Furniture Design majors established. Post-Baccalaureate in Arts Education established
2005: Post Baccalaureate in Art Education established; Secured Oak Street Residence Hall
2006: Secured Shepley Street Residence Hall
2008: Clapp House sold to Portland Museum of Art. Admissions Center, Cafe and Administrative Center constructed
2009: Sale of Baxter Building. Osher Hall constructed
2009-10: Photography, Graphic Design, and New Media relocates to Porteous Building, marking the completion of a vision to have all academic, administrative and studio facilities in the historic Porteous Building
2011: Public Engagement Program added as a minor; Construction of Karu Media Center on third floor; MECA Cafe expanded
2012: Miles Standish Residence Hall opened. New Woodworking & Furniture Design Department relocation and renovation completed. Additional classroom space leased at 85 Free Street
2013: Textile and Fashion Design major established; The Artists at Work program space is developed in the former Art Mart space on the first floor
2014: Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) graduate program established; Bob Crewe Program in Art & Music established with transformative gift of $3,000,000
2015: MECA's Fab Lab opens on the fourth floor; Writing Minor added; New Media Program renamed to Digital Media.
2016: The historic Salt Institute for Documentary Studies brought to MECA
2018: Animation & Game Art major launched, replacing Digital Media
2021: Strategic Plan: Envisioning Our Future 2027 released, name expanded to Maine College of Art & Design
2022: 140th Anniversary

Historic pictures of the Porteous Building, formerly the Porteous, Mitchell & Braun Department Store

Maine College of Art & Design (MECA&D) was founded in 1882 as part of the Portland Society of Art.

An organized curriculum was established in 1911 and the first diplomas were awarded in the 1920s by the School of Fine and Applied Arts. In 1972, the College's name was changed to Portland School of Art, and its mission redirected to educate professional visual artists. A core of highly qualified faculty was recruited and a two-year Foundation Program was developed.

The first Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees were awarded in 1975, following accreditation in 1973 by the National Association of Colleges of Art and Design (NASAD) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). In 1982, the School separated from the Portland Society of Art, which also managed the Portland Museum of Art, to become an independent organization with its own Board of Trustees. In 1983, the College purchased and renovated the Baxter Building, the former home of the Portland Public Library.

In 1992, Portland School of Art was renamed Maine College of Art to better identify its status as a degree-granting, New England institution. In 1993, the College purchased the five-story landmark Porteous Building at the center of Portland's downtown Arts District and began a phased renovation project to create updated, consolidated core facilities for the College. In 1998, an innovative Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree program was established. 

In 2005, the College entered into a master lease at 51 Oak Street, an 80-bed dormitory residence hall which it now owns. In 2006, the school acquired the Shepley Apartments, a 60-bed facility. These residence halls brought 140 beds under College control and both are within a block of the Porteous Building.

In 2006, the College added a ten-month Post Baccalaureate Certificate Program in Art Education. In 2014, this program received approval from the State of Maine and accreditation to become the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT). In 2007, the College was gifted a 27,000-foot space at 540 Congress Street, adjacent to the Porteous Building and entered into a long-term lease for the upper floor of the Porteous Annex, also adjacent to the Porteous Building for administrative offices. In 2012, the College master-leased a third residence hall, Miles Standish. In 2012, an additional 5,000-foot space was leased at 85 Free Street, contiguous to the Annex for additional academic classrooms.

The name of the school changed once more to Maine College of Art & Design (MECA&D) in 2021, further reflecting the importance of design throughout the courses and programs offered.

MECA&D is one of 42 private, nonprofit, degree-granting professional art colleges in the country. The College awards the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in eleven studio majors: Ceramics, Digital Media, Graphic Design, Illustration, Metalsmithing & Jewelry, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, Textile & Fashion Design, and Woodworking & Furniture Design. MECA&D offers a rigorous Foundation Program that provides intensive training in the fundamentals of drawing and design prior to the major. Required courses in Art History and Academic Studies constitute fully one-third of the degree program, and are taught from the perspective of the artist. The academic and the creative are indivisible at the College. Programs are designed to equip students with the skills, visual insights, self-confidence, and discipline traditionally associated with the independent professional artist and designer.

MECA&D's distinctive Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree program combines on-campus summer intensives with off-campus supervised studio work. Launched in 1998, it was the first program of its kind in the country. Visiting faculty are leading artists and designers, and give public lectures. Our Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Program combines field work and community engagement to prepare artists to become effective art educators. In April of 2016, MECA&D began integrating the landmark educational institution of Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, which had run independently from 1973 to 2015, into a discreet graduate certificate program to be launched in the fall of 2017.

The student body is currently comprised of approximately 453 BFA, MAT, and MFA degree students. About 30% of the students come from Maine, and 70% from New England. Over 95% of undergraduates receive financial assistance. Full and part-time BFA faculty number 90. All studio faculty are professional exhibiting artists. Full-time and visiting artist appointments are filled by national search. The College maintains a small student to faculty ratio in its degree programs, creating an intimate teaching and learning environment that allows for the individual attention required in quality visual arts training. Maine College of Art annually serves more than 1,200 adults and youths in the region through more than 200 credit and non-credit public courses in its year-round Continuing Studies program.

A Pre-College program begun in 1982 is a three-week summer intensive that enrolls 65 advanced high school students from throughout the country and awards college credit. The College's Joanne Waxman Library is one of the largest independent visual arts libraries in New England (42,000 volumes, 150 periodicals, and 550 videos). It is the only year-round art library in Maine whose holdings are focused on studio art and design.

The College's Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art & Design (ICA at MECA&D) presents exhibitions of leading-edge contemporary art year-round which are free and open to the public. ICA offers both adult and children's educational programs. MECA&D's public Visiting Artist Lectures Series features distinguished artists, curators, designers and scholars from across the country. The ICA welcomes 17,000 visitors into Maine College of Art & Design every year.