MECA’s immersive, rigorous, interdisciplinary approach is informed by a strong foundation in the liberal arts and a deep commitment to studio practice. We believe in holistic education. We will help you crystallize your passion into a transformative learning experience.
Students come here looking for an intimate learning environment. The structure and scale of MECA offers an ability to design a specific learning experience for each student. We have a lot of contact time with our students so there’s a long-term mentoring relationship that’s built.Elizabeth Jabar Printmaking, Public Engagement Assistant Dean Meet All
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.
My work was always instinctual. I believe in chance, thrift shops, found objects. In crafting records, for instance, I might hear an old Harry James riff and weave it into a Freddie Cannon song. The sound of someone slamming the studio door might become the hook. I view art the same. In the fifties I was close to Otto Fenn, the fashion photographer, who introduced me to Andy Warhol. We had an ongoing canasta game — Andy, Otto, Johnny Ray, and myself. Andy was decorating the windows at Bendels and displaying his wonderful shoe sketches. I was working with linen and burlap, applying resin, molding, hardening, and covering it with sand, beads, and shells. Very organic, very physical. Andy considered my stuff edgy and arranged a show at the Bodley Gallery. Reviews were strong, interest high, but in the sixties the music business shot even higher — Bob Crewe, 1968
Bob Crewe (1930–2014) was a legendary record producer and songwriter for many hit songs. One of Bob’s most known successes as producer and writer was for the Four Seasons and Frankie Valli’s solo work. The story of the Four Seasons was adapted into the musical Jersey Boys, which was performed on October 6 and 7, 2017 at Portland Ovations.
The timing provided the perfect collaboration between Maine College of Art and Portland Ovations to create a special event in honor of Bob Crewe. On October 5, 2017, MECA hosted a gallery talk in their Bob Crewe Gallery Seeing Sound: The Life & Work of Bob Crewe.
Dan Crewe, Bob’s brother, MECA Trustee, and President of the Crewe Foundation, was the lecturer at this special Gallery event. Having worked alongside his brother for many years as his right hand man and business partner, Dan Crewe is confident that MECA’s Bob Crewe Program in Art and Music is the perfect way to celebrate his brother’s legacy and life-long passion in both his music career and his serious engagement to the visual arts.
In the recent article by WLBZ2 “Legendary Maine songwriter remembered with his own gallery,” Dan recalled, “My brother didn’t read music. Most people can’t figure out how he wrote all those hit songs. But he sang the songs and then he would have an arranger put them on charts.”
In April 2014, the Bob Crewe Foundation awarded MECA $3 million dollar gift to establish a new area of study that explores the intersection between art and music. The program, working in tandem with MECA’s rigorous visual arts offerings, prepares students to cross traditional boundaries as musicians, sound artists, performers, and artists.
All photography by Kyle Dubay ’18.
Congratulations to Ted Lott ’06 (Woodworking & Furniture Design)! Ted is featured in the October/November issue of American Craft magazine. He is one of this year’s recipients of the Shortlist Artist award in American Craft Council’s “Emerging Voices” competition.
The American Craft Council introduced the Emerging Voices Awards in 2015 to recognize and celebrate the talented craft artists working today. Each Emerging Artist and Emerging Scholar receives $10,000 towards their work and research; Shortlist Artists each receive $1,000.
Born and raised on the shores of Lake Michigan, Ted Lott has resided in 12 different states and visited every one but Alaska. A sculptor, designer and craftsperson, he believes that “thinking and making are two sides of the same coin.” Since graduating from MECA, he has earned two graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin‐Madison, worked as a furniture maker, and been an Artist‐in‐Residence at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Kohler Arts/Industry Program, Haystack School, Vermont Studio Center, and elsewhere, as well as widely exhibiting his work.
I work to appropriate what is culturally and aesthetically perpetual and evident in my understanding. Using the language, in this piece, intends to create fluctuating meaning that aspires to release the language from any ideological charge.
About The Work
I was invited to take part in the inauguration exhibition of The Palestinian Museum in Birzeit. I finished my summer intensive course at Maine College of Art in Portland and went back to Birzeit, which is 20 kilometers north Jerusalem, to install my new work in the garden of the Palestinian Museum as part of Jerusalem Lives. I worked with the museum staff and some friends to install the work and then the work came together as luminous words made out of light boxes that were suspended above the ground and surrounded with olive trees. The piece read “God Bless This Land Whether It Was Holy or Not”. The work was installed in one of the orchards where the backdrop shows Jaffa and the Mediterranean Sea as if they are close to reach, but they are not.
In my previous works, I looked into cinema and photography as determinant components in Arab modern culture. In my studio, I work to appropriate what is culturally and aesthetically perpetual and evident in my understanding. Using the language, in this piece, intends to create fluctuating meaning that aspires to release the language from any ideological charge. It was articulated as twisted common daily pray that touches on faith and question dogmas.
The work reads clearly in the daylight and it gets dark, it lights up. It stands in the landscape, day and night with a changing scenery and changing mode of reading the piece. The “Adan”: call for prayer, from the neighbor mosques, the fog, the shadows of the trees, became part of reading the work and what it means. However the most surprising experience, was watching some sort of foxes who left their grottos in the last hours before the sunrise, to play among the artworks in the garden. They came very close to us while we were documenting the work, drinking tea with sage.
About The Artist
Inass Yassin has multifaceted practice that examines the modernity in the Arab culture, inspired by her personal reading of transformation. Shift in space and social structure has been main theme in her painting, installation, film and photography work, Yassin is a former director of Birzeit University Museum and a current Fulbright grantee at Maine College of Art. Visit her site here.
About The Exhibition
Curated by Reem Fadda, Jerusalem Lives (Tahya Al Quds) opened on August 27. It was the first exhibition at The Palestinian Museum and will be on till 30th January 2017. The exhibition is participatory work, consisting of four chapters that examine the cultural, political, economic and ideological aspects of Jerusalem. The exhibit includes works by 48 artists; 18 works were large-scale commissions in the museum’s extensive gardens ‘based on ideas about land, openness and non-exclusion’. The Jerusalem Lives exhibition attempts to study and examine the city of Jerusalem as a case study, a microcosm or condensed laboratory that metaphorically represents globalization and its failures, and to find answers that inspire us to struggle for a better future.
Balance ambition with discipline and patience. Building a career as an artist takes time and you need a place to live and food to eat. Working for someone else doesn't mean you can't make art. It means you are going to need discipline to make art in your spare time, to apply for craft shows, more interesting jobs, residencies, and grants.
I began building my independent studio practice soon after graduation from MECA. I focused initially on one of a kind works but eventually, begrudgingly, I began working in multiples and developing a production line. While a student I had shunned this kind of work believing that it lacked soul or artistry, however once I started doing it I found unexpected fullfilment. Production speaks to my inspirations of utility, efficiency, and economy; I take pleasure in the challenge of creating beautiful designs within its restraints.
It took six years of partial self employment and cautious growth for me to become fully self employed as an artist. If I could give a piece of advice it would be this – balance ambition with discipline and patience. Building a career as an artist takes time and you need a place to live and food to eat. Working for someone else doesn’t mean you can’t make art. It means you are going to need discipline to make art in your spare time, to apply for craft shows, more interesting jobs, residencies, and grants. The discipline I developed while building my business has been instrumental in maintaining its success over time. If you work for yourself, it is on you to make sure the work gets done, and that you keep making incredible art.
I now have a great respect for the processes of making. There are some incredibly intelligent, amazing faculty at MECA — they are genuinely excited about your growth and constantly push you to be a better maker.
Describe a body of work that you are currently working on.
My most recent body of work involves a series of lightly abstracted tools that can be handled but are functionally unusable. These objects juxtapose visual worth and use value, hybridizing stereotypically “masculine” actions and “feminine” aesthetics. They act as totems that merely imitate utility and provide the wielder with an illusion of agency or power. The relationship formed between the body and these powerless objects provides the viewer/wielder with an opportunity to consider a range of give and take relationships and contemplate the power struggles within them. These objects are mostly made with brass, wood, or leather, mimicking the construction of tools. They take the somewhat idealized form of a woodsman’s arsenal, consisting of a shovel and hammer combination, a spear, a bugle, and a modified elk antler.
What’s your background?
I have been making since I was very young. At any given moment I could be found sketching in a notebook or building odd little contraptions. I came to MECA with the intention of majoring in Illustration, but after taking a few Metalsmithing classes as a Freshman I had a change of heart. Working with metal feels much more natural to me. I am obsessed with how rewarding it is to hold a finished object that can be turned over and interacted with in my hand.
How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist?
MECA has been an incredible resource in the time I have been here and really helped me grow as a maker. I am now more methodical in my making and take the time to plan things out to be as efficient as possible, which I was not doing before MECA. I could never get past the mental block of expending effort on the planning of a project, especially when the outcome was all I cared about. I now have a great respect for the processes of making. There are some incredibly intelligent, amazing faculty at MECA — they are genuinely excited about your growth and constantly push you to be a better maker. MECA was the only college I wanted to go to, and I probably would not be working with metalsmithing without MECA’s education.
What do you hope to do after graduation?
After I graduate, I will start working as a bench jeweler for another maker, while I put together my studio and make my own jewelry and tools on the side. I would love to one day be self-sufficient enough to make and sell my own work. With the facilities MECA has provided, I am confident I will be able to succeed. As long as I am always making, even as just a hobby, I will be happy.
I’ve felt really challenged to hold myself true to this honesty when I’ve wanted to make something purely beautiful. I’m coming to learn more that listening to what “wakes you up,” is what leads to making work that is authentic, not forced.
Describe a body of work that you are currently working on. My work currently focuses on storytelling through referencing the past. Most of my characters are inspired from old found photographs of people during the early 1900’s. I love their clothing, haircuts, and expressions as they were captured during a time far before me. Some of these candid moments show childhood friends playing together, laughing, fooling around. Some of the images are much more tragic; they come from tombstones in a very special cemetery behind a church looking over Florence, Italy. Whether in moments of happiness or sorrow, behind each face was a person who lived a lifetime. I like to imagine the memories that their lives consisted of.
When I find photographs of people in the times before, during, and after the onset of industrialization around the world, I’m intrigued with what gave genuine happiness to their lives. I like to reflect upon moments when I have been the most happy. Technology certainly contributes to a lot of amazing conveniences and tools that aid my life, but can they compete with the moments when I’m undistracted, and rather utterly in the present? This has led me to consider ways of “waking up” people to their own thoughts about existence.
How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist? MECA has taught me that technical ability can only get you so far if your concepts can’t connect emotionally with others. The task has been to investigate ways of communicating with my intended audience to achieve a feeling of authenticity. To emote this honesty, it’s been important to question each component and characteristic in my pieces to give them the most lucid voice possible. I’ve felt really challenged to hold myself true to this honesty when I’ve wanted to make something purely beautiful. I’m coming to learn more and more that listening to what “wakes you up,” is what leads to making work that is authentic, not forced.
What inspires you? I’m inspired by other cultures and their traditions and customs. I never want to stop traveling or doing things out of my comfort zone. When you get lost or end up in a place you had never planned for, it sticks in your mind. You remember that feeling of excitement or terror, and hopefully you can end up laughing about it. But whenever you reflect back on these moments of waking up to the reality of life outside of the sheltered box we put ourselves in, the memories become so vivid.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? It hasn’t been so much as a single person giving me a piece of quotable advice, but rather a culmination. The collective advice has been to question everything, to not let yourself get caught in a current with no power to steer. Don’t silence that child in you that sees every new moment or place with curiosity and excitement.
Take a break to recuperate from the craziness of your final semester, but maintain the work ethic you cultivated as an art school student.
My path to becoming a freelance illustrator began when I made the decision to transfer from a liberal arts school in Massachusetts to an art school next to my hometown. I knew that I wanted to be self-employed but had no idea what that would look like until I learned about freelance work and the world of illustration.
A specific direction for my work became clear after completing my first project post-graduation, Plant These to Help Save Bees. I had drawn inspiration from nature for many years, but didn’t realize how passionate I’d become about bringing awareness to environmental issues through illustration — something I’ve continued to strive for since.
Now I’m able to work in a home studio freelancing and running my online shop — a job description I had previously never heard of but love so much. Over the last ten years, I’ve also worked at my family’s painting business which continues to be a gratifying and important aspect in balancing my illustration work and financial stability as an artist.
Hannah Rosengren Moran Illustration ’13 resides in South Portland, Maine. View her website here.
0–2 Years Post Graduation
After graduating from MECA in 2013, I worked part-time at the Portland Museum of Art as a Visitor Experience Associate. In my free time, I started my first project post-graduation called Plant These to Help Save Bees. In early 2014, the poster went viral and was published in American Bee Journal, ELLE Decoration Sweden, and Jamie Magazine – Dutch Edition. Its popularity led to my working with Greenpeace on a poster about the Tongass Forest that year, and attracted other clients and online shop customers interested in the burgeoning environmental themes in my work.
3–5 Years Post Graduation
Throughout the next couple of years, I continued to build my shop inventory by making prints and products of personal projects between freelance jobs. In 2015, the newly-opened Press Hotel commissioned a coloring book all about their hotel and Portland in the summertime. In 2016, I was awarded a Rebel Blend Fund Grant from Coffee By Design to illustrate and distribute a zine called How to Cultivate a Pollinator-Friendly Yard, about seasonal ways to help pollinators in Maine. Most recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Greenpeace again on another poster for their campaign to protect the Boreal Forest in Canada.
Advice for New Alumni
My advice for new alumni would be to take a break to recuperate from the craziness of your final semester, but to maintain the work ethic you cultivated as an art school student. It’s rare that I have as crazy a workload as I did while at MECA, but when I do, the ability to stay motivated and organized while working on multiple projects with coinciding deadlines has been essential.