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Artistic Excellence

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  • Inspired from Old Found Photographs

    Tyler Eldridge '18 (Illustration & Graphic Design)
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  • My Path to Freelance Illustrator

    Hannah Rosengren Moran '13
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  • Doug Vollmer Awarded NMEA’s 2017 Outstanding Teacher Award

    Former Faculty Doug Vollmer
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  • Salt Alum News Story Goes Viral

    Alex Acquisto Salt ’11
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  • Sophie Cangelosi ’16 Chosen for American Illustration’s Best Images of 2016

    Sophie Cangelosi '16
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  • Bayside Bowl Murals

    Tessa O'Brien MFA '16, Sophie Cangelosi '16
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  • Spadone Home

    Miles Spadone ’13
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  • Two Friends, One Van, and a Search for the Truth

    Joel Tsui '16
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Meet Your Professors

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
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Inspired from Old Found Photographs image

Inspired from Old Found Photographs

Tyler Eldridge '18 (Illustration & Graphic Design)

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.

 

My Path to Freelance Illustrator image

My Path to Freelance Illustrator

Hannah Rosengren Moran '13

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.

Image: Hannah Rosengren, Map of the Maine Coast. ©

Doug Vollmer Awarded NMEA’s 2017 Outstanding Teacher Award image

Doug Vollmer Awarded NMEA’s 2017 Outstanding Teacher Award

Former Faculty Doug Vollmer

Students who first entered his class fearful of ‘science’ came away with confidence, knowing that artistic expression can be a powerful tool to reflect important science issues facing society today

Portland, ME– Maine College of Art and The National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) are proud to announce that Doug Vollmer, former Assistant Professor in Academic Studies at MECA, is the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Teacher Award. The award is given to a classroom educator for effective and innovative classroom teaching at any level and Doug’s decades of dedication to his work and passion for teaching coastal science made him a natural choice to receive this honor. The award was presented to him on June 27, 2017, at NMEA’s national conference in Charleston, SC, by 2016-17 NMEA President Tami Lunsford. Doug has been a formal teacher for 60 years and for the last 40 has inspired and educated MECA students as a professor of biology up until his retirement in 2016. He continues to be a passionate advocate for the preservation of the natural world.

As a science professor at an arts college, Doug challenged his students not only to think and reason like a scientist, but also to use the visual world as a canvas for interpreting science through the use of art. Every year, Doug Vollmer took students on field trips to nearby rocky shores, salt marshes, and dunes as part of his Natural History of Coastal Ecosystems class.

As Doug’s colleague Bob Jenkins, who teaches math as an Associate Professor at MECA points out, “Doug connected each artist to the natural world and the issues surrounding the presentation of coastal ecosystems. He empowered students to create art, as a universal language, to convey concepts that cross into real life political and scientific arenas. Students who first entered his class fearful of ‘science’ came away with confidence, knowing that artistic expression can be a powerful tool to reflect important science issues facing society today.”

As a teenager, Doug spent summers in Maine with his family. Hours were spent collecting, examining, and photographing marine life with an amateur box camera. He has received National Science Foundation grants in Radiation Biology and Marine Biology and was a collaborative producer of the award-winning video Reading the Water: Lectures on Home Video Ecology from the Gulf of Maine, which documents the interrelationship between three generations of Vollmer men as they explore the Maine shores. Part Darwin and part Steve Erwin, but always uniquely Doug, he disciplined his students to see with clear, fresh eyes the empirical and esthetic essence of Maine’s natural environment. He leaves a legacy of dedicated pedagogy combined with a personal affectionate flair for investigating both the science and nature of art.

Salt Alum News Story Goes Viral image

Salt Alum News Story Goes Viral

Alex Acquisto Salt ’11

A news story recently written by Alex Acquisto Salt ’11 recounted the heroic actions of jogger Rachel Borch during her terrifying encounter with a rabid raccoon, which she managed to drown in a puddle and made headlines:

“Little did she know she was about to be attacked by a rabid raccoon she would end up killing with her bare hands.” Maine Woman Attacked by Raccoon Drops Rabid Animal in Puddle, Bangor Daily News, Alex Acquisito Salt ’11

Interviewed by Justin Ray of Columbia Journalism Review, Alex Acquisto Salt ’11 admitted that when she wrote the piece, “she did not expect her story would go national, with write-ups of the piece appearing in The Washington Post, the New York Daily News, Esquire, and many others.” Acquisto first noticed the news in a local paper and asked her editor if she could write a story on it, then met with the young woman at her house, who recounted the attack.

The Last Option and Occupy Portland are two projects Acquisto worked on during her time at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies, which has been recently integrated into MECA. After studying at Salt, she first started working at The Forecaster before moving on to the Bangor Daily News to work as a staff writer.

Follow Alex’s work at: https://twitter.com/acquistoa

Sophie Cangelosi ’16 Chosen for American Illustration’s Best Images of 2016 image

Sophie Cangelosi ’16 Chosen for American Illustration’s Best Images of 2016

Sophie Cangelosi '16

We are thrilled to announce that Sophie Cangelosi ’16 had three images chosen to appear on American Illustration‘s exclusive and juried online collection, Best Images of 2016. Over 10,000 entries were submitted — way to go, Sophie!

Sophie Cangelosi, Phantasma, 2016

Sophie Cangelosi, Phantasma, 2016

Sophie Cangelosi, Phantasma, 2016

Bayside Bowl Murals image

Bayside Bowl Murals

Tessa O'Brien MFA '16, Sophie Cangelosi '16

When Bayside Bowl expanded their bowling facilities, owner and former president of the Maine State Senate, Justin Alfond connected with Maine College of Art. Said Alfond, “Bayside Bowl’s expansion needed local flare and art. Jessica Tomlinson introduced me to a bunch of great artists.” Alfond selected artists Tessa Greene O’Brien MFA ’16 and Sophie Cangelosi ’16 to create two murals. Tessa is the co-founder of The Portland Mural Initiative and Sophie installed a mural for her senior thesis. In less than a week, both artists met with the client to provide initial sketches and revisions. The two different concepts played to each artist’s strengths. Tessa’s text based mural builds off her skills as a painter with Better Letter Handpainted signs. Sophie’s silhouettes are similar to work she did in her senior year. Both murals are located on the first floor of the new addition, which is located across from MECA’s most recent residential housing. Alfond is pleased with the results. “Tessa and Sophie jumped on our mural projects and delivered the punch that we wanted.”

Sophie Cangelosi '16

Sophie Cangelosi ’16

Spadone Home image

Spadone Home

Miles Spadone ’13

The user really gets to be the artist as well; They get to think how these things stack together.

Miles Spadone ’13, who earned a degree in Ceramics at MECA, has joined up with his sister Molly to create Spadone Home, a new line of home goods they are in the process of bringing to the marketplace in 2017. Each piece, which ranges from planters to coffee mugs to furniture, is handcrafted and made with local materials in Maine. In a profile on Maine’s WMTW Channel 8 Made in Maine segment, Miles and Molly talked about the “artistic functionality” that is key to what differentiates their product line, which they describe as “innovative, ergonomic, and beautiful.”  “I think that we strive to be unique and not to produce what has already been reproduced,” Miles said. “The design, the making—we’re fluent.” “The user really gets to be the artist as well,” Molly added. They get to think how these things stack together.”

The siblings both studied ceramics and were inspired by their father, a fine furniture maker. “”We grew up in this shop watching him design and manufacture really incredibly complex and beautiful sophisticated pieces of furniture,” Miles Spadone said. “We have a ton of ideas and we’re driven to express or explore a lot of those ideas.”

Artwork in header:COAT RACK M.D. is a variation on Mile’s capsule sculptures. This once stand alone sculptural object has transformed into a functional piece of art for everyday use.

Two Friends, One Van, and a Search for the Truth image

Two Friends, One Van, and a Search for the Truth

Joel Tsui '16

My role was to photograph the entire journey, whether they were doing an interview, arguing with each other behind the camera, or just spending 14 hours driving through cornfields.

Trent Turns 40 and Buys a VanBehind the Scenes with Joel Tsui ’16

*Note: Joel is exhibiting his work from this experience in Jesus, Take the Wheel: A Photo Exhibition of the Inscrutable United States through the eyes of Not-an-American. The exhibition is on view October 7 through November 4, 2016, in Artists at Work at MECA. Learn more information about the exhibition here.

Trent Bell, a husband, father, photographer, and surfer, is an architect-turned-photographer who runs Trent Bell Photography in Maine. He has been friends with Caleb Johnson, an architect and founder of Caleb Johnson Architects + Builders, since they were teenagers. Both were born and raised as conservative Christians but had slowly lost faith in their religion over the years, precipitating somewhat of a “midlife crisis.”

The obvious course of action was to embark on a road trip with the idea of creating a documentary film that came to include interviews with people from all walks of life, including old friends in Virginia, family members in Georgia, muslims in California, and alien believers in Nevada.

Joel Tsui ’16 majored in Digital Media and also has a Minor in Public Engagement from Maine College of Art. In the summer of 2016 he served as the photographer and director of social media for Trent Turns 40 and Buys a Van.

Joel Tsui '16

Joel Tsui ’16

What was your role?
My role was to photograph the entire journey, whether they were doing an interview, arguing with each other behind the camera, or just spending 14 hours driving through cornfields. When I wasn’t taking photos, I was editing and processing them to upload to various social media outlets, from Instagram to Facebook to Steller.

Joel Tsui '16

How were you selected? What were your thoughts going into the process?
Towards the end of my college education, Jessica Tomlinson [Director of Artists at Work at MECA] forwarded me an email about a film production needing a documentary photographer. She thought it would be an amazing opportunity for me and that I was a great fit for what they were looking for. Knowing my friends plan years for a road trip, and for a non-citizen like me to be given the invaluable possibility to see the entire country, I decided to give it a shot, so I responded to Trent’s email and we scheduled a meeting the following week.

Trent had a good understanding of me as an artist, and I had a good understanding of the film and what they were looking for. To me, the most important factor whenever I take a job is to make sure both my client (or partner) and I have the same creative vision. People have different preferences and that’s fine, but if you don’t like my work, I clearly wouldn’t be the right fit in the team. Fortunately, our creative visions aligned perfectly, and a few hours later he called me and said, ‘you’re in.’

Going into the project, I had to do a lot of research. Although I’ve done a good deal of travelling and documentary photography, I had never been on a road trip, nor had I really done any social media campaigning, so I spent most of my time before the trip preparing myself for the role. The crew had many ideas and wanted to cover every single social media platform under the sun, but I suggested focusing on a select few platforms for the right demographic: Facebook for the crew’s immediate social circles, Instagram to provide an accessible platform for photographers, and Steller as a daily diary of the road trip.

Joel Tsui '16

Joel Tsui ’16

What was the road trip like? What challenges and surprises did you face?
Calling it a ‘road trip’ makes the experience a lot more relaxing than it was, so I just tell people it was a film production. It wasn’t unenjoyable, but throughout the production, I was almost always occupied with something. If I wasn’t taking photographs, acting as a production assistant during formal interviews, processing my work, uploading things to social media, then I was sleeping, and that was really four to six hours a day. That said, I liked it, because I like keeping myself busy, and I wanted to maintain a good work ethic. I thought if these guys could handle the workload, I should also match their effort, and I did, which is a comforting thing to know as an emerging artist.

The biggest challenge was probably time management, because of the multitude of responsibilities I had. Thankfully, the crew respected my decisions and let me decide what I should be doing. For instance, if I had a particularly huge batch of photographs to sift through, I wouldn’t be doing production assisting, and instead would take advantage of the time to do editing work, or prepare content ahead of time to upload. It’s really nice to have teammates that treat you equally as a creative professional instead of just some unpaid intern.

Joel Tsui '16

Joel Tsui ’16

There were many surprises—both good and bad. My professor Gary Robinov once said that sometimes while doing documentary work you have to embrace the detours and the unexpected, and that certainly happened in the road trip. Our road trip vehicle of choice was a quaint, right-hand-drive Toyota van from the 80’s that was imported from Japan. A week into the road trip, the van started struggling and we didn’t know why. As we left Yosemite National Park, we found out that our alternator was faulty and would no longer charge the accumulator, and the nearest garage with a compatible part was in Las Vegas. We bought two extra accumulators and beelined to Las Vegas. It was also Independence Day so there were fireworks displays everywhere as we entered the city, seemingly celebrating our safe arrival.

I like to think I proved myself as a worthy component of the crew, a creative problem-solver with a range of skills that came in handy during the trip. I’ve always strived to be a creative individual with the ability to fit in multiple roles, if necessary. Although I was in charge of documenting the trip, I also filled in for various other roles such as being second camera operator during interviews, production assistant when time was precious and an extra hand was needed, or graphic designer to make flyers to hand out. The modularity of skills that the New Media Program at MECA celebrates indubitably shone in this production.

How did you feel after the trip? Anything you wished went differently?
My goals were definitely accomplished. My role in the trip was to generate photographic documentation of the production, as well as keeping the social media platforms populated with content, both of which were achieved and well-received. The Steller publications were the most popular among all the content. Our follower count increased sixfold, we were promoted on Steller’s Instagram feed, and we were chosen as one of their authors of the week.

I had a blast working with these people, so everything was as expected and desired. However, as a crew we collectively wished we didn’t plan over 20 interviews across the country. We had never done a documentary before, let alone one that hits 25 states in 21 days. One of our last interviews was with filmmaker, author, and public speaker Frank Schaeffer. When he found out we packed all that into such a short timeframe, he had one word for us: insanity.

Joel Tsui '16

Joel Tsui ’16

How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist?
This project was undeniably the capstone of my entire college education at MECA. It combined the vast majority of elements I’d learned through Digital Media, Graphic Design, Photography, and Public Engagement. This experience put me to the test in a rigorous and professional environment with a community partner, and really enabled me to exercise all the skills I’ve acquired throughout the last four years. I wouldn’t even have worked with these people if Jessica had not kept me in mind as a candidate.

John Baldessari once gave three pieces of advice to young artists: “talent is cheap; you have to be possessed (which you cannot will); and be at the right place at the right time.” I think he’s onto something there.