The Continuing Studies Department at Maine College of Art offers open enrollment programs to adults and youth. Our mission is to provide access to professional quality study in the arts and professional development opportunities for diverse members of the general public.

We offer weekly classes, weekend classes, winter and summer intensives, youth camps, and international artist retreats. To go directly to specific types of programming, chose from the links on the left. To contact the Continuing Studies Office, call 207.699.5061.

Thank you to our Media Sponsor,  Maine Today Media – Press Herald.


Artistic Excellence

View all stories
Lifelong Learning: CS image

Lifelong Learning: CS

Exploring Ideas Through Materials by Crystal Cawley

My work is a hybrid of art, craft, and traditional handiwork. I embroider on paper, using stitches for drawing and mark-making. I print letterpress and other relief processes on fabric and paper, using letterforms as image, pattern, or readable text, from which I make sculpture that resembles clothing but isn’t for wearing. I’m inspired by found and collected matter that has been discarded or forgotten, or is somehow obsolete; its history and decay inform how I use it and what it becomes. I love wrangling disparate materials and methods into a cohesive whole, and I enjoy slow processes that require a particular kind of patience, repetition, and commitment. I love a tedious, time-consuming activity that is its own reward.

You start with the possibilities of the material. – Robert Rauschenberg

I make things to explore ideas with materials. This requires my paying attention to not just what I’m thinking about, but what the materials themselves are evoking and how they develop and support my ideas. It also means intuiting whether I’ll be making a print, a sculpture, a fabric piece, or something in between. I’m most at home in the spaces between genres, where thought and matter first collide, and then combine.

Somewhere I read that a learning process includes necessary failures. In my studio, I need to feel that I am learning something as I make, which means I don’t always get a polished ready-to-show thing. The wrestling with the paper, thread, ink, textile, or metal gives me the information I need to continue. One of my studio walls displays these small failures, but I don’t keep them there as admonishments to my ineptitude. They are important reference tools that I look to for guidance, even inspiration.And eventually many will find their way into a finished piece.

When I was new to teaching, I overcame my nervousness by having specific plans for class time and for the object or products students would have completed at the end of the class. This approach was mostly successful for many years, but as my own work began to go in unexpected directions, I became less interested in teaching toward a definable object and more excited by introducing students to processes and possibilities. I encourage students to discover what works for them, to share what they know with each other, and to develop a vocabulary of skills and methods that they can draw on to use in their own studios.

Crystal Cawley makes sculpture, artist’s books, and works on and of paper. She teaches paper and book arts classes such as Sampler: Paper, Fiber, Print and Stitch and Sewing Machine as Drawing Tool in Maine College of Art’s Continuing Studies program. Her work has been widely exhibited and collected, and she is a past recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant.

A Shallow Depth of Field image

A Shallow Depth of Field

Carolyn Nishon

I lost track of time, and every small thing around me became intensely interesting and beautiful.

Continuing Studies (CS) at MECA provides an opportunity for those seeking  personal enrichment and professional development to study visual arts.

Last winter, Carolyn Nishon, General Manager for the Portland Symphony Orchestra, took advantage of a Living Social coupon she received and enrolled in an eight-week Digital Photography Continuing Studies course at MECA. Carolyn came to class with a background in photography, having received her first camera at age nine, which she used to document her aunt’s Golden Retriever. Following this initial foray, she used disposable cameras in middle school, followed by a Kodak Advantix in high school, a Casio digital in college, and, when she moved to Maine, a Canon S90 with manual functions that she thought would help her capture a shallow depth of field. Finally, in 2012, she made the leap to an SLR Nikon D5100.

Prior to enrolling in her Continuing Studies class at MECA, Carolyn had always figured out how to use her cameras on her own. She hoped the course would connect her with a professional photographer who could advise her on how to get the most out of her SLR.

Instructor Thurston Howes taught Carolyn the benefits of shooting in RAW format, which changed her workflow, editing process, and, ultimately, the quality of her photographs. She also learned how to use Photoshop in different ways. As part of her assignment to “get out and shoot,” Carolyn took photos both during and outside class. She appreciated her assignments because, amidst a busy work schedule, they provided her with “a license to explore.”

One of Carolyn’s photographs from this time was selected for inclusion in CREATE II: The 2013 Continuing Studies Student Exhibition at Maine College of Art. “States of Matter” was taken by a clearing in Cape Elizabeth in February 2013, and features the flow of water under melting ice. She described it as a moment where she “lost track of time,” and every small thing around her became intensely interesting and beautiful. She never would have captured it if not for Thurston’s assignment.

In addition to everything she learned in class, Carolyn made two close friends, one of whom was also featured in CREATE II. Together the three formed a small photo club so they could talk about photography and shoot together. Because photography can be a solitary experience, she was thrilled to find community as a result of her Continuing Studies course.

CREATE II was the first time Carolyn had shown her work professionally. She used the submission opportunity to learn about pricing her work, as well as where to get her image printed and framed professionally. Carolyn is now taking portraits and photographing events for local Portland organizations as a paid photographer. She also started a website to share her photos and continues to create photobooks for herself and others.

Last summer, Carolyn travelled to Switzerland and France with a group of her best friends from her high school orchestra. She also took along her camera. Because of what she learned in class, she was able to capture images of her friends the way she had always wanted; the camera allowed her to use a shallow depth of field as she focused on highlighting their personalities and distinguishing characteristics. Upon her return, Carolyn created a book of portraits of loved ones using images she had taken with her different cameras over the years. Making this book, she reflected on how far she’d come. She is now considering taking a black and white photography class with Thurston. By Dietlind Vander Schaaf

The Gestalt of Drawing image

The Gestalt of Drawing

Kathie Boldt ’78

This seeing/drawing process is filled with the thrill of inspiration, the labor of looking hard, the making of lively marks, the challenge of things falling apart, and a pulling back together a sense of the whole, without belaboring the parts. It is both work and play. At it's finest, a deep sense of satisfaction and joy occurs, a transformation from the simplicity of pencil on paper.

For the last sixteen years Kathleen “Kathie” Boldt has been an instructor for MECA’s Continuing Studies program besides teaching at Merrymeeting Adult Education and offering private instruction in drawing, colored pencil, gouache painting and design.  Drawing and teaching are true passions for Kathie and she brings an enormous amount of energy to classes such as “Drawing for the Complete and Utter Beginner” and “Drawing for Seniors.”

She says, “Drawing excited me first as a means of understanding the world around me, on both the physical and spiritual levels. There is something in the act of seeing/drawing with absolute visual attention that yields both order and surprise. The delicate pattern moving in a leaf or in the growth pattern of a shell starts me on my way. The sensation of the act of drawing produces a feeling of deep inner connection to the natural world.”

The precise beauty in a machine‐made or a handmade tool also inspires my examination. Thus, inventing still lifes (which I perceive as full of life) with plants, organic objects, and intriguing patterned fabrics, leads me into developing dynamic shapes and spaces, and then, most importantly, into building as wide a range of lights and darks as I can sustain. This seeing/drawing process is filled with the thrill of inspiration, the labor of looking hard, the making of lively marks, the challenge of things falling apart, and a pulling back together a sense of the whole, without belaboring the parts. It is both work and play. At it’s finest, a deep sense of satisfaction and joy occurs, a transformation from the simplicity of pencil on paper.”

View Kathie’s Website

A Second Life image

A Second Life

Margareta “Meta” McDonald

Born and raised in Sweden, and the granddaughter of K. Hugo Segerborg, Director of the Royal Art School in Stockholm, Meta’s first passion was painting.  She was urged by her father to pursue the study of mathematics, physics and chemistry, however, and had a long career teaching in Lapland, Montreal and Hong Kong, among other places.

In midlife she was able to begin the formal art studies she had always dreamt of, first at the University of Bridgeport, with a focus on art therapy, and then at SUNY Purchase and Silvermine Art School. Upon retirement in Maine she began to study at MECA, particularly with Continuing Studies instructor and painter Janet Manyan.  The bright, energetic palettes of Meta’s paintings reflect her philosophy that “painting is a celebration of life.”

Margareta’s Website