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Meet the MFA Faculty

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Full Residency. image

Full Residency.

24/7 access to state-of-the-art facilities & a vibrant creative community.

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Low Residency. image

Low Residency.

Structure promotes flexibility and independence.

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Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Work, critique, and network with artists from around the world.

Whether you want to exhibit and lecture about your work, teach, write a book, or create an artist-run collective, MECA’s Master of Fine Arts Program encourages each student to think across traditional academic boundaries and challenge their art practice and intellectual curiosity. Studio-based, with renowned faculty, visiting artists and carefully selected graduate advisors, the curriculum emphasizes the intersection of studio production, individual research, critical analysis, and travel to important and inspiring locations. This structure promotes the development of a professional lifelong practice. From the first moment of your first eight-week summer intensive, you will experience a truly individualized education and focus on becoming an inventive, skilled, self-disciplined, engaged maker in the world and in your own community.

Choose from our Low or Full Residency options and base your studio wherever you decide— whether it’s on campus in Portland, Maine; or in our Low Residency Program anywhere in the world. Applications are currently being accepted for the 2016–2017 academic year. Priority deadline is February 6. A Full Tuition Scholarship is available; this competitive award is open to all applicants in both MFA options.

Header Artwork

  1. Veronica A. Perez, MFA ’16, the lady doth protest, 2015, foam bricks, mortar, wood, satin ribbon, plastic flowers, gold paint, tape, insulation, green paint, pink light, yellow light, 98” H x 114” W x 109” D
  2. Image of Adriane Herman
  3. Leeanna Morris, MFA ’14, Communion, 2014, installation
  4. John Gardiner, MFA ’14, What’s in a Chair?, 2014, Found Chairs, Ash, Maple, Paint, Vinyl Upholstery.

Artistic Excellence

View all stories
  • Time, Energy, and Attention

    MFA Faculty Adriane Herman
    Read Story
  • Faculty Reviewed on Hyperallergic

    MFA Faculty Joshua Reiman
    Read Story
  • Portland Mural Initiative

    Tessa Greene O'Brien, MFA '16
    Read Story
  • Her Chosen Spot

    Pilar Nadal MFA ’13
    Read Story
  • The Fine Art of Simulacra

    Randy Regier MFA ’07
    Read Story
  • Broadening the Audience

    Christopher Stiegler
    Read Story
  • The Transformative Power of Assembly

    Susan Bickford MFA ’01
    Read Story
  • I Make Whatever The Moment Calls For

    Susan Bickford MFA '01
    Read Story

FAQs

  • What is the difference between the Full Residency option and the Low Residency option?

    Students who choose the Full Residency option move to Portland, may have a studio, have consistent 24/7 access to MECA facilities and the activities that occur that happen in the College and around Portland during the school year. They are also able to take advantage of Graduate electives and Teaching Assistantships. Our low residency MFA combines intense periods of on-campus instruction in Maine with the freedom and independence of working from any home location. Our low-residency structure is designed for experienced artists who want the ability and independence to maintain their ongoing careers while earning an MFA. Both of MECA’s MFA tracks offer an interdisciplinary approach that encourages students to think across traditional academic boundaries and challenge their art practice and intellectual curiosity.

  • What is MECA's low residency structure?

    While most low residency programs offer 1-2 week on campus intensives, MECA is unique in offering an 8 week summer intensive trimester and a full fall and spring trimesters. The Summer Intensive trimester allows students a full semester of on campus experience each summer, while the Fall and Spring trimesters offer a full academic year of studio and coursework from a student’s home studio. Short Winter and May residencies (for graduating students) complement the fall and spring trimesters. The low residency structure features year round contact with core faculty and a local studio advisor who meets with each student in their home studio during the fall and spring trimesters. Studio time is complemented by a rigorous program of online coursework. The MECA MFA low residency track is a full-time 60 credit program of study.

  • When does the program begin?

    The academic year kicks off annually with an eight-week Summer Intensive in Portland, Maine. The Intensive generally begins in mid-June and runs through early August. See the Academic Calendar for more information.

  • How do I request program materials?

    You may request a catalog (here). You may open the downloadable PDF (here).

  • What advice would you give about submitting my portfolio?

    Documentation of your work should be of professional quality. Choose images that best represent you as an individual. You may submit up to twenty images but we recommend that you thoughtfully edit the selection to support the ideas communicated in your letter of intent.

  • What should I put in my letter of intent?

    Describe your intended field of exploration to show us what materials, ideas, and approaches you are ready to embrace as part of your graduate study. Alongside an analysis of your recent work, describe how you anticipate your work moving in new directions in the future. Tell us how you are ready to challenge yourself and why you think MECA’s MFA will help you do this.

  • Who are the Visiting Artists and Curators for Summer 2014?

    For Summer 2014 we were joined by Abigail DeVille, Sharon Hayes, Rick Lowe, Michael Oatman, Richard Renaldi, Jay Sanders, Lisa Sigal, and Trevor Smith. The roster of visiting Artists and Curators for summer 2015 is forthcoming.

  • How do I find out more about Financial Aid and Scholarships at MECA?

    To be eligible for aid at MECA accepted applicants must have completed a FAFSA form online. Please visit the Financial Aid section for more information. All students may apply for remote research fellowships. Please feel free to contact Rachel Katz, Administrative Director of the MFA in Studio Art, at 207.699.5030 or at rkatz@meca.edu

  • What are the academic dates for the year?

    Please see our Academic Calendar.

  • Is there someone I can speak to about the MFA in Studio Arts Program at MECA?

    Please do not hesitate to contact our Program Chair, Gail Spaien. Our other Graduate faculty are available to answers question's as well. Feel free to email mfa@meca.edu.

  • My experience at MECA reinvigorated my art practice and took me in directions I never anticipated. The artists, writers, and thinkers I was introduced to there empowered me to investigate my work in ways that reached out as well as back. I emerged from the program a much more complete artist and thinker with a peer group that continues to enrich my work.

    Jonathan Wayne MFA '08    //  Cleveland, Ohio
  • Being at MECA gave me chance to experiment and grow with my work, to create a network of peers and friends, and to interact with and learn from a fantastic group of artists. Since graduating, I have coordinated the MFA Alumni Residency Program, which allows alums to return to campus in the summer and work alongside the current MFA students and faculty.

    Alexandra Silverthorne MFA '10    //  Washington, DC
  • I only applied to one grad school, because I knew it was the perfect balance of theory and practice for me. Little did I know that MECA would wreak havoc on my art practice and all my preconceived notions about art-making. MECA opened up a landscape of contemporary theory, practice, and possibility.

    Catherine D'Ignazio MFA '05    //  Waltham, Massachussetts
  • MECA gave me the critical thinking skills I need as an artist working in a solitary, isolated atmosphere. The inner dialogue I developed at MECA continues to guide me as I move forward in my work.

    Maysey Craddock MFA '03    //  Memphis, Tennessee
  • MECA’s MFA Program affirms how the unforeseen emerges in the repeated chances we take with the structures and gestures that inspire us. Therefore, art is never done.

    Elaine Angelopoulos MFA '09    //  Brooklyn, New York
  • The MFA Program completely reinvigorated my art practice. I was more ready; every moment was like being inside a diamond—it was synergistic. Now I am not afraid to take on any kind of project, large or small, community-oriented, or very personal. I make whatever the moment calls for: interactive immersive video and sound installation or apple pie.

    Susan Bickford 

What do our alumni do?

Statistics from the 2012 Strategic National Arts Alumni project (SNAAP)

Did you know?

56% is the national average for arts alumni that work as professional artists.

45% is the national average for arts alumni that are self employed, independent contractors, or freelance workers.

67

Work as professional artists

24

Work as graphic designers, illustrators, or art directors

23

Work for a nonprofit

21

Work as craft artists

35

Work as fine artists

25

Work as art teachers

19

Pursued an MFA after graduation

61

Are self-employed, independent contractors or freelance workers

91

Make art in their personal time

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Time, Energy, and Attention image

Time, Energy, and Attention

MFA Faculty Adriane Herman

'To do' lists highlight the ever-evolving line between wants and needs.

What differentiates MECA from your own college and grad school experience?
MECA’s intimate scale facilitates symbiotic flow between faculty and students. Of course, significant connections evolve at all schools. However, I doubt I had nearly the influence on my instructors in college or grad school that my extraordinary students have on me. They continually enrich my life and expand my views of how art functions for us individually and culturally, ever-increasing the consciousness I bring to teaching, making, and being.

Was there a professor who stands out in your mind as having influenced you?
One salient influence was Stanley Lewis. After studying drawing with him, I avidly took his painting classes, which included a good dose of art history. Like me, Lewis thinks and speaks in non-linear fashion, so he issued me a series of permission slips. He went beyond teacher to mentor for me while some peers chafed against his teaching style. No teacher can be all things to all students, or perhaps not even one thing to all students. However, when a teacher’s emitters hit a given student’s receptors, that artist can take what is received and run with it, likely being further ignited by something another instructor, peer, or influential experience offers down the line, and in turn inspiring others. The whole deal is a marvelous Rube Goldbergian delight.

Why do you work in the medium you do?
I make mountains out of molehills and traffic in human aspirations, tastes, and accomplishments, choosing media best suited to a given concept. “To do” lists highlight the ever-evolving line between wants and needs, with wilder fluctuations across cultural borders. What may be a pressing need in one part of the world, such as potable water or access to health care, may not even be on the radar for someone where such things are taken for granted until an emergency. By examining the lists others make, my viewers often identify with some of the wants or needs of other people. Small details hand-written on the list of a stranger might remind us of the struggles others have that we don’t, or perhaps challenges we have surmounted, generating compassion for others and ourselves.

What do you do when you hit a creative wall?
Sorry, that question does not compute. I hit lots of walls—few of them creative. Yes, they are constructed, but most (if not all) of them are illusions.

How do global events and issues, whether contemporary or past, inform your practice?
I research what humans do with their time, energy, and attention today. Global events and issues take a lot of those three resources to absorb, yet they can also infuse us with energy as well as clarify priorities. That in turn certainly trickles down to our “to do” lists. I mine the extraordinary by immersing myself in the [purportedly] ordinary.

Have you ever worked / presented outside of the U.S.?
For a 2008 exhibition organized by Professor Ling-Wen Tsai called The Crossing of Time and Environment, in Toshei Village, Taiwan, I issued a call for photos of plastic bags snagged in trees and implicated myself as part of the problem by laminating images I gathered, and hanging them in trees on the “chosen barren land” where installation occurred. Recently I was invited to design a two-sided banner installed on lampposts in tiny towns in Denmark. The website ET4U.DK documents this exciting public art project bringing diverse work— much of it politically charged—to quiet streets traveled by tractors, school buses, bicyclists, and families turning into their driveways. I only understood the magnitude and potential of this project by walking the streets of these towns this summer. Seeing work virtually is simply not a full-bodied substitute for experiencing it in the flesh, and I encourage students to experience art directly.

What country, that you have never visited, would you like to visit?
The red and black palette of my inlaid burnishing clay panels derives from ancient Greek ceramics. I would love to find some lists hand-written today in Greek, a language we associate with ancient times and remote priorities, and yet spoken and written today in a country experiencing economic upheaval and thus constantly shifting priorities. I also welcome any lists readers wish to mail me care of MECA!

Faculty Reviewed on Hyperallergic image

Faculty Reviewed on Hyperallergic

MFA Faculty Joshua Reiman

Glass Houses is a thought-provoking and meditative show that draws in the viewer.

Assistant Professor of the MFA in Studio Art and Sculpture, Joshua Reiman, has a review of his show Glass Houses in HyperAllergic.

Glass Houses is a thought-provoking and meditative show that draws in the viewer, but only up to a point — purposefully. The vitrines create a sense of disconnect and distance between the viewer and the realities depicted — often of pain, death, destruction, and time — and they remind the viewer that even though the best art connects us to experiences we do not have and worlds we have not visited, there is always a lingering gap between what exists in the world and how closely the viewer can truly grasp it. The job of art is to attempt to bridge that gap, and Glass Houses is a strong argument in favor of straddling that line.” —From Henry Clay Frick to Gilded Matzah, Observing the World in Glass Cases, Deborah Krieger

Read the entire article here.

Portland Mural Initiative image

Portland Mural Initiative

Tessa Greene O'Brien, MFA '16

I am a painter that is currently using traditional methods of oil on panel to explore themes of contemporary life, memory, and the formal properties of paint.

The Portland Mural Initiative aims to bring contemporary art into the public spaces of Portland and its surrounding areas. They work with emerging and established artists that have a strong connection to Maine, to create innovative murals and architectural interventions. They also aim to facilitate a dialogue between the artists and the communities in which the murals are located, through public meals and artist talks.

Tessa Greene O’Brien is one of the co-founders of Portland Mural Initiative. Tessa was born in midcoast Maine, and grew up surrounded by woods, fields, ocean, and artists. The landscape and the people continue to inspire her work.  She graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in studio art, and went on to spend the next 10 years traveling the country doing art production for music festivals. During this time she worked closely with teams of artists to design and implement many large scale murals, installations, and collaborative projects. She gained extensive experience managing volunteers, operating lifts, and overseeing project timelines and budgets. Today she lives and works in Portland, Maine, where she has a small specialty painting business, and is pursuing an MFA at Maine College of Art.

 

Her Chosen Spot image

Her Chosen Spot

Pilar Nadal MFA ’13

MECA is a small school and you can really find a place for yourself. One of the best aspects is the opportunity to meet fellow classmates and form a wide network of other artists – my classmates in the MFA program lived in Brazil, Canada, South Dakota, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Kansas.

Canandaigua is the Seneca word for “the chosen spot.” Pilar Nadal left Canandaigua, her hometown in Upstate New York, for her chosen spot: MECA. During her first visit, she was immediately drawn to both the program and the community. “I was really impressed with the facilities and the idea that everything was in one building for the undergraduates and that it was such a small and supportive community. I also chose MECA because I knew I wanted to do printmaking and wanted the flexibility to deviate from that, to experiment and to let the idea take me into the media, rather than using the media as a starting point.”

Pilar has been pleased with her choice as she has not had to wait until after graduation to measure the value of her degree, “At MECA, I didn’t feel like I was living in some kind of grad school bubble, and that the real world would start up again in May, when I graduated. I was already almost there as a working artist; that’s what I am and will be.”

Pilar has built a strong professional network and is currently an Adjunct Instructor of Foundation at MECA. “MECA is a small school and you can really find a place for yourself. One of the best aspects is the opportunity to meet fellow classmates and form a wide network of other artists – my current classmates live in Brazil, Canada, South Dakota, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Kansas. Our group is really tight, so we stay in touch pretty often.”

The many projects Pilar  explored as an MFA student at MECA include the Tired Press, a bicycle retrofitted with the components of a mobile print shop, which she takes out into the city during the monthly First Friday Art Walk. The idea came from an Artists at Work elective taught by Daniel Fuller, the Director of MECA’s Institute of Contemporary Art. “I like bicycles, postcards, printmaking and talking to people,” Pilar noted. “I spent two semesters building the bike and researching similar contemporary printmakers’ projects, such as Drive by Press print collective, and the Moveable Type truck. This idea of creative entrepreneurship was appealing to me.”

The freedom to explore and question are two facets of the program that Pilar finds particulary valuable. “One thing grad school has taught me is how to ask questions about my own work as well as other people’s.” Pilar plans on staying in Portland to teach, to create, and to continue to develop her freelance print and design studio. She recently took over the Pickwick Press in the Artist’s Studio Building adjacent to MECA. “I love it here,” she says. “I’m excited to see what the world beyond MECA brings.”

The Fine Art of Simulacra image

The Fine Art of Simulacra

Randy Regier MFA ’07

H. Maxwell Fisher was a visionary toy shopkeeper and pioneer amateur space aeronaut whose estate sale featured amazing collectible artifacts, including his personal hand‐built spacecraft, the “Fisher FireFly.” The trick is that H. Maxwell Fisher (as well as his son H. Maxwell Fisher II) is a fictional doppelgänger channeled by Randy Regier, an artist who revels in creating original toys and artifacts that look excruciatingly similar to mass‐produced collectables. Except these are definitely one‐of‐a‐kind. The concept is further enlarged with exhibits such as H. Maxwell Fisher’s Underground Toy Emporium & Spaceship Parking at Jim Kempner Fine Art in New York. And sometimes the exhibition space itself is staged as an unexpected surprise. Repurposed from neglected spaces, the exhibit often just appears with little explanation. Pop‐up versions of the NuPenny Toy Store have been installed in a variety of empty storefronts, including an entrance vestibule to an old brick Central Maine Power building in Waterville, Maine, and the Spencer Museum of Art at Kansas University.

For 29 years, Randy did autobody work, which paid very well, but felt creatively and personally exhausting. He realized he needed to make a change and once he enrolled in a 3‐D art class at Kansas State University, his life was transformed. Later he moved with his wife and two children to Maine to attend MECA’s MFA program. In an interview in Maine Magazine in 2010 he commented, “I had made a lot of stuff in my life. I just had never realized it was art. The undergraduate degree was great, but I still had a lot to learn about what it meant to be an artist, not just how to make art.” In 2014 emissaries from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art visited his studio as part of a nine‐month road trip across America in pursuit of undiscovered artists; as a result his work was featured on CBS Sunday Morning.

In an interview with Gina Kaufmann on KCUR, Randy describes his art as “an acknowledgment that we’re mortal and that the the most beautiful moments in our lives, we don’t get to keep. … How do you steward what was beautiful or lovely about your past, how do you capture it, hang onto it and bring it forward with you?”

Randy’s Website

Broadening the Audience image

Broadening the Audience

Christopher Stiegler

How does the term ‘public engagement’ differ from artist to curator? Public engagement is a form that an idea can take in the same way that a painting or a photograph or a table is a form. Artists who make work in this way seek to highlight the interactive qualities that exist between the idea or the maker and the viewer. There are as many ways to make a work of public engagement as there are ways of engaging in public, ie parties, talks, craft workshops. When curators seek public engagement they generally are looking for bodies in their exhibitions. Public engagement has been a concern of museum and gallery staff longer than it has been a form for artists to employ. The artist, you see, co-opted the term.

What role, if any, has public engagement played in the valuation and monetization of art? In both senses of the word public engagement has broadened the audience for contemporary art. It has therefore led to a democratization of the art world. This is a good and bad thing depending on who you ask. To my eyes, it is bringing more perspective to the field without necessarily altering its configuration that much. How does that bear on the bottom line? The more people we have in our audience, the more value (cultural and monetary) we can find in our work. The trick is to make sure that all those involved in these public engagement projects are adequately compensated.

What evolution/change, if any, do you see in students from their first to last year in their awareness of the world outside MECA and their capacity to engage with it constructively? Graduating students should always feel like they can change the world. For too long art schools reinforced the idea that artistically, all ideas have precedence in history and therefore have been done before. Couple that with a society that does not value the labor of artists and the picture can be dim. But as initiatives for public engagement spread from the classroom to the studio, so too does the ability for young artists to see and make change within their communities. They, as artists, can find publics, activate them creatively and hopefully find some avenue to get paid in the process. This is part of the development of our students.

The Transformative Power of Assembly image

The Transformative Power of Assembly

Susan Bickford MFA ’01

Susan Bickford has been a full‐time practicing artist for over 25 years, often working in Digtal Media, creating installations that utilize video, animation, sound and theater.  She is an Adjunct Professor of Visual & Electronic Art at the University of Maine at Augusta, besides teaching at MECA and the University of Maine at Orono.  Her practice has a strong emphasis on collaboration, as evidenced by the Collaborative Portrait Projects:  Farmers Edition exhibit at the University of Maine at Augusta’s Danforth Gallery,which featured ten large‐scale portraits of local organic farmers produced collaboratively by 200 students from ten area schools.  Susan was a driving force behind the project and the opening featured an actual farmers market.  Each portrait began with a photograph of a farmer that was enlarged and divided into a grid of 36 squares.  Individual students used a variety of techniques to interpret each square, before they were reassembled to create the final portrait.  “The project allowed students to experience the transformative power of assembly and offered an opportunity to incorporate civic lessons into art techniques and vice versa,” said Susan.

“Epic portraiture throughout most of history has been reserved for monarchs, religious leaders, and the very rich. Images of the few, commissioned by the few, made by a master.  In contrast, making portraits democratically, in collaboration, has the potential to redefine how we see ourselves right now. This is a radically different model, many with many, not icons but locals, not virtuosity but inclusiveness, not complete but to be continued. The collection of portraits serves to empower through involvement, and make visible and accessible an index of hope.”

“Growing up in Maine, I have always been involved in the community and with the environment. But teaching and working on these community projects have deeply invested me in a much larger community. I have touched thousands of people ‐‐ it is a privilege. And they have touched me.  Making art is energy, it is powerful and it is magic, especially when we do it with intention and love.”

Susan’s Website

Portrait Project Website

I Make Whatever The Moment Calls For image

I Make Whatever The Moment Calls For

Susan Bickford MFA '01

At MECA, I was more ready; every moment was like being inside a diamond—it was synergistic.

Susan Bickford often works in digital media, creating installations that utilize video, animation, sound and theater. She is an Adjunct Professor of Visual & Electronic Art at the University of Maine at Augusta besides teaching at MECA and the University of Maine at Orono. Her practice has a strong emphasis on collaboration, as evidenced by the Collaborative Portrait Projects: Farmers Edition exhibit at UMA’s Danforth Gallery, which featured 10 large-scale portraits of local organic farmers produced collaboratively by 200 students from 10 area schools. Susan was a driving force behind the project and the opening featured an actual farmers’ market. Each portrait began with a photograph of a farmer that was enlarged and divided into a grid of 36 squares. Individual students used a variety of techniques to interpret each square before reassembling them to create the final portrait. “The project allows students to experience the transformative power of assembly and offers an opportunity to incorporate civic lessons into art techniques and vice versa,” said Susan.

“The MFA program at MECA completely reinvigorated my art practice. I turned 40 while I was at MECA, and had a three year-old and a metalsmithing business. The MFA program taught me to devour art history, to read and write as an essential aspect of my practice. I was reimmersed in the contemporary art world and exposed to a method of expeditionary exploration and art making. I don’t think I ever recognized the preciousness of ‘studio time’ when I was an undergrad at RISD. At MECA, I was more ready; every moment was like being inside a diamond—it was synergistic. The MFA gave my practice and teaching a whole new life. Now I am not afraid to take on any kind of project, large or small, community-oriented or very personal. I make whatever the moment calls for: interactive immersive video and sound installation or apple pie.

Growing up in Maine, I have always been involved in the community and with the environment. But working as an artist-in-residence at Rippleffect and teaching and working on these community projects have deeply invested me in a much larger community. I have touched thousands of people —it is a privilege. And they have touched me.

Right now, I am working on five collaborative portraits of notable UMA alumni to celebrate our 50th anniversary. I had spent a whole day putting filters on a portrait of Mary Herman [a prominent businesswoman and the wife of former Maine Governor and current Maine Senator Angus King]. Out at dinner I ran into her, and because I had spent the entire day looking at her image, I felt as if she was an old friend. I was connected. I know that the energy spent on her portrait in some way drew us together. After you experience this kind of synchronicity enough times, it is clear that it is not simply coincidence. I think that most of the 36 people that worked on her portrait will have the same kind of feeling when they see her at the opening. Making art is energy, it is powerful and it is magic, especially when we do it with intention and love.”