A distinctive part of every new MECA&D student’s education is FY-In, our innovative First-Year Seminar.

This required course involves studio work, academic research, and involvement with a community partner. Its intent is to fully immerse you in art and design, to involve you in the MECA&D and Portland communities, and to place your creative efforts into a real-world context. FY-In teaches the critical importance of combining research and practice, and serves as an introduction to collaborating with other students and with a community partner. Students read, write, research, make art, and discuss and critique work while pursuing projects specific to their section. The course is required of all first-year students.

FY-In classes work closely with local organizations like Cultivating Community and SPACE Gallery. Students, faculty and community partners identify a need and FY-In addresses that need, allowing students to creatively solve real-world issues with the community partner. For more information about MECA&D’s public engagement work, please see the Public Engagement page.

FY-In is also the starting point for MECA&D’s mentoring program. MECA&D values mentoring and aspires to be a leader in mentoring and advising. MECA&D’s mentorship program replaces the traditional faculty advising model found at most colleges.  Every student at MECA&D has a mentor who helps them navigate through college and beyond. Your FY-In instructor is your mentor for at least the first semester and will help you find a new mentor as you get to know other faculty, staff and alumni. Click here [link] for more information about MECA&D’s mentoring program.

If you have questions about FY-In, please direct them to Ian Anderson, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College.

Examples of First Year Lab Classes

Portland Walking Library

Course Title: Portland Walking Library
Faculty: Samantha Haedrich
Required Summer Reading: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Community Partner: Portland Trails

In this section of FYL, students will explore the Portland cityscape and document our experiences through the art of print publications. The class will partner with the organization Portland Trails which maintains a 70-mile network of trails and green spaces in Greater Portland. Throughout the semester we will discuss artists who have embraced place as a catalyst for creativity. The class will introduce students to the fundamentals of graphic design and production including print publishing software. Furthermore, students will consider how self-publishing can be used as a vital tool to circulate their work and ideas. Students do not need to have any specialized knowledge but will be encouraged to bring their individual skills and interests to their work.

Landing in the Landscape

Course Title: Landing in the Landscape
Faculty: Addy Smith-Reiman
Required Summer Reading: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Community Partner: Lovelab Studios

‘Landscape is loud with dialogues, the storylines that connect a place with its dwellers' — Ann Whiston Spirn

What is your journey? How did you get here? Where are you going? And with whom?

This FYN course will have you sharing your personal dialogue and place (s) of influence through movement, lines, mapping, and making – learning to see and speak with your hands. How you land in the context of the MECA&D and Portland community will be explored through journals and sketchbooks, field trips, research, observation, and a final community project. Assignments will be collaborative, with a primary emphasis on presentation and critique.

Around the Woodshop in 80 Days

Course Title: Around the Woodshop in 80 Days
Faculty: John Gardiner
Required Summer Reading: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Community Partner: Zootility Co.

During this section of FYL students will get to experience a wide range of techniques and processes within the realm of woodworking. Projects within this section will explore traditional reductive hand carving techniques, two-dimensional marquetry, digital fabrication, and sculptural assemblage. Students will begin to think critically and talk about work that ranges from utilitarian and functional to sculptural and abstract. Productive studio practices and craft will be paramount as students engage with this rigorous medium. While research and collaboration will be an aspect of all projects, it will become a primary component as students engage with a local maker in a real-world product design opportunity. Through their work students will explore, conceptually, themes associated with the beginning of a new chapter in their lives.


Course Title: Craftivism
Faculty: Shannon McGinty
Required Summer Reading: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Craftivism is a worldwide movement that operates at the intersection where craft and activism meet. Students will investigate Craftivism, its social processes, actions, expressions and negotiations through research, making, collaboration, and public engagement. Students will cultivate strong design language, visual principles, and critical thinking skills while engaging with various combinations of the DIY aesthetic and historical techniques that are emerging in today's contemporary craft movement.

Re-imagine + Imagine

Course Title: Re-imagine + Imagine
Faculty: Paul Gebhardt
Required Summer Reading: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Artists and designers see the world in unique and unusual ways and apply their creative ideas to both the practical and sublime parts of life. In this section of FYL we will re-imagine both the physical and social structures around us. Students will use multiple mediums such as drawing, photography, collage and social practice to create. Working both independently and collaboratively students will apply themselves to a real-world design challenge in collaboration with a community partner, and create purposeful and engaging imagery for the community.

Broadcast and Memory: Distributing the Archive

Course Title: Broadcast and Memory: Distributing the Archive
Faculty: Alex Lukas
Required Summer Reading: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Community Partner: Maine Historical Society

Interrogating notions of place, memory, and history as they are reflected in the records we keep, students in this FYL will create various “broadcasts” that interrogate structures of power and subvert existing narratives. Looking at historical and contemporary discourses around preservation, monumentalization, and urban commons, students will publish ‘zines, disseminate audio collages, and make plans for new monuments. Our goal with this lab to expand our vision towards the peripheral, centering the overlooked and questioning the looked-at-too-much. By engaging with a broad range of archives (both traditional and non-web-based and IRL), students will become researchers, journalists, designers, advocates, and fantastical thinkers.

Textile / Text / Texture

Course Title: Textile / Text / Texture
Faculty: Mali Mrozinski
Required Summer Reading: The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui
Community Partner: Maine Historical Society

'Textiles are the body’s first house" — Ann Hamilton

Textiles are inherently a part of us that can be worn, walked upon, embraced and discarded. Textiles are layered in historical and contemporary significance.

In this course, students will examine cloth and its relationship to the body, storytelling, preservation, identity, work, and research. Through collaborative and individual projects, students will use textiles as a lens, documenting ideas through stitching, photography, drawing, and writing.