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Make. Build. Create

Creative projects that change how we see

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Not only do we understand that you are different, we all thrive on those differences. That’s why at MECA we offer so many possibilities so that you can find your place.

You’ll learn history of art, principles of design, and current influences and points-of-view while exploring literally any art form that interests you. Here declaring your major starts with claiming your space – setting up your own studio where you can push the boundaries of your work.

At MECA you’ll receive the individualized attention from faculty and staff that you need to grow as an artist and strengthen your work, and this begins with the application process. The MECA Admissions team can work with you to make sure you’re putting your strongest possible application forward. We review hundreds of portfolios each year, both in person and online, and it’s our job to help you put together your best work – just ask for help. When evaluating applications, we’re looking for all of your strengths with consideration given to your portfolio and academic achievements. Each applicant is considered for merit-based scholarships upon acceptance to the College. We invite applications from students who will contribute to the diversity of our student body, including traditional high school applicants, transfers, non-traditional and international students, and veterans.

 

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Artistic Excellence

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  • Exploring Modernism Through Sound

    Sam Richardson ’15
    Read Story
  • Human Figure as Vehicle

    Arnela Mahmutovic '17
    Read Story
  • Vivian Beer ’00 Wins Ellen DeGeneres’ Design Challenge

    Vivian Beer '00
    Read Story
  • The Art of Music: Seeing Sound at MECA

    Bob Crewe Program in Art and Music
    Read Story
  • Anne Emlein + Rose Allard ’14 Win 2016 CAP Apprenticeship

    Faculty Anne Emlein + Faculty Rose Allard '14
    Read Story
  • Portland Mural Initiative

    Tessa Greene O'Brien, MFA '16
    Read Story
  • Essence of Form

    Miles Spadone '12
    Read Story
  • Confident in My Ability

    Allison Bonin '16
    Read Story
Exploring Modernism Through Sound image

Exploring Modernism Through Sound

Sam Richardson ’15

I like being able to give people a new way to interact with art.

When the Portland Museum of Art was looking for a way to allow visitors to create soundscapes in response to paintings in their O’Keeffe, Stettheimer, Torr, Zorach: Women Modernists in New York exhibition, for their PMA360 series, Digital Media Professor and Program Chair George LaRou ’88 recommended they get in touch with Sam Richardson ’15, which resulted in the Exploring Modernism Through Sound project.

Sam came up with some ideas for a reactive space that would generate sounds or a live performance, but eventually the concept of leading people through a creative process emerged as the central theme. The problem with programs like Pro Tools and Logic, software that professionals would use, was that they were much too complex for a casual untrained visitor. “Even GarageBand was too much for a situation where you want visitors to focus on the paintings and not get caught up in the interface,” Sam said. “My solution was to custom-build an app inspired by these programs, but streamlined to the point where no one would be too intimidated to pick it up and make their own composition.”

“My background is in things like computer coding, electronics, digital media — my BFA is in Digital Media — so making an app wasn’t totally new to me. It was my first time making what I’d consider a ‘functional’ app though, using standard developer tools and libraries that could work well enough to stand up to three hours of use. The process of actually building the app involved: collecting ambient sound recordings that evoked the time period and scenes depicted in the paintings; sketching out interface ideas; researching programming solutions; writing code; designing the text and graphics; and testing and tweaking the code and design many, many times.”

Sam had about three weeks to pull together the project, from conception to final product. Using Swift programming language and AudioKit, an open source audio toolkit for Apple platforms, he was able to create a grid of 10 or 16 sound loops that the user could tap to start or stop and which could be combined to make a composition. Tapping a menu icon below each sound opened a list of effects such as volume, pan, pitch, and reverb that could be edited to customize the sounds even further. The sessions could be saved and titled, as well as listened to or added to, by being accessed from any location. “This sort of took the place of a live performance by various sound artists,” Sam said. “Visitors’ own compositions became a part of the event that was displayed.”

Despite a few technical glitches during the test runs, the project was successful. “The museum staff who worked with me were really happy with the direction and how the whole thing turned out. It was a surprisingly well-running installation, by my standards,” said Sam. “I think the event went very well, better than I had hoped. I saw all sorts of people use the app in different ways — one visitor went to every iPad and spent minutes making intricate soundscapes, others played with it in passing, and a few picked up an iPad and carried it from painting to painting. Everyone seemed to get something different from the experience. My favorite was a little girl whose face lit up whenever she played a different sound. I had a few great conversations with like-minded people too.”

“I like being able to give people a new way to interact with art. There’s something about mixing new media and traditional media that appeals to me for whatever reason. Maybe I just want to be able to work in programming and art at the same time and not deal with some kind of ‘left brain vs. right brain,’ ‘science vs. art’ distinction. It all feels the same to me.”

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Human Figure as Vehicle image

Human Figure as Vehicle

Arnela Mahmutovic '17

I have been pushed outside of my comfort, a very tight academic approach to painting, into alternative methods of describing form. I am slowly learning to become fearless in my practice and embrace experimentation.

Describe a body of work that you are currently working on.
I am currently exploring the contrasts between my Bosnian upbringing and how moving to America created an intense shift in my personal development. My primary medium of choice is oil paint, but more recently I’ve been diving back into my love for drawing at an attempt to find a relationship between the two. I use the human figure as a vehicle to directly connect to a viewer emotionally. I describe inner turmoil through the portrayal of an outside force being inflicted upon these figures– this is an attempt to relate back to my concepts while also leaving room for the viewers own interpretation.

What made you chose to study art?
As a child I’ve always resolved problems visually; this carried through to my high school years until ultimately deciding upon a Fine Art focus at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York. After receiving an Associates Degree, I wanted to continue my studies and transferred to MECA. My work has always been strongest two dimensionally but I am hoping to expand beyond that comfort into something more sculptural or installation based. I felt that the painting major would give me the most freedom in realizing my ideas.

How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist? How has your practice changed over time?
While I did not spend my first two years of schooling at MECA, I feel that my artistic practice has been greatly influenced by the professors and curriculum since being here. I have been pushed outside of my comfort, a very tight academic approach to painting, into alternative methods of describing form. I am slowly learning to become fearless in my practice and embrace experimentation. I think a lot of strong ideas have gone to waste because I have convinced myself out of them, so I am attempting to resolve this.

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What inspires you?
My greatest inspiration comes from the people I surround myself with. I have been lucky enough to have an incredibly motivated and talented group of individuals during my time at both Hudson Valley and MECA . Their honesty and support is what keeps me pushing through any obstacles in the studio.

What do you hope to do after graduation?
After graduation I’d like to continue my studies into a MFA Program. Ultimately my hopes are to pursue a career in teaching, but I would enjoy working within a curatorial field as well.

What’s the advice you’ve ever received?
As I was finishing my last year at my previous school, I spent a couple hours in my professor’s office panicking about my transfer to MECA. What resonated with me most was, “The worst thing that could happen in your career as an artist is convincing yourself you’re not qualified to be one. There will be plenty of people who will tell you this along the way– don’t be one of them and give em hell.”

Arnela Mahmutovic

Vivian Beer ’00 Wins Ellen DeGeneres’ Design Challenge image

Vivian Beer ’00 Wins Ellen DeGeneres’ Design Challenge

Vivian Beer '00

Vivian Beer ’00 was announced the Winner of Ellen DeGeneres’ Design Challenge on last night’s finale. Vivian won a $100,000 cash prize from Wayfair.com and her work will be featured in HGTV Magazine. The episode challenged the final two contestants to design furniture for greenrooms at The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Vivian Beer '00 Ellen Design Challenge

Finalist designer Vivian Beer’s design, an elegant signature table with curved metal legs, a wood trestle and a transparent acrylic top paired with a spectacular CNC machined, LED lit acrylic chandelier, is presented to the judges. Images provided by HGTV.

View Vivian’s Work through out the Design Challenge Season.

View Vivian’s Portfolio and Artist Statement.

The Art of Music: Seeing Sound at MECA image

The Art of Music: Seeing Sound at MECA

Bob Crewe Program in Art and Music

I strongly believe in creativity and how different art forms interact to create something unique. I believe my brother Bob’s career demonstrates this in a powerful way. The Bob Crewe Foundation and Maine College of Art are embarking on something really special and original in academia by blending the two areas with an evolutionary design. — Trustee Dan Crewe

The fusion of music and art at MECA is a match made in heaven, or at least in Newark, New Jersey, where Bob Crewe grew up. The path from Newark to Portland, Maine, may seem unlikely, but serendipity works in mysterious ways. Because of the extraordinary career of Bob Crewe, and his brother Dan’s generosity, the Bob Crewe Program in Art and Music is now an integral and uniquely innovative part of the MECA experience.

Dan Crewe has served on MECA’s Board of Trustees since 2011. Dan is the devoted brother of Bob Crewe, the writer/producer of many of the American rock and pop group The Four Seasons’ greatest hits: “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”—to name only a few. Bob also wrote songs that were later covered by Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Herman’s Hermits, and Roberta Flack. Bob’s protean talent as a songwriter and sound studio wizard has long been recognized and celebrated in America’s professional music scene, and Dan wanted to honor Bob and preserve his legacy by nurturing young musicians.

Through Dan’s friendship with MECA’s president, Don Tuski, and their shared vision for a music program at MECA, a unique opportunity for MECA was born. Dan donated an unprecedented $3 million to MECA to institute a music minor option for MECA students. Along with funding a state-of-the-art sound studio, music practice rooms, and classrooms, Dan Crewe’s gift from the Bob Crewe Foundation has also created the Bob Crewe Gallery, featuring artifacts and
memorabilia from Bob’s life and career.

When Dan Crewe and President Don Tuski presented the fledgling program to the public at a news conference in 2013, Dan set a compelling and modest tone of inspired philanthropy. “There is no agenda,” Dan said, “no preconceived direction. Let MECA’s future artist-musicians create the program and take it wherever their creative genius leads.”

The connection between art and music, specifically art students and musicians, has long been known, if only haphazardly reported. Some of the 20th century’s most iconic pop stars originally went to art school, eventually blasting off into music but never abandoning their artistic skills and practice: John Lennon (painting), Jerry Garcia (illustration), Freddie Mercury (graphic design), Pete Townshend (graphic design), Kanye West (visual arts), Rob Zombie (visual arts), and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (fine arts), to name only a small fraction of the more recognizable names. The art/music crossover is so obvious that it has frequently been missed.

Bob Crewe himself went to Parsons School of Design in NYC and his visual art practice was an inspiration for his music. Besides his brilliant music career, Bob designed a number of album covers and had many acclaimed one-person gallery showings of his paintings.

The “hiding in plain sight” nature of this phenomenon could be the reason this rich creative hybrid has rarely been acted on formally in art schools. Through Dan Crewe’s largesse and President Tuski’s collaborative vision, however, MECA is now in the vanguard of this powerful new direction. MECA’s Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Ian Anderson (no relation to the Jethro Tull frontman) asserts that MECA is “the first art college to explicitly engage in combining the study of contemporary art and design with music.” In Dan Crewe’s words, “I strongly believe in creativity and how different art forms interact to create something unique. I believe my brother Bob’s career demonstrates this in a powerful way. The Bob Crewe Foundation and Maine College of Art are embarking on something really special and original in academia by blending the two areas with an evolutionary design.”

The sound studio is now rocking, and there is a steady stream of artist-musicians going downstairs to what used to be The Forbidden Zone—the MECA catacombs—but is now a sparkling facility full of sound and creative freedom. Steve Drown, Assistant Professor of Music and sound studio professional, heads the program, which features courses such as History of Contemporary Music, Applied Theory Through Composition, Music Business and Management, Ethnomusicology, and the experimental course Sound and Color.

Steve and his colleague, instructor and composer Hans Spencer, bring great experience and passion to the new program. Hans is the CEO of Listen Up, a mobile music teaching app company, and has taught music for 20+ years. He has a master’s in jazz studiesfrom the New England Conservatory of Music. Steve has been an independent recording engineer for 20+ years, currently workingat The Studio in downtown Portland. He earned his degree in music production and engineering from Berklee College of Music.The proof, though, is in the figgy pudding, as they say at Hogwarts, and all signs indicate that MECA’s music program resounds with audible and visible proof. Steve Drown says: “Students have beenstopping by the music department since day one, just asking to play the instruments. It’s great that everyone wants to be involved.” Steve also shared a glimpse of how the program will interface withother MECA disciplines: “The new art and music program is going to be great not just for musicians; the new recording facilities will help the Digital Media students with films, animation, and video games. They now have a great space to record voice and do
sound design.”

Anne Emlein + Rose Allard ’14 Win 2016 CAP Apprenticeship image

Anne Emlein + Rose Allard ’14 Win 2016 CAP Apprenticeship

Faculty Anne Emlein + Faculty Rose Allard '14

I remember as a small girl watching the lobstermen sitting around the general store knitting mittens and trap heads. I began to understand that self-sufficient Mainers had their own answers to labor and climate needs, and that knitting is a part of our past, present and future-culturally and economically.

Faculty Anne Emlein and Faculty Rose Allard ’14 were chosen as a Master / Apprentice pair in the 2016 Craft Apprentice Program, implemented by Maine Crafts Association and Maine Arts Commission.

The seven-month CAP apprenticeship offers concentrated peer-to-peer learning experiences for apprentices who demonstrate a commitment to further their abilities as specialized craft practitioners. They will accomplish this through a significant relationship with a master artist. The program will also serve to celebrate the role of the master/apprentice relationship as a way to generate creative entrepreneurship through the cultural sector. It addresses the need for developing sustainability and resiliency in the craft sector by allowing craft artists to acquire new skills, tools and management habits that help them adapt to the changing environment of craft consumers. CAP offers support and guidance from the MCA and MAC, as well as, honorariums to both master and apprentice. The program concludes in October with a exhibition and alumni gathering during Maine Craft Weekend and Maine International Conference on the Arts in Lewiston.

The number of applicants to the inaugural year of CAP exceeded expectations leaving a difficult task to the 2016 CAP jurors: Carolyn Hecker, MCA Founder and Gallery Director Pearson Legacy Gallery (Deer Isle), Ian Anderson, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College MECA (Portland) and Barbara Michelena, Founder and Curator, CRAFT (Rockland).

Meet the 2016 Master / Apprentice Pair

Master
As a child, Anne Emlein spent summers in Phippsburg, ME with her grandmother, who inspired her to pursue a fiber arts degree. She earned a BFA in Textiles from the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1981 and purchased her first knitting machine shortly after. She went on to earn a Certificate in Discipline‐Based Art Education from the Getty: California Consortium for Arts Education, Crocker Art Museum (Sacramento, CA) and an MFA in Textiles from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has been exhibited in numerous regional and national craft shows and museums, and she is the founding director and program chair of the Textile and Fashion Design Department at the Maine College of Art (MECA), where she has been teaching since 2012.

“I remember as a small girl watching the lobstermen sitting around the general store knitting mittens and trap heads. I began to understand that self-sufficient Mainers had their own answers to labor and climate needs, and that knitting is a part of our past, present and future-culturally and economically. “ Anne Emlein

Apprentice
Anneli Rose Allard, who goes by Rose, spent much of her childhood in her Finnish grandmother’s sewing room in eastern Connecticut. Anne Emlein’s Introduction to Machine Knitting course at the the Maine College of Art (MECA) transformed her path as an artist and Rose “hasn’t had a knit-free day since.” She earned her BFA from MECA in 2014, and currently teaches at MECA and throughout Portland.

“I am fascinated by the history of knitting and the concept of one continuous thread to make an entire garment. The medium lends itself to my exploration of my Finnish heritage and love for Scandinavian design. I see blending yarns on the knitting machine as another form of painting.” Rose Allard

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.

 

Essence of Form image

Essence of Form

Miles Spadone '12

Personally, my greatest challenge while at MECA was trying clarify how to best express my ideas.

Describe a body of work that you have made. I am interested in the essence of a form through a process of reduction. Void of decoration, the surface of my work is expressed like skin over ribs, where rigid meets languid. My work strives to suspend an emerging moment of transformation, the moment when impression and inflation clash. Like the instant before an object rips through taut plastic, water sheds off your hand, or bone protrudes through elastic skin, my work captures a tactile image of materials moving in opposition. Left-right, in-out, soft-hard, are simple but poignant moments in transformation. This work expresses the conflicting space in between.

What made you chose to go into your current field of art? I grew up in a woodshop but started working with clay in high school. At MECA, I was able to bridge the gap by working in the woodshop to prototype models for casting in clay. I now work in a clay studio above my fathers woodshop where Icontinue to utilize wood working techniques to guide my process.

How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist? MECA acted and continues to act as a springboard for ideas and opportunities. As a student, MECA and the faculty worked to guide and focus my ideas and process. Personally, my greatest challenge while at MECA was trying clarify how to best express my ideas. My teachers worked diligently with me to help refine my scattered concepts and ambitions. By enacting method I was able to find a voice that more clearly expressed ideas through form and material.

What inspires you? I’m inspired by a lot— although I’m not sure my inspirations are what carry my practice. I try to put blinders on once I have a goal. Otherwise, I lose focus on the project in front of me.

What kind of career are you pursuing after your graduation? Right now I am working closely with a product designer. We work with companies looking to design a new product, innovate a process, or conduct an initial study on product viability in a market.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Less advice and more leading/living by example. So many people have showed the value of community. If you continue to nurture those you love and live with/around, your life will be exponentially enriched. Invest in community and the return is immeasurable.

Confident in My Ability image

Confident in My Ability

Allison Bonin '16

While our department is growing steadily, I am enjoying its intimacy and pioneering spirit.

Describe a body of work that you are currently working on.
My current body of work is inspired by a pair of vintage Jell-O molds that were gifted to me over the summer. Like the Jell-O mold, I want these dresses and coats to be highly versatile. The refined designs can be replicated through many different types of fabrics, just like how the Jell-O mold can be filled with different fruits, flavors, and textures.

What’s your background? How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist?
Sewing has always been a passion of mine, I starting making clothes for myself in high school; I wasn’t trained in the proper technical skills and I had no understanding of how expansive the fashion/textile design field was beyond simply making clothes for the runway, or owning my own business.

I entered MECA hoping to be an illustration major, and while drawing is still integral to my studio practice, I realize now that what I was designing were theatrical garments and costumes. The Textile and Fashion Design Program started the year I began as a freshman. I took the intro class on a whim and fell in love. Anne and the rest of the department welcomed me with open arms, and I found myself at home in the T&FD department. While our department is growing steadily, I am enjoying its intimacy and pioneering spirit; I have the freedom to explore and the benefit of a tight-knit community of majors who really support and care for each other. This past spring semester, I had an internship with the Portland Ballet, and dove into the world of costume and set design. I feel like I have truly found my life’s calling. I am focusing a lot of my energy on my major’s work to prepare for the thesis semester, as well as freelancing around town with costume designer Pamela Moulton.

My education at MECA has made me feel very confident in my ability to spread my wings and expand my practice when I graduate!

What inspires you?
I am heavily inspired by the costume designs of Leon Bakst of the Ballet Russe; I am not exclusive as to what inspires me. A dog I saw in the park, a bike ride, a new recipe, or a weird science fiction book I found on the side of the road; I am totally open and receptive to my environment and inspirations— it can happen anytime!

What do you hope to do after graduation?
After graduation I wish to pursue a career in costume design, focusing on working with performers from the circus, ballet, or the theatre.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received and would offer to a fellow artist is to make your practice your all-consuming passion; you have to be completely devoted and invested in what you want to do.