Welcome to Maine College of Art. I have really enjoyed meeting the new students who joined our community over the past few weeks and greeting the returning students and members of the BOLT team. We have all been planning for the start of the fall semester for several months, and it is very gratifying to see the majors studios full again and our new foundation classes in progress. On behalf of the MECA leadership team, your faculty, and all of the staff at the College, I want to warmly welcome you!
I feel fortunate to be part of this passionate, creative, dedicated community of artists here in Maine, one of the safest and healthiest states in the country. And I am extremely grateful to be in Portland – somehow things feel a little lighter, brighter, and more promising here in our city.
On campus, we are all adjusting to the new requirements of learning and educating in the era of COVID-19. I encourage all of you to look for what we have in common rather than how social distancing can separate us. One thing we all have in common is the beauty of being in Portland, and the ease of access to all of the wonderful parks and open spaces right outside MECA’s doors. You can reach the Eastern Promenade by turning right outside the Porteous building on Congress Street – it is only a little more than a mile up the hill and has phenomenal views of Casco Bay. In the evenings, I highly recommend heading the other way to the Western Prom where you can watch the sun set over the city with the White Mountains in the distance. I encourage you to take advantage of the beautiful late summer weather to explore the walking path beyond the Casco Bay terminal and check out the East End Beach.
Here on campus, I want to be sure that you all know that there are many people here to support you. Counseling at MECA is confidential and free of charge for students, but you will need to make an appointment – just email firstname.lastname@example.org with some dates and times that work for you. You can read more on the Counseling & Wellness website and access crisis support resources here. Faculty and staff mentors are one of the most important relationships every student has at MECA. Mentors help students navigate the MECA experience, providing advice on course selection and internship possibilities, and can help students to identify which major best fits their professional and life goals. If you have not already been assigned a mentor, the Registrar’s Office will inform you who your mentor is within the first two weeks of school.
I am very pleased to introduce you to a new face on campus who is also here to support you. Margaret Brownlee joined MECA over the summer as our new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer and Learning Support Coordinator. Margaret will help us to continue to develop a culture of social change, racial justice, and inclusion at MECA and will also lead our Writing & Tutoring program. Margaret has an extensive background in student support and higher education and is passionate about helping college students establish a sense of belonging in higher education by facilitating conversations about intersectionality, intercultural competence, and global fluency. Margaret’s office is located within the Student Life suite, and she can be reached at email@example.com or (207) 699-5086.
People often ask me for any advice I can give at the start of the new academic year. In addition to everything I know you will be doing, I suggest trying to maintain a sense of optimism. Things are different this year, but everyone here has been given an opportunity to create our safe community at MECA together and to engage with each other socially. This is a privilege that not many people have in 2020, and this year more than any other it is up to all of us to craft the experience that we want to have together. As one of our faculty members shared the other day, “the world is bonkers, but Porteous and 380 Cumberland feel like an oasis.” I am grateful for our MECA oasis and for all of you who bring your creativity, energy, and “can-do” attitude to the College every day.
PS — If you have a chance, check out the 40-foot long mural created by CS Faculty member Karrin Parkinson and painted by MECA student Sidney Sanchez ‘21 and recent grad Candace Gosta ‘20 on the back of the Federal Express building in Monument Square. MECA sculpture graduate Ashley Page ‘20 has a new public art installation in Congress Square called In Memory of Those Taken that lists the names and portrays the faces of Black Americans who have been taken from us unjustly. Ollie McGowan ’20 has created a flag that is being displayed outside SPACE Gallery through September 2nd that addresses discrimination against the Transgender community within the United States and across the world. And MECA’s new “Be Seen” posters are popping up all over town, featuring artwork by Michael Byers, Christian Northeast, and Opal Robinson ’23.
Featured Image: First-year MECA students Tristan Macinnis and Brianna Sapienza sporting their MECA masks in front of the new “Be Seen” window installation in MECA’s Porteous building featuring artwork by Michael Byers.