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Professional Development

Advance Studio and Professional Skills with Opportunities and Experiences Beyond the Classroom

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Public Engagement

Art for Social Change

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Alumni Opportunities

Resources, Alumni Exhibitions, and Residencies

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Artists at Work

You’ll put your creative problem solving skills to use in the classroom, in the vibrant city of Portland, and around the globe. Professional development is not a singular class in your last semester. Creating a meaningful career starts the day you enter MECA and continues throughout your life as an alum of the College.

Whether you want to be a studio artist, a commercial designer, an educator, or an arts administrator, you’ll take away skills that translate into a variety of career choices. Artists at Work provides connections to internships, jobs, commissions, professional development opportunities, community partners, and residencies.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 65% of America’s school children will eventually be employed in jobs that have yet to be created. An arts education teaches skills for a new, entrepreneurial economy: critical thinking, creative problem solving, risk-taking, collaboration, and innovation.

What Our Alumni Do With Art Degrees
  • Artist-in-Residence, Design Studio for Social Intervention
  • Art Teacher, North Yarmouth Academy
  • Chief Operating Officer, United Way
  • Creative Director, Peabody Essex Museum
  • Curator, Issue Project Room
  • Design Editor, L.L. Bean
  • Digital Creative Director, Anthropologie
  • Director of Massive Change, Bruce Mau Design
  • Effects Animator, Walt Disney
  • Executive Director, Indochina Arts Partnership
  • Founder, Pickwick Independent Press
  • Game Designer, Self-employed
  • Graphic Designer, Cole Haan
  • International Projects Manager, Art Bospherous International Modern Art Fair
  • Marketing Design Director, Wired Magazine
  • Master Printer, Wingate Studios
  • Professor, Stanford University
  • Publication Designer, Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Registrar, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Vice-President for Design, Hasbro

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Artists at Work Stories

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Meet The Team

The heart of an art education is the studio process to gain knowledge as a maker. In addition, students develop as critical thinkers, risk-takers, and problem-solvers in the world. We connect students to opportunities to apply these skills in their creative careers.

Jessica Tomlinson Director of Artists at Work
Meet The Team
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

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

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

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Intimate and Mysterious Connections

Liz Long '14

It was a thrilling challenge to pull an entire of body of work together to share with so many people.

Describe a body of work that you have made.
I recently had my first solo show, Keepsakes, at Vestibule 594 in Portland. I painted a series of illustrative acrylic paintings on wood panels and created a mural surrounding the series of work. It was a thrilling challenge to pull an entire of body of work together to share with so many people. I wanted the series to show the intimate and mysterious connections that people have with different creatures and objects.

What’s your background?
I think my marriage to illustration started when I transferred to Philadelphia’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts my junior year and it continued to solidify ever since. While there I worked with various mediums, but became the most involved with my illustration classes. Ever since then, I’ve come to love the quick problem solving nature that illustration has to offer and the boundaries it can break between fine art and the applied arts.

How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist?
MECA offered me a very unique education where I was taught by illustrators who are still working in their chosen fields and who really knew what tools I needed as a student. My practice started to change as I got to know some of my past professors better after graduating. Mary Anne Lloyd and Scott Nash have continued to be wonderful outlets of support and seeing Jamie Hogan’s home illustration practice and overall beautiful outlook on life really helped me understand why It’s important to put so much time and honest effort into pursuing illustration full time. I have learned how important it is to make work everyday and to keep making connections with other artists.

What inspires you?
I am so inspired by everything childlike and silly and love collecting children’s books and toys. More so now than ever, I get a lot of ideas from the natural and man made landscapes I live in and have traveled to. I also love to read and have found that the more time I spend with other people’s stories, the more ready I am to make narrative work.

What kind of career are you pursuing after your graduation?
I realized after a year of taking on a lot of different freelance projects that what I really want to pursue is a career in creating children’s books, book covers and projects more closely related to the publishing side of illustration. I just finished a two month residency in Ireland preparing my portfolio in this new light. I also love painting murals and hope to work on more in the future whether they be community related, in homes and children’s rooms, or businesses.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? I can’t recall who the first person was to tell me, but I have taken it to heart to embrace being uncomfortable. I am the most inspired and the best version of myself when I put myself in situations I haven’t been in before. Whether it’s by traveling alone, trying out new painting techniques, or pursuing new relationships, I grow so much from it all.