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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

View all Artists at Work Stories

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
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Beyond Borders: Art and Activism

Aaron Staples '08

Art is a lens to look at issues that are too complex to examine in words.

Aaron Staples ’08, who grew up in Maine and earned his BFA from MECA in Graphic Design, worked with Greenpeace to create art for their “Not Just Tuna” campaign that demonstrates the environmental destruction implicit in commercial tuna fishing, which includes destructive fishing methods and exploitive and unsafe working conditions for the fishermen.

As part of the campaign, Aaron was commissioned to create large paintings in the Sumi-e style, using black ink made from lamp soot. In a Bangor Daily News article about the project, Aaron said, “It’s really an honor. I’m very proud to be able to lend my small voice to this larger campaign in a meaningful way.”

His process and work were featured on a blog post entitled “4 Reasons Art is Essential to Activism,” which quoted some of Aaron’s thoughts about the project: ““Regardless of what language they speak, people can feel the emotion. That’s why art can be such a powerful tool to translate these ideas across a range of audiences. They’re responding specifically — and very viscerally — to what they’re seeing.”

“Risk is a large part of making art. What you’re doing is essentially opening yourself up and putting your thoughts, ideas and way of responding to the world on display for people to come and look at. You don’t know if people will embrace it … I think it’s the same for artists and activists: there’s a compulsion. There’s this innate drive to do what it is you need to do. We have to react, so we get over the fear of failure.”

In the BDN article, Molly Dorozenski, from Greenpeace, said, “We were immediately taken with his ability to distill complex ideas into beautiful and captivating visual stories. Because the Not Just Tuna campaign shows how current methods of fishing tuna impact both the diversity of marine life and the humans who are working in terrible conditions, we knew we needed a special artist to be able to illustrate that complexity. Furthermore, our campaign is global, but Aaron’s images don’t need to be translated — they tell the entire story of the campaign in images.”

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For The Hired Wrights, the Opportunities Are Endless

The Hired Wrights

The members share a common passion of creating compelling and influential works fueled by a mixture of specialty and creativity.

Forest Gagne ’14

The Hired Wrights is a collective of 14 artists, designers, and craftspeople who offer services encompassing illustration, graphic design, woodworking, sculpture, bookbinding, printing, and more. Based in Portland, Maine, “the members of HW came from all over to join up behind a common passion of creating compelling and influential works fueled by a mixture of speciality and creativity.” They all have college degrees and solid freelance experience.

The Hired Wrights was co-founded by graphic designer Hugh McCormick ’15, who was raised in Baltimore, Maryland, where he worked as a horseback riding instructor and wilderness trip leader before enrolling at MECA. “Hugh is a firm believer in creating a voice through a harmony of form, content and delivery. He is interested in finding innovative and influential design solutions through the balance of aesthetic quality and creative direction. He has targeted focuses in branding, apparel design, packaging and print/web based advertising, but despises the idea of in any way being limited to those practices.”

Illustration by Liz Long '14

Illustration by Liz Long ’14

The collective includes many other MECA alumni, who bring a broad range of expertises to the table, such as Johnny Dickinson ’14 (woodworking), Forest Gagne ’14 (woodworking), Liz Long ’14 (illustration), Brady Price ’14 (printmaking and illustration), Anna Taylor ’14 (graphic design and illustration), Nick Gonthier ’15 (illustration and sculpture), Emma McCabe ’15 (illustration and book binding), John Novak ’15 (graphic and exhibition design), Joe Lendway ’15 (woodworking), and Patrick Scholz ’15 (photography). Past clients and collaborators include The VIA Agency, Kingspøke, Might and Main, Creative Work Systems, Maine Leather Co., and many others. As a collaborative venture, The Hired Wrights is especially situated to work on projects that require more than one skill and the ability to tap
many resources.

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Different Contexts

Sara Inacio '17

MECA has played a major role in shaping me as an artist.

In 2015, Sara Inacio was awarded a Professional Development and Entrepreneurship Grant, which helps BFA, MFA, and MAT students to advance their studio and professional skills by accessing opportunities and experiences beyond the MECA classroom. She is using her funds to participate in a project conducted by Braddock Tiles, a community based artisanal micro‐factory located in a formerly abandoned church in North Braddock, Pennsylvania initiated by the artist Swoon who specializes in life‐size wheat paste prints and paper cutouts of human figures.

Describe a body of work that you are currently working on.
I am currently working with Printmaking and Ceramics. I have been exploring ways in which sculpture/installation can relate to print. Lately I have become very interested in Biblical concepts and ideas. In my current work I have been using the lamb as a symbol of purity and sacrifice. I am working on a life size porcelain lamb that will open for people to interact with by writing/drawing with charcoal directly on it. Once the lamb is completely covered, I am planning on glaze firing it so that all of the charcoal will burn off, giving the lamb a new, clean, and glossy surface. This piece will be about renewal, and the beauty that comes from this idea of offering, or letting go of something.

What’s your background?
My initial intended major was Painting, but after exploring several programs at MECA, I found that Printmaking was the best fit for me. I have become interested in working in many different mediums, and Printmaking can easily be combined with any of them. I find Printmaking to be a very flexible medium that allows me to keep exploring new ways of making and combining different mediums and materials. It also allows me to work in multiples and to bring my work into many different contexts. I was drawn to the sense of community throughout the department, and the collaborative aspect of it. The department overall works very well in combination with my Public Engagement Minor.

How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist?
MECA has played a major role in shaping me as an artist, and it has really encouraged my practice to change over time. I spent my first two years exploring as many programs as I could, including Printmaking, Painting, Ceramics, Sculpture, and Illustration. All of these programs, along with Foundation, has helped to build up my skill set. My work has changed drastically from the beginning of my MECA education, and it continues to change and improve as I learn how to apply the skills I have learned along with what I am learning.

What inspires you?
All of my inspiration and what really drives me to create is God’s love for people and his love in me. All of my work is inspired by his love, and I believe that he is the one who gives me the ability and motivation to create.

What do you hope to do after graduation?
I am not sure of exactly what career I would like pursue once I graduate. I just know that I would like to continue to make art, and to keep doing collaborative and community based work. Although I don’t have any specific career goals, I am confident that the range of skills and experience I have been gaining during my education at MECA will open a lot of opportunities for me as an artist.


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Majors Exhibit Nationally

Mary Forst '16 & Betsy Lewis '16

Two Metalsmithing & Jewelry Design majors, Betsy Lewis ’16 and Mary Forst ’16, were accepted into national exhibitions. Betsy is exhibiting in Craft Forms 2015, dedicated to enhancing the public’s awareness of fine contemporary craft, while providing a venue for established and emerging artists to share their creative endeavors.  Both also exhibited in Form Forge Fabricate, the Southern Illinois Metalsmith’s 8th annual exhibition, which promotes metsalsmithing arts and features work by graduate and undergraduate students interested in metal as an artistic medium. Mary is also a finalist in the 2016 NICHE Awards student competition, hosted by NICHE Magazine.

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Colorful Costumes

Textile & Fashion Design Majors

Colorful costumes designed by MECA students and faculty were featured in "An Alice Symphony."

The colorful costumes seen in the Portland Symphony Orchestra and The Portland Ballet’s performance of “An Alice Symphony” by Del Tredici were designed by Textile & Fashion Design students and faculty.  Part of an Enchanted Favorites program, the symphony was in honor of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland (a similar tribute took place at a MECA hosted exhibit at the Portland Public Library). To fit the two different bodies of the performers playing Alice, Ariana Faria ’17 designed a blue dress with a combined knit and woven fabric .

Participating Textile & Fashion Design Majors

Justin Desper ’17
Ariana Faria ’17
Parker Smedley ’17
Nicole Waller ’17
Ashley Wernher-Collins ’16

Photo Credit: Michael Havey