Public Engagement

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Public Engagement propels students into real world situations that tap their creative potential.

The Public Engagement Minor at Maine College of Art is a four year curricular pathway that integrates art, real-world problems and community partners. Students work with a range of partners in a variety of public contexts to  address and solve complex issues in our project and problem-based courses. Utilizing collaborative methods and participatory models, our students take action as citizens, artists, and designers. As a result, each student gains the skills and confidence to directly impact their culture and society during and after college.

One of the first programs of its kind in an art school, this interdisciplinary curriculum has been part of our pedagogy for more than 25 years. Together, we learn and apply the skills of co-creating, designing, building and activating our world to make it better for all.

Maine College of Art - Public Engagement from Maine College of Art on Vimeo.


Student Spotlight

Chloe Beaven ’15

Public Engagement Fellow + New Media Senior

Chloe transferred to MECA for the Public Engagement minor after studying Anthropology and Visual Arts at the University of British Columbia. During her time at MECA she has utilized her public engagement minor to leverage leadership positions on campus, in the community, and around the globe. She is partnering with Waynflete School and Seeds of Peace on her capstone project. The project will focus on issues of race, dialogue and civic responsibility. Her projects will include implementing the Big Think Series, monthly conversations hosted by an artist or academic within the field of socially engaged art or social justice; revitalizing the MECA C.A.R.E diversity group; leading workshops with the Seeds of Peace students; and launching an exhibit focusing on issues of race. Her capstone culminated in a public dialogue and slam poetry event and workshop led by visiting scholar Don Sawyer that took place at MECA on February 5 and 6.  

Sophomore Year
+ Secretary of MECA H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People to Equality - LGBTQIA Group)
+ Founding member and co-president of MECA C.A.R.E. (Celebrating All Realms of Ethnicity)
+ Merit Exhibition Award Recipient
+ Curator of Nothing Major Exhibition
+ Maine Campus Compact Award 

Junior year
+ Internship with nonprofit Catalyst for Peace
+ Traveled to Sierra Leone
+ Co-President of MECA H.O.P.E.
+ Co-President of MECA C.A.R.E.
+ Professional Development and Entrepreneurship Grant
+ Merit Exhibition Award Winner
+ Summer coordinator for Continuing Studies summer programs
+ Student assistant for Artists at Work 

Senior Year
+ Working for nonprofit Catalyst for Peace
+ Public Engagement Fellow, partnering with Seeds of Peace and MECA
+ Capstone project, Partnering to the student group Racial Awareness at Wayneflete (RAaW)
+ Student assistant for Artists at Work


Connect with Public Engagement work on Facebook and Tumblr

MECA's 25-year history of Public Engagement partnerships is vast, deep, and diverse.  We are grateful for what we have learned and co-created with them.






In 1986, MECA was one of the first art schools in the country to launch a course that integrated art, real world problems, and community partners into its teaching curriculum.

Now, 25 years later, we are still at it.

The Public Engagement program at MECA has an extensive track record of solving problems and creating collaborative community partnerships. Under skilled and thoughtful leadership, the initiative has successfully implemented service-learning as a pedagogical tool. We utilize best practice partnership principles, reciprocity and guided project planning. Our faculty and staff are practitioners and leaders in the field, and have received numerous awards for their work. At MECA we do Public Engagement well, take it seriously and have an incredible lineage to boot.

Leadership Highlight include:

  • 1986 - 2001: Regina Kelly (Khenmo Drolma) created and led ART IN SERVICE
  • 1995: Priscilla Dreyman served as Director
  • 1996 - 1999: Liz Sinclair served as Director
  • 1999 - 2001: John Mangum served as Director
  • 2001 - 2007: Jennifer Christian created and led CREATIVE COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS
  • 2007 - 2012: Christina Bechstein, Elizabeth Jabar, Maryli Tieman, Erin Hutton, Kate Hassett, Jess Sheldon, Jennifer Livingston created and led PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT program
  • 2011: Public Engagement Minor Launch.



For more information please contact the Office of Public Engagement at 207.699.5064.

FYin: Climate Change & Maine's Island Communities Exhibition
Now on view in Artists at Work through December 19, 2014. 

A collection of art works regarding climate change and the impact on coastal Maine Communities. These artists books, photos and maps were made by first year MECA students in partnership with the Island Institute and including interviews and oral history from Maine Coastal Fishing Organization
Participating Students:  
Veronica Jones,  Hudson Coccoluto, Jianna Bennetti, Arianne Patton, Olivia Dwyer, Rae Jett, Donovan Mooney, Ryan Mood, Trisha McNickle, Rachel Krause,Jackiellen Bonney, Anna Morse, Jacalynn Farrin, Molly Soneson and Cara Collins  
FYin Instructor:
Michel Droge

A Shifted Behavior: a collaborative exploration of our individual actions and the impacts on climate change
February 28 - March 7, 2014

A Shifted Behavior is an artistic project that seeks to generate dialog and increase education about climate change through curriculum, community partnerships, social media and exhibitions. Using a variety of print and digital media, the works in the exhibition reveal how our individual actions impact the natural environment, and prompt us to question and shift our habits. Students worked collaboratively on a diverse set of projects that call attention to a range of environmental issues including waste, consumption, food safety and education. The project utilizes the Citizen Circle model and seeks to build peer knowledge and skills, increase engagement and expand the public audience.

This hybrid project is part of a larger Public Engagement  initiative to embed issues of climate change and environmental stewardship into the curriculum and co-curricular programming. This initiative is generously supported by an Environmental Education Grant from the EPA.   Thank you to our project partners inside the college and our community partners at 350/Maine.

The exhibition will be held at Maine College of Art, Zand Head Gallery, 522 Congress Street, Portland, Maine, from February 28-March 8.  Participatory projects and closing reception on first Friday, March 7 from 5-8PM.

Artists in the exhibition: Chloe Beaven, Robert Bennett, Kristina Buckley, Zach Dallaire, Caitlin Ervin, Ashley Hall, Samantha Prada-Putzig, Megan Taitano, Anthony Zambrana

Follow this project and other Public Engagement initiatives: or MECA Public Engagement on Facebook

Art + Food + Love + Talk

December 13, 2013

The Maine College of Art’s Public Engagement Class: The Art of Collaboration and Participation, in partnership with Cultivating Community, invited individuals and organizations to Art+Food+Love+Talk: an exploration of food access through art, food and conversation on Friday, December 13, 5:30­-7:00pm.

The evening centered on a shared meal, and conversation about our collective and personal relationship to food, gardening and food access. The event included homemade soup and bread made by Cultivating Community’s high school Culinary Crew, an art installation, participatory art making and story collection.

Photo gallery

FY-In Lunch
November 2013

All freshmen are enrolled in FY-In, a class which introduces them to each other, the college, and the local community. The class of more than 120 students is divided into six groups, each with a community partner and real world project. All the students gathered together at the end of their first semester for a communal lunch. Students were asked to reflect “what did you learn about yourself this semester?”

See the responses.

Civic Center Mural
October 2013
The Cumberland County

The Cumberland County Civic Center engaged first year MECA students to design a 140-foot mural for the Free Street building exterior. Faculty member Shirah Neumann worked with freshmen in her FY-In public engagement class to understand the needs of the stakeholders, define the design parameters, pitch concepts, rework ideas, and work collaboratively. Freshman Grace Whatley’s concept was selected for the final design. Students worked as artists-in-residence in the Artists at Work space to prep and paint 40 panels. The mural will be on view for the next year.

Photo gallery


What is the Minor in Public Engagement?

A four year curricular pathway that integrates art, real-world problems and community partners. BFA students can easily minor in Public Engagement as a complement to their major studio choice. Public Engagement Minors will gain experience working collaboratively with artists and organizations across The City of Portland as part of a dynamic studio practice.

How does a Minor in Public Engagement help me to become a successful artist or designer?

Course work in Public Engagement prepares students for life after graduation. In a pre-professional setting, students learn skills for a variety of careers in self-actualized projects, organizations, art institutions, graduate study, and expanded notions of entrepreneurial studio practice.  This is accomplished by working on real projects, taking on real problems and interfacing with real community members through courses and the required internship and other experiences. The level of engagement, outcomes and processes that you will gain is exciting and somewhat boundary-less. As a Public Engagement Minor, you will be prepared to make your way in the world.

Our students have and are working as creative activators in, for, and with the world.

What are the learning outcomes?

  • Learn how to work in a variety of settings and gain professional experience and exposure to a range of careers, fields, and arenas including but not limited to arts administration, nonprofit and educational organizations, community-based teaching and entrepreneurial endeavors.
  • Study and apply problem-based project models. This includes ethics, best practices of community building, appropriate community processes, and skill building for organizing, project planning and working collaboratively
  • Study the history, theory, models and context of art practice in the field of public engagement, including: public art, community art, collaboration, social practice, and the role of the citizen artist/designer.

How much time does it take?

The Public Engagement Minor means hard work, but the majority of classes are woven into the studio curriculum, allowing the minor to be completed as an integrated part of your studio major.

I want to partner with MECA’s Public Engagement Program, who do I contact?

Please contact Elizabeth A. Jabar, Assistant Dean + Director of Public Engagement at [email protected], or 207.699.5064.