Ten Years of Art at SMCC: Faculty Exhibition
12:00am - 12:00am
Location: Main Library
This September, art faculty members from Southern Maine Community College will exhibit works in celebration of the ten year anniversary of the formation of the Fine Arts Department at the college.
The seeds for the art program were planted in 2003 when SMCC transitioned from a technical college to a community college. In an effort to develop Liberal Arts courses, the college initiated an Artist-in-Residence program the following year. When Michael Branca taught “Introduction to Drawing and Visual Art” in the spring of 2005, it was the first art class that the school had ever offered. “When I arrived at SMCC, I found an institution that was starving for creative outlets. We’ve become used to hearing about schools cutting the arts when budgets get tight. It has been great to be a part of this opposite movement to build an art program from scratch instead,” said Branca, who currently teaches drawing and painting at the College’s Midcoast campus in Brunswick.
The program grew as subsequent artists-in-residence introduced courses in their respective fields, including sculptor Deborah Klotz, photographer Gary Green, and painter/printmaker Mary Hart. Under the leadership of Architecture and Engineering Design Department Chair Ed Fitzgerald (now retired), the department gained a home in a renovated storage building that became an ocean side drawing and painting studio. According to Fitzgerald, “The Art Program was destined for success from the beginning due to the talented and committed artists who were drawn to the opportunity to teach. Initially funded by a six year grant, it quickly set roots with more diverse offerings each semester. Ten years later it continues to expand its offerings and provide a greater opportunity to a diverse group of students. It serves as an excellent example of creative thinking and planning by the SMCC community.”
In 2009 the Fine Arts Department was officially designated an independent department and the curriculum for an associate’s degree with a concentration in Fine Art was approved. Under the leadership of Department Chair Jeff Badger, the department grew to be one of the largest programs on campus, currently offering over forty courses in studio art, art appreciation, art history, music, theater, and dance. With most courses open to students of all majors, over 1000 students take an art course at SMCC every semester. Courses like Woodworking, Photography and Illustration are now offered in 8 dedicated studios and classrooms on the South Portland and MidCoast campuses, as well as at Portland Pottery and other satellite sites. The college’s newly renovated Lighthouse Sculpture Studio won a 2014 Merit Award from the American Institute of Architects.
According to Badger, “The growth that our department experienced over the first five years was phenomenal. Although we grew fast, we also tried to grow smart. We developed courses like Screenprinting and Metal Arts that fit into a Fine Arts curriculum, but also appeal to students in other academic and technical programs. All along we have had strong support from the administration to build or repurpose spaces on campus for studios and classrooms. Most importantly, SMCC has a faculty made up of some of the best working artists and teachers in the state.”
Sixty students have completed the degree program since the first class graduated in the Spring of 2010, and the department has established articulation agreements for graduates to easily transfer to Lesley University College of Art and Design, St. Joseph’s College of Maine, and Maine College of Art, where many students have transferred into the college’s BFA programs. In 2014 Art Historian Virginia Rose took over as Department Chair, “The Arts at SMCC have grown three-fold in the last 10 years, and we now offer an incredible variety of creative learning experiences, from Modern Dance to Modern Art History. Our core foundation of fine arts is incredibly strong, with some of the best artists in New England teaching the fundamentals of painting, drawing, sculpture and photography. We are fortunate to have these talented instructors, with inspiring studio spaces overlooking the beautiful Casco Bay.”
The exhibition consists of current work by over two dozen active members of the department.