Portland, ME

Contact Name
Jessica Tomlinson
Project Dates
August 2012
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2013
Tags
Workforce Development
Artists at Work connects students and alumni to the local community through public engagement projects, internships, freelance commissions, and workshops.

We do this by offering unique activities in the classroom and in the vibrant city of Portland. Students put their creative problem solving skills to use in the studio and out in the world through classes, community partnerships, and internships.

Nearly half of all of our alumni choose to remain in Maine and contribute to the creative economy of the state as change agents, makers, designers, and educators.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
In creating Artists at Work, the goal was to aggregate, amplify, and develop opportunities, skills, and experiences for students and alumni. We have a legacy of public engagement and community involvement. By connecting it with our other outreach programs of internships and creative entrepreneurship, we are aiming to build a go-to source for the public. In addition to educating our students and alumni about professional development, we aim to also educate the public on the critical role that artists play in the society and that creative problem solving has value.

Year one goals:
+ Offer professional development workshops to serve students, alumni and the public.
+ Increase the quantity and quality of local internships
+ Serve as the formal connector for art services for hire
+ Build on our longstanding public engagement relationships
+ Develop guiding principles that would inform institutional decsionmaking
Have they changed over time?
As we are a new program, we have just created our two year goals this fall.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
With our public engagement program, we have partner with nonprofits, schools, and visiting artists. With our internships, we partner with local businesses. With our professional development series, we partner with other arts organizations. Our stakeholders are our students, faculty, alumni, community partners and employers.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
First, public engagement became an official minor at the College. Then a career services coordinator was hired. More and more people turned to the College when seeking out creative professionals. The senior administration spent a year reviewing the new initiative with faculty and staff before launching it in Fall 2012 with a four person staff, capitalizing on the institutional knowledge, skills, and connections.
Have they been refined over time?
It is still early in the formation of the program.
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles?
The major obstacle is the potential for people to perceive that Artists at Work is an alternative to the studio practice. In fact, the belief is that students need both: creative and the professional skills.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
The Artists at Work staff is supported by the senior administration. It will be a process of educating all on staff over the coming years to best integrate it into the operations and the philosophy of the college.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Have clear processes and systems to handle requests from the public: from requests to partner on classroom projects to requests to hire an artist.

Have dedicated office space easily accessible to the public.

Over communicate.
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
MECA has long been an anchor of the arts community. With Artists at Work, we are better able to make community connections by design, now that we have staff dedicated to this purpose. With our community partners we have begun a year-long series of professional development workshops. We have seen an increase in the quantity and quality of internship opportunities. More people are contacting the college wanting to hire students and alumni. We have more requests for community partners than we can accommodate.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We have a small budget, a dedicated staff, and a supportive community.
Were there unexpected impacts?
We started this initiative before the national conversation turned to student loans and the value of a college education. Subsequently, we have found that many parents are supportive of our efforts to help students build their resumes with real world experiences.

We also have had to make adjustments to our fundraising events so that they align with our principles for Artists at Work. After 37 years, we are discontinuing our art auction.
CCX Workshop Handout