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.

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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.


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, or 207.699.5064.