By: Zoe Bernardi, Staff Writer

In the past few years public art projects from USM have explayed works of art across both campuses and the local community, from buoys painted to represent flags from every country that hangs in Woodbury food court, the tall table and chairs in Hannaford Hall to the large painted mural outside of Amato’s that represents the town of Gorham. These public art projects go back to 1986, when the Artist-in-Residence (AIR) program was created.

Berkeley Elias/Lead Photographer

“The Artist-in-Residence is expected to create a project that will engage with the campus and greater community; give one public presentation; be available for discussions with faculty and students; and teach,” as stated on the USM Art Department’s webpage.

The program is supported by the Percent for Art Projects, a program mandated through the state of Maine, that allows funding for these art projects and is placed in the budget when new buildings are placed on campus and in town. Meaning that everytime a new building is created a portion of the fund to build go towards Percent for Art Projects and therefore allows new art to be made.

Since 1986, there have been 20 on campus public artworks each done by a different artist, creating a range in artwork and representation. Students also have the chance to become involved with the art creating process.

“Students are directly involved with the artist through a flexible course specially designed by the AIR,” the USM Art Department website stated.“The Artist-in-Residence is expected to create a project that will engage with the campus and greater community; give one public presentation; be available for discussions with faculty and students; and teach approximately 6-10 students as a class and/or supervise a similar number of students independently on a directed project.”

The most recent art project was done in the Fall of 2016,a mural that is currently located in the Bayside neighborhood of Portland, by artist Muhsana Ali. As stated online, “Ali is an internationally- recognized artist based in Senegal who works in many media to create conceptual community-centered art.”

Berkeley Elias/Lead Photographer

Ali described her mural online as, “The spiral design represents the common origin of all of humanity and the ways in which we spiral out from, or back into that center. The footprints, which I collected from the mural participants, are placed in various directions along the center of that spiral path. All of these elements glow together in one amazing, balanced and harmonious form like an evolved human family.”

Ali got help from more than one hundred USM students as well as many Gorham and Portland community members, who were involved by making small glass paintings. Ali used combined paintings along with other materials such as mirror, tiles and ceramic pieces, and put them together using a multi colored concrete and sand mixture.

Carolyn Eyler, Director of Exhibitions and Programs and USM, said that there are no current AIR projects for students to get involved with. When asked about how students can get involved with projects, she stated that “The professional artist residency projects vary in terms of participation with students, they always engage with them through class visits, etc but sometimes their projects are purely professional like the exhibit this fall, and sometimes they are designed to include students and community members.” The way that projects and pieces are created are decided on multiple things, Carolyn explained it as, “This process is facilitated by Maine arts commission. The tall chairs in Abromson is an example. In the last few years we have changed from artists in residence making a collection work to a temporary project in the community.”  

The Maine State Art Commission has a committee who decides the budget for the public art projects as well as who will be the next AIR and whether or not they will be from in state or out of state, Eyler said. The committee meets to discuss a new art project each time a new building is created either in Portland or Gorham, she added The art can be either temporary or permanent. After these decisions are made, the committee will accept applications from artists and bring people in to pitch their ideas.

For more information about the public art projects and the past and current AIR you can visit the USM Art Department web page at:  




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here