By Kate Rogers, Community Editor
For eight years Damir Porobic has taught studio courses for the art department at USM. Before USM, he taught at the Maine College of Art (MECA) and ran a master printing shop in Portland. His passion for imaging technology of all kinds and his practical experience in the printing field brings what he believes is a helpful touch to his classes.
When he was seventeen, Porobic was given the chance to move to Arkansas from what was at that time “the remaining leftovers of disintegrated Yugoslavia,” he said. He went to high school in Arkansas, and was able to focus on art during that time. Even back then he said he was already teaching, working with kids doing pottery and doing figure drawing with seniors. His parents were both teachers and it always came naturally to him, he said. “I always liked working people…I mean teaching, it’s the best form of collaboration.”
After graduating with honors, Porobic went to the Kansas City Art Institute and studied printmaking. Originally he chose the field because it was so new to him. He was drawn in by how little he knew about the field and the equipment. “In undergraduate I studied all the hard things,” Porobic said. When he went to grad school in West Virginia, that hard work really paid off, he said. He was able to teach as he studied theory and continued to really investigate printmaking and digital art technology.
After doing work with special effects companies making commercials and building theatre stage sets, Porobic wanted to get back into teaching. When he was hired at MECA, he taught many topic classes. One he specifically mentioned was a class called War Time Impressions, which focused on technology used for, “posters, graphics, multiples that needed to be printed cheap and fast and in large quantities,” he said. He talked at length about the power of prints in this way, referencing a project he was currently doing with his intro to printmaking class. The project is called print power and the goal is for students to choose an agenda that is important to them and use the technology they’ve been learning to use to create a persuasive poster. “Trying to be persuasive, trying to kind of change minds,” he said about the goal of the project.
When Porobic first came to USM, he said that there was no one in charge of the printmaking section and so the print shop was somewhat in disrepair. “I was really actually attracted to that … I always did that … built shops and rebuilt them,” he said. In the past eight years he has worked to improve the space and feels good about where the program is at. “It’s safer, it runs better, it serves students better,” he said. Along with this, he mentioned talk in the art department of getting more support and possibly more resources in the future.
Supporting the arts and being collaborative are both very important to Porobic. He referred to himself as a “STEAM” person, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math. He believes that with the rise of the internet and with everyone having a shared digital platform, the arts are beginning to go back into being on equal footing with STEM fields. “The big names that started the whole sort of western civilization thing, like Michelangelo, Galileo…all these sort of people…they were everything, they were a scientist they were an artist, this and that,” Porobic said. He spoke at length about the evolution of technology and how historically artists have pushed technology to its limits when industry thought it obsolete. “You study art but it really trains you in all these different fields … they’re very applicable,” he said. He gave some of his jobs as examples of what you can do with an art degree; special effects, set design, printing and teaching.
Now that Porobic is teaching full time he says it is more difficult to do more hands on work, but he does it anyways. “I always kind of thought that teaching is a sense of ultimate success … but I needed to be in the grunt and grime of the profession,” he said. It’s important to him to not be removed from the work that he is teaching. In the summers he continues to work at the print shop.
About the arts, Porobic said “they feed our soul, if nothing else.” He encouraged students to take art classes no matter what their major. In the fall semester he is teaching an intro to printmaking class that focuses on some of the earliest forms of printing, as well as some classes in the new minor in digital media and design which he is very excited about.