Historically, the annual Art Honors celebration at the Maine College of Art recognizes leaders in Maine’s creative sector.
That will be the case again Tuesday, when the Portland art school confers honorary degrees on philanthropist S. Donald Sussman and historian Earle G. Shettleworth Jr.
But this year will be different, because the school is inviting its 65 graduating seniors to participate in the gala celebration, which takes place across three floors of the school’s Porteous Building on Congress Street.
In addition to a brief award ceremony at Osher Hall at 6:30 p.m., the fundraising event will include a thesis exhibition of graduating students, bands, tapas and drinks.
“This year, we decided it was important to recognize our young artists as becoming contributing members of whatever community they choose to live in, but launching them in Portland by giving them powerful examples of lives in the arts,” said Beckie Conrad, MECA’s vice president for advancement.
“We feel a responsibility to launch these young people into a supportive community, and there are no better examples of community support than these two gentlemen, who have been supporters of the arts for so many years. This is a chance for them to meet 65 new young artists coming out of Maine College of Art.”
Sussman is receiving the college’s Leadership in Art Philanthropy Award “for his deep and far-reaching support of cultural programs and institutions within Maine and nationally.”
Sussman, who is married to U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, is a contributor to Democratic and charitable causes and the majority share owner of MaineToday Media, which owns The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and other media outlets in Maine.
Shettleworth is receiving the Award for Leadership in Community Service in Art and Education “for his deep and long-term commitment to Maine’s cultural heritage.” He is director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.
This is the 17th year for Art Honors, which recognizes artists, philanthropists and art educators with ties to Maine. Past honorees include David Driskell, Bernarda Shahn, Beverly Hallam, Will Barnet, Neil Welliver, Alex Katz, Robert Indiana, Alison Hildreth, Angela Adams and Pandora Lacasse, among others.
MECA president Don Tuski said it seemed logical and appropriate for students to participate in the event.
“Our students are excited about the opportunity to interact with the people who are coming in for the event,” he said. “So we figured, ‘Let’s have it before commencement and have the seniors there with their work so they can talk about it.’ “
Commencement is Saturday morning at the State Theatre.
Shettleworth said he felt gratified to receive the award.
“While many people in Maine identify me with historic preservation, the other great area of interest in my historical pursuits has not only been historic architecture, but also the history of art and photography in Maine,” he said. “I’ve done a great deal of research and writing and lecturing in these areas as well.
“What I have tried to do over the last 40 years since I have been working professionally in Maine is to raise the level of awareness of the extraordinary cultural legacy that we have in this state.”
In a statement, Sussman said, “I am thrilled to receive this award and very honored to play a part in the growth of Maine’s creative economy. I believe that supporting the arts is an investment in our future prosperity. A thriving arts and culture industry leads to good jobs and vibrant communities that attract workers and visitors from around the world. And that’s good for all of us.”
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: